Text and Photos: AKGÜN AKOVA
The beaches of Turkey
The beach is the place where the land embraces the sea. And the soil of Turkey has produced beautiful beaches lapped by three different seas...
When city-dwellers think of summer, they usually dream of a vacation at the seaside. And one inseparable part of any such dream is to walk barefoot on the sand at sunset and watch the waves wash away their footprints. For some, it doesn't matter if the beach is a long one. What's more important for them is gathering seashells, skipping stones, listening to the roar of the waves, gazing at the horizon and daydreaming, talking with the gulls, and sitting on the dock and dangling their feet in the water. But no matter what, for one and all the beach is the place where the land embraces the sea. And the soil of Turkey has produced a lot of beautiful beaches lapped by three different seas.
A BLUE DROP THAT FELL FROM HEAVEN
The most famous of Turkey's beaches is Belcekiz in Fethiye. I don't know if nature ever admitted that it was infinitely generous to some places on earth, but one thing I do know is that the 'Ölüdeniz' (Turkey's 'dead sea') fell to earth like a big blue drop from heaven. And then it added Belcekiz, which lies there like a dream - a beach where the Mediterranean comes close to one’s heart in waves. Sparkling like a turquoise-tinted jewel, the Mediterranean seems to want to make you forget the tragic legend of the two lovers that ended in death here. And the shore, covered in pebbles worn smooth by the waves, is packed with sunbathers under red beach umbrellas. Most of those exposing their bodies to the sun here have never heard of the Belcekız legend: “In medieval times, cargo ships carrying goods from Syria and Egypt to Greece and the Fethiye region replenished their water supplies in the bays here. The elderly captain of one such ship sent his son to one of the bays to fetch water. There the young man encountered a fair maiden known as Belcekız and fell head over heels in love with her. And as happens in such affairs of the heart, the young nomadic girl was smitten by him as well. From that day onward, she would sit waiting on the mountain slope, watching for her beloved to return. One day a storm blew up when his ship was on the open sea. The young man, who knew the place where he had met Belcekız like the back of his hand, told his father that there was a bay sheltered from the wind at the place where the mountains end. Thinking his son had invented the story as an excuse to see his beloved, the father did not listen and the two quarreled. The father struck his son with an oar, and the boy fell into the water and drowned. When Belcekız, who was waiting for him in the rocks at the top of the hill, learned that her beloved was dead, she threw herself off the cliff. And ever since that day the bay where the nomad girl took her life has been called ‘Belcekiz’, and the other bay where the young man met his death the 'Ölüdeniz' or Dead Sea.
THE BEACH OF THE RUNAWAY GIRL
There's another interesting beach in the village of Orhaniye at Bozburun. Here on this beach called Kızkumu, literally 'Girl Sand', a 600-meter-long road was formed in the bay as a result of the shifting sands. People enjoy walking here as if they are walking on water, and not a few come seeking a cure for their ailments. Local tour guides relate another legend: “Once upon a time pirates attacked here. One day they went after the most beautiful girl in the village. Filling her skirts with the red sand, the girl tried to run away. She raced through the water, depositing sand as she went. Suddenly the sand ran out and the girl vanished in the sea.” Even though such stories can unnerve people who walk here, being so close to the beach allays their fears.
BLUE IS THE COLOR OF KAPUTAŞ
If they asked me to describe the color blue,
I wouldn't say a thing. I'd just take them to the Kaputaş beach and say, “Here you are. This is pure blue!” Then, when it was my turn to ask questions I'd say, “Come on! You tell me now. How is it that those beautiful shades of blue line up starting two meters beyond these white stones and yellow sands?” And I bet they would stare at me and say: “Forget the questions for now. Let's throw ourselves into the waves without wasting any more time!” Six kilometers from Kalkan, this beach at the foot of a precipice has waves that cause an undertow. But everybody regards this as an invitation to play and abandons himself to the foam-specked waves. And all the while, not far from Kaputaş, the Mavi Mağara (Blue Cave) waits quietly for the approaching sailboats to go away so it can converse with the sea.
All day long under the summer sun boats at Dalyan ferry people to İztuzu beach. For city folk summer means brimming over with longing to bask in the sun and swim in the sea. But for the turtles that come here to lay their eggs, swimmers and sunbathers mean coastal pollution and the threat of death! İztuzu beach happily awaits the sea turtles that have come here every summer for millennia. Walking on this beach at dusk when the sun doffs its red cap and retreats behind the hills is one of the most pleasurable things in the world. But the turtle watchers may accost you this time round and turn you away by saying you might hurt the turtle eggs. And you in turn will think, “What a small world... People and turtles having to share the same small beach!”
A WATER NYMPH'S HARBOR
On the Black Sea coast there is another lovely beach at Sinop, which takes its name from a water nymph. Bathers pack the Karakum and Pepe beaches in the town center like sardines in summer, and the long beach at Akliman is crowded especially on weekends too. The only thing that breaks the silence here is the roar of the white-crested waves. Like Sarıkum on the road to Ayancık, this beach bursts with white Sea Daffodils in spring.
TURKEY'S MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACHES
Şeytan Sofrası, or 'Satan's Table', at Ayvalık, the Valley of the Butterflies at Fethiye, Kargı, Mesudiye, Palamutbükü and Hayıtbükü at Datça, Arsuz at Antakya, the Adaboğazı and Söğüt beaches at Bozburun... Büyük and Küçükçakıl at Kaş, Ulaş at Alanya, Kleopatra on Sedir Adası, the Altınkum beaches at Didyma...
For all the many blue flag beaches, kissed by whatever sea, at Bozceada, Gökçeada, Assos, Alaçatı, Burhaniye, Mersin, Erdemli and Antalya, let us close with these lines by poet Ahmet Erhan:
“Seek the Mediterranean on the horizon where the sky meets the sea,/ In the vapor rising from the earth after a rain./ At the first word spoken to the beloved in the sleepy drowse at dawn of day,/ In the ecstasy of stretching out on the sands' warmth./ Seek the Mediterranean in the smile of the exile returning to his homeland,/ In the voice of the cricket that sings at midnight.”