x0x Doing Datca
- [See photographs of Datca at:
x0x Doing Datca
ANKARA - Turkish Daily News
If you really want to savour memories of the sunshine and herby aromas of the
Datca Peninsula and the ancient site of Cnidus (or Knidos), the best thing
you can do is to buy some of the Cam (pine) of Cicek (flower) honey, almonds
or figs from the vendors beside the road. You might see the colorful strings
of red peppers hung up and drying in the sunshine and want to buy some of
More than 2,000 years ago it was not just the beauty of the beaches or the
countryside of the Datca Peninsula that attracted people there in droves.
Cnidus was strategically located on one of the major sea routes between
Constantinople (today's Istanbul) and other eastern Mediterranean ports. The
fact that it had two harbors helped. Depending on the wind, if sailors were
not using one harbor they would be waiting in the other for the appropriate
winds to come. The ancient city was renowned for its commercial talents and
providing ample diversions and comforts for its ancient mariners.
Some suggest that once Cnidus was on the very tip of the Peninsula. Another
theory is that an earthquake lifted the land between the mainland and a small
hilly island to form an isthmus. Yet others argue that a causeway was built
to link the island to the mainland, thus forming two sheltered harbors.
Some of the ancient city's buildings were on the island, but the major
archeological sites are on the mainland. We walked to the lighthouse on the
very tip of the Peninsula. While I don't think we were supposed to be there,
I don't regret it in the slightest! The wind was picking up the spray and
sending flying white horses. Someone had painted the Turkish flag on the
lighthouse wall. Around a well beneath a mastic bush, we found shards of
amphorae. A bucket by the well was a welcome sign that it was still in use.
Perhaps more important for some than the city's strategic and commercial
attributes was the famous sculptor Praxiteles' fabulous nude statue of the
Goddess Aphrodite of the fair winds. It reputedly brought people flocking
over the seas from the Greek islands and further afield to the city of Cnidus
on Cape Crio, the modern Tekir Burnu. Better still no doubt were the tales of
The statue, the largest free standing of a woman in the ancient world, became
a measure by which female beauty was judged. Or so they say! Perhaps all this
enthusiasm had more to do with the sacred nature of love! The large quantity
of erotic pottery found around the Temple of Aphrodite help build up the
impression that Cnidus must have been one of the sexiest cities in the
ancient world! Unsurprisingly there are now no fragments of erotic pottery to
be seen. These must have been carried off by treasure hunters and the
remainder excavated by archeologists long ago.
Predictably the site of the Temple of Aphrodite Euploia is the main
destination for many visitors. Sadly, and except for part of the pedestal,
the 17.5 meter tall ancient statue and sex-symbol has long disappeared.
Nonetheless it's historical interest, and presumably for many -- some of its
magic remains! There are also shrines dedicated to the Goddess Demeter and
Kore and a temple to Apollo Karneios.
We enjoyed rambling around the remains of the temple and part of
three-kilometer long city walls and studying some of the reliefs in the
Byzantine churches. The major buildings are well sign-posted. Scrub,
uncovered and unmarked holes and other hazards among the ruins make it a
challenging walk if you venture off the paths. Excavation work has
re-commenced so it is possible that future visitors will be presented with an
even richer version of the ancient city.
If you look on the stage area of the amphitheatre at Cnidus, you will see at
least three carved faces -- that of a sheep, a lion and a human being. Other
ancient theatres have sculpted faces and masks, sometimes arranged in
friezes. The ones at Cnidus are different because they are smaller and have
bulbous eyes. Positioned as it is with the Mediterranean as a backdrop, the
theatre must be one of the most beautiful in the ancient world. An archway on
the northern side of the theatre provides a perfect frame for the view of the
isthmus and the lighthouse.
On our visit to Cnidus the Bekci explained to us in excellent English that
his father was the last lighthouse keeper on the island. He doubled as a
tour-advisor and pointed out the most popular sightseeing routes. He also ran
the site's only cafe. After a couple of hours' scrambling and wandering
around the ruins, we were very grateful for a nice cool Efes beer.
As we sipped our drinks we watched an old man patiently teaching his grandson
how to fish with a homemade rod. Since our first visit Cnidus has become
busier and more commercial. For the more energetic it is easy to escape these
trappings by setting off up the hill and exploring. It is still wild up on
the acropolis and at the site had left their wheelbarrow and a trowel on the
edge of the site. I wondered what the Muses would have thought about that,
and indeed of modern interest in their role in myths and ancient literature.
As we left the site during our first visit, from high above us on the
hillside we could hear someone singing among the olive groves. Before long an
unusually extrovert teenager appeared mounted on a donkey. He only stopped
singing for long enough to exchange greetings and offer us a ride. As soon as
I was in the saddle his song changed to peals of laughter as he watched me
struggling to get the donkey moving. I should have observed him more closely.
Gradually I realized that donkeys can move along at a reasonable place if the
rider swings his or her legs to the motion of the animal. Donkeys are not
horses and require patience and individual treatment!
I wanted to see sunset from Cnidus. The best place would have been from the
amphitheatre looking west. The hills with the lighthouse would have hidden
the islands beyond. As we departed the sun was at that pale stage before it
sets. On our first visit we didn't wait for fear of the dirt road. More
recently we were concerned about our long return journey to Sogutkoy on the
The Datca Peninsula is a thin strip of wild pine-covered hills shaped like a
crazy witch's finger and stretching out some 100-kilomaters west north west
of Marmaris. Gokova Bay lies to the north of the Datca Peninsula, separating
it from the Bodrum Peninsula. To the south is Hisaronu Bay. At Baliksiran
(which apparently means where the fish leap across) the peninsula is less
than a mile wide. In the fifth century BC there were attempts to cut a
channel through the peninsula at its narrowest point to keep out the Persian
invaders. We found no evidence of a channel, but that doesn't mean that
excavations weren't started. Whatever happened, the Persians over-ran the
peninsula. In subsequent centuries the most persistent threats came from the
When we first visited Cnidus in January 1998, there was a dirt road to the
site. Even though now the road is sealed and the journey is much less
challenging, Cnidus is still a long way off the beaten track. I hope its
relative isolation will protect it from the crowds spilling out of Marmaris.
In good weather an alternative way to get there is by ferry from Bodrum or
Marmaris. The disadvantage is that the ferry only stops for a short time thus
leaving insufficient time to see and enjoy the site. The perfect solution
would be to sail round the peninsula, stopping where and when you wished in
your private yacht! Personally I would prefer to take a rowing boat that is
easy to anchor and you can get in closer to the shore. There is a certain
pleasure in listening to the dip and splash of your own oars.
Our main mistake the first time we went to the Datca Peninsula was not
booking accommodation before we left. In the off-season many hotels and
pensions are closed. We wasted a lot of time and energy driving around the
former Greek village of Eski Datca late in the evening. We would have done
better in the town of Datca itself. Eventually, we found a pension called
Sans. The fortunate thing was that although the pension was closed they were
happy to have us to stay and kindly welcomed us with Turkish coffee and
homemade baklava. The downside of the arrangement was that on this occasion
there was no hot water, breakfast was not included and the bedroom was full
of bedding and furniture from other rooms.
When we returned to the Datca Peninsula later on in the year I booked a room
at Villa Carla, a Pansiyon standing high up on a cliff above the sea near
Datca. There we not only had hot water, a simple but comfortable room and
breakfast, but we had the most superb view from the balcony outside our room
through the spilling purple blooms of bougainvillea towards the Greek island
of Simi. The view was best at dawn when I could see from our bed the
silhouetted islands shrouded with mist beyond the bougainvillea. While it was
tantalizing not to be able to go there, local beaches provided attractive and
At Mesudiye there was a wonderful scent of heat in the pine trees. A breeze
lifted it and wafted it across the Peninsula. The beach was sandy but the
sand soon gave way to the water and rocks covered with algae. Looking through
clean water onto a rocky landscape is eerie and rather like the stuff of
fantastic dreams. Had there not been a strong wind at Cnidus, I would have
preferred swimming there.
We arrived on the beach at Mesudiye in time to see fishermen bringing in the
catch. Their prize was a rather large, ugly fish which was held up for us to
admire. As soon as I photographed the scene, a man on the boat photographed
me! When I saw the expensive looking photographic equipment he was using I
realized that the photographer was not only a fisherman. Later he told us in
heavily accented English that the fish was "Orfoz."
At first I thought he was trying to say "Orpheus" and perhaps he did. I
thought he'd gone on to quip about the fish having a brother called Logos or
Lagos, but perhaps I didn't hear correctly. The fish looked too large and a
bit too ugly to be named after an ancient poet. It was only recently whilst
on the Bozburun Peninsula that I learned that Orfoz is a most delicious fish.
Our new acquaintance explained that he was a diplomat who had served for
fourteen years in France. Previously he had had a posting in Bangladesh where
he said he had learnt "Bangladeshi" English. He invited us to join him for
lunch in a restaurant beside the beach. We discussed the relative benefits of
the empire throughout the history of our nations. The benefits of Turkey
joining the EU or what he called, the new European Empire were aired.
Later as we were finishing our lunch, the diplomat asked Mark if he knew
which country had won the contract to provide radar equipment for the
Bosphorus. It was a heavy conversation for the beach! The restaurant had two
hammocks and both were full.
All that of course took place before we came to Ankara and I came to
appreciate even more the realities of working anywhere and at any time. I
have discovered that the more unusual the place, the better I remember the
conservations, even when I would rather have been asleep in a hammock that
hearing about radar on the Bosphorus.
Just as we were leaving Mesudiye, a waiter who had served us at lunch time
caught a sea snake. They pulled a plank from the broken jetty and thumped it
to death on the bottom of a boat. It reminded me of killing snakes at home in
Australia and how they never stop moving until the sunsets. This one was
ominously still after all the thudding. I wondered what else they would pull
from the sea.
In the town of Datca near a modern amphitheatre we found a Little Owl perched
on a rusty anchor. The fact that it was young and vulnerable had already
communicated itself to the local cats who had gathered and were swirling
around expectantly in the darkness. I shooed the yowling cats away whilst the
Little Owl flew unsteadily away towards the harbor. I would like to have
given it safety and ensure that it didn't suffer an agonizing death.
The Datca Peninsula had offered a unique combination of experience from
issues of sacred ancient prostitution to Little Owls, diplomats and yowling
cats. Such experiences are wonderfully inspiring for a slightly irreverent
personality! If Datca is warm and sunny in summer, gradually it becomes
wilder and arguably more exciting as autumn turns to winter. It is certainly
no less beautiful.
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