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VIRGIN ISLANDS IN THE GULF OF FETHIYE
2001 / JULY
Every tone of blue and green can be seen in the Gulf of Fethiye, where the encircling mainland seems to draw the sea into the embrace of its vegetation. The trees grow right down to the watr'sa edge, their branches and leaves reaching out as if unaware of the Mediterranean's salinity. The tiny islands scattered over the gulf, which in antiquity was known as the Gulf of Glaukos after the famous Lycian general who fought in the Trojan wars, resemble pearls strung around the neck of a young bride. So we invite you to join us on a tour of this beautiful place.
We boarded a boat in Fethiye harbour and headed out of the bay, across whose mouth lies Sövalye Island, leaving only two channels at the east and west extremities. The narrow eastern channel is too shallow for large boats and ships, which have to use the western channel. In many cases the same advantages which attracted the people of antiquity to a particular spot are still valid today, which is why contemporary towns and cities in Turkey are so often built on or near ancient cities.
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VIRGIN ISLANDS IN THE GULF OF FETHIYE
2001 / JULY
This is the case with Sövalye Island, whose many summer villas share the island with the ruins of late Roman walls, cisterns and churches.
The name Sövalye, meaning cavalier or knight, derives from the fact that in the Middle Ages knights turned pirate made their base here at various times. Some early writers also refer to the island as Megri Island, after the ancient name for Fethiye. Leaving the island behind we headed out into the gulf to Kizil Ada or Red Island, with its steep shores. There is no trace of an ancient settlement on this island, where the only inhabitants today are the lighthouse keeper and his family. The group of rocky islets just to the north are collectively known as Tavsan Adasi or Rabbit Island. We now sailed north to Katranci Adasi which lies close to the shore opposite the mouth of the Kargi river. Ancient geographers refer to this island as Telandria, and it is thought that there was a port of the same name on the mainland.
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VIRGIN ISLANDS IN THE GULF OF FETHIYE
2001 / JULY
Tour boats take visitors to the bay known as Cleopatra's Bath on the Kapidag Peninsula, where history and natural beauty are inseperably intertwined. Subsidence of the land over the centuries has resulted in buildings that were originally on the shore being submerged, and it is these 6th century AD ruins which have been given the romantic name of Cleopatra's Bath.
At the north extremity of the gulf, facing the village of Göcek, is the eponymous island of Göcek, a group of islands known as Yassicalar Islands and Haci Halil Island. Apart from a handful of summer houses and a few stalls selling food to people touring the gulf by yacht, these are all uninhabited. Some Byzantine ruins can be seen on Göcek and Haci Halil islands, and in Sarisu Bay on the east side of the former are the ruins of a 7th century church. The remains of numerous Byzantine churches on the islands and shores of the gulf, and along the coast to the east mark the places where pilgrims to the Holy Land halted on their voyage through the Mediterranean in mediaeval times.
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VIRGIN ISLANDS IN THE GULF OF FETHIYE
2001 / JULY
The largest island in the gulf is Tersane Adasi, where on the shores of the northwest bay are ruins including a watch tower, and a mausoleum in a better state of preservation. Other more recent buildings belong to the former Greek settlement.
To the south is Domuz Adasi or Pig Island, which from a distance appears to be joined to the Kapidag Peninsula at the south-west extremity of the gulf, but is in fact divided from the mainland by an narrow channel. On the eastern shore of the island is a ruined building dating from the late Roman period which has been badly damaged by winter seas over the centuries. Around 200 metres to the south of this is a church thought to date from the 12th century. Its position on slightly higher ground means that it has been protected from waves and its walls are still standing intact.
Outside the Gulf of Fethiye is Gemiler Adasi (Island of Ships), which is within easy reach and well worth visiting. Ruins indicate that this island had a large population in ancient times. It was formerly known as Keklik or Partridge Island.
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VIRGIN ISLANDS IN THE GULF OF FETHIYE
2001 / JULY

The ruins include four large churches, many cisterns, mausoleums, and storage buildings on the shore, showing that it was both a religious and commercial centre.
This spectacularly lovely gulf with its fascinating traces of ancient and mediaeval history is a favourite yachting destination, and can equally be enjoyed as a day trip when staying in this area. l

 

 


By SELAHATTIN GÜZEL*
Photos FARUK AKBAS
* Selahattin Güzel is director of Fethiye Cultural Office.

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