The Turquoise Coast
Also known as the “Turkish Riviera”, that stretch of coastline in southwestern Turkey offers bone-chilling beauty, glorious weather and endless miles of beaches. But considering its historical and archaeological importance as well, some believe the Turquoise Riviera even surpasses the original one in France. For instance, legend has it that Mark Antony of Roman Empire fame thought this little slice of heaven would be the absolutely ideal gift for the object of his affection, Cleopatra.
And, lucky for you, Fethiye sits smack in the middle of what would have been Cleopatra’s little gifty from her lover.
The Blue Cruise
Back in the 1920’s, shortly after the Turkish Republic emerged from the remains of the Ottoman Empire, vacationing Turks began traveling here on gulets, those sailing boats used by local sponge divers. These “blue cruises” survive today and are still the only way to explore some of the more secluded beaches and coves along this sculpted 600-mile-long coastline.
Plus, two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World can also be found in this region—the Mausoleum of Maussollos in Halicarnassus and the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus. The Seven Wonders were originally compiled by Antipater of Sidon in 140 BC as a guidebook for Hellenistic Greeks traveling the Aegean, Mediterranean and Middle East (the extent of the known world at the time). Actually, the original Greek title didn’t use “wonders” but “sights” or “things to see” and can be thought of as the original “1000 Places To See Before You Die”. You had to be a lucky Hellene to catch all seven, though, since they existed simultaneously for only 60 years. Only one, the Great Pyramid of Giza, remains intact today.
For your next trivia game, the other four are the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria. Now, where were we? Oh, yes.
The Lycian League
Throughout the ages all the great warriors, conquerors and empire builders passed through this area. The Greek god Apollo, disguised as a dog, wooed a local princess (don’t ask) and produced a son named Telmessos who lent his name to the original city where Fethiye sits today. Telmessos became part of the Persian Empire when they came rampaging through, then joined the Delian League for protection after the Greeks sent the Persians packing. Alexander the Great came calling on his way back from sacking the aforementioned Halicarnassus. While there, he engaged the services of Aristander as his personal seer, or fortune teller.
In 168 BC, twenty-three independent city-states in the region formed a federal style government based on democratic principles designed to help them compete politically with larger nations. Each member sent representatives to a senate based on their relative size. Sound familiar? In fact, the Lycian League was one of the models used by the Founding Fathers in drafting the United States Constitution.
A Modern Ruin
While it’s difficult to throw a rock in any direction from Fethiye without hitting an ancient ruin or two, one of the stranger sites is the nearby ghost town of Kayakoy, occupied by a strong Greek community until The 1923 Population Exchange. This unprecedented event occurred as a result of the Greco-Turkish War, 1919-1922. The western Allies had promised the Greeks territory in mainland Turkey from the dismantled Ottoman Empire in exchange for their support during the First World War. This, of course, did not suit the plans of the Turkish revolutionaries, led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who eventually founded the Turkish Republic.
As Ataturk and his compatriots controlled the remnants of the Turkish Army, they were able to resist Greek attempts to claim the territory they’d been promised. Fueled by nationalist fervor and a healthy dose of ancient enmity, Ataturk’s forces were able to defeat the Greeks and drive them back across the Aegean. As part of the peace agreement, the Turks insisted on a population exchange in which two million citizens—1.5 million Christian Greeks living in Turkey and half a million Muslims living in Greece—were denaturalized from their homelands and relocated across the sea. The village of Kayakoy, once home to 2000 Greeks, has been preserved as a museum and named a UNESCO World Friendship and Peace Village. It serves as a somber reminder of this unsettled time.
And despite those attempts to “purify” the local population, you’ll still hear a cacophony of many languages during your stay in Fethiye as it’s become a hot destination for travelers from all parts of the new known world … even your own home town.
Karyn L. Planett