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Wednesday, 10 March 2010


I remember having had a long spell of joy when I had heard that there was going to be a helicopter tour over Datça peninsula. It sounded exciting to have the opportunity to take photos of Datça from the air after having been in Muğla, on land ...for 2.5 years. Shortly after, we were saluting the Datça port, which seemed to look like a dolphin resting amongst whitewashed homes and turquoise blue waters. Datça is a town that brings the Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea together. It is only one of the many charming towns of the Aegean region. There are 52 magnificent bays along the 235 kilometer shoreline of this mystical and adorable settlement. Visited by thousands of domestic and foreign tourists each year, the shores of Datça have been awarded the international Blue Flag. The holiday masses that are abundant by the Marmaris and Bodrum shores are almost non existent in Datça. The visitors take in the benefits of the nature and history all day long and this meeting is joined by the birds, sailing yachts and the female fisherman of the port. Just a step ahead in the Datça markets, ecology friendly fruits and vegetables that you will never doubt the freshness of wait you’re choosing. THE OLD DATÇA Anyone visiting Datça should make sure to visit the old Datça town. Each one of the double storey Datça homes are fine samples of the art of stonemasonry. Adorned with the begonvillae, the narrow streets of old Datça takes one into a dream world and “new hopes, love and compassion” engulfs the visitor. Do not let the cat suddenly springing off around the corner, an older village woman or the pigeons flying about catch you by surprise. The people are warm and hospitable. Get ready to be invited for a cup of tea in the courtyard of a timber home. The burial place of famous poet Can Yücel is also in this charming part of the town. Mustafa Kaya, the honorable Provincial Governor of Datça points out that Old Datça is one of the most visited parts of the peninsula by local and foreign tourists and has a wonderful historical background. “This is an official urban protection area. The housing is strictly controlled by Special Environmental Protection Committee and the Committee for protection of Cultural and Natural Heritage. There is an old mosque in that area, which we had restored. The fact that all of the homes are stone built and that they were restored to their original state makes the suburb significantly important in terms of heritage” Mr. Kaya adds and continues to say that the number of visitors increase each year. He continues “Approximately 300 thousand local and foreign tourists visit our town within the first ten month section of each year. Of course, the fact that Marmaris-Datça road has been completed is the biggest factor that contributes to the visitor traffic. Once been in Datça, the visitor falls in love with the town. This year, there has been an increase in the number of tourist because of the regular Bodrum-Datça ferry trips.” HISTORY AND NATURE COEXISTS Known to have its first settlers in II. Century B.C., Datça (Reşadiye) Peninsula is a heaven where many different civilizations and cultures have left their distinctive Marks. The peninsula is a home to a great number of antique ruins, and archeological excavations continue non-stop in search of remnants of the bygone. The most important of that archeological heritage is the ancient Knidos city. Remains of 28 churches from the recent past are a testament to the mystical character of the region. Let’s se what the general history of Datça is; it was dominated by the Carians and after 1100 BC. was taken over by the Dorians. The Dorians had formed six cities under the Hexapolis Alliance. One of those cities, Knidos was built on Datça peninsula in accordance with the Hippodamus plan and adorned with many temples, sacred zones and theatres to say the few. Having been a home to the second largest medical school in history, the town was declared to be the capital of the Alliance. In about 546 B.C Persians arrived. Subsequently the town was under the rule of the Athenians, the Romans and Menteşe Bey of the Germiyanogulları Clan in 1282. Datça was annexed by Yildirim Beyazid of the Ottomans in 1390 and its name was changed to "Reşadiye” at the time of Sultan Reşad. In the republican era, the name was changed once more and Datça became a town attached to Muğla city. The rich flora of Datça is well known since the days of antiquity. It is suggested that Knidos becoming a famous medical center was due to the variety of the flora. In addition, the sculpture of Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love, carved by Praxiteles the sculptor has in itself become a myth and attracts thousands of visitors from all around the world. What makes the Blue Cruise in Datça so special is that the short stopovers in the bays housing antique ruins. When the timber gullet drops anchor, you have the chance to swim in the bluest of the waters surrounded by the silent parade of antique souls and just walk on to the shore to have a rest amongst thousands of years of history when you get tired. LIFE IN DATÇA If you are having a holiday in Datça, do not leave without having visited the surroundings. The best of seas, sand and the sun is there surely, but there is much more to do and see. There are minibuses to the surrounding villages and the bays along with the sea taxis for those who prefer to approach from the sea. If you don’t have your own vehicle, we would advise you take a daily boat trip. The sea in Datça is very generous in terms of sea food and the surrounding mountains are perfect for hunting trips. If you are an enthusiastic angler, there are many rocks too. Surfers say Datça is a paradise for them! The divers find Datça to be a rich region for its underground beauties. If you have a local guide helping you, following a challenging trip over numerous valleys and sheer slopes you may have the chance to see the Datça Date Palms, a species left from 65 million years ago. One comes across this mystical tree in one of the most secluded corners of the peninsula. But, please be warned, your chances of finding the tree by yourself is slim and the many bears and wild boars in the forests will certainly be dangerous if you come across them. Kızlan Village If you wish to see the typical wind mills on the peninsula, you must visit Kızlan Köyü, which is 8 km. to Datça centre. This region is the windiest place on the peninsula. Gebekum Just before you arrive to the wind mills, at 4 km. to Datça town, turn left at the Perili Köşk sign into a 1 km. dirt road. The road will take you straight by the sea shore. About 7 km. in length Gebekum is a perfect spot for swimming. The beach enlarges each year by the force of the winds. There is also a sandbank that allows the visitor to walk to the island across. Perili Köşk Otel is a nice place for accommodation and mostly serves to the yachts. The hotel has all the gear needed by water sports, and especially wind surfing buffs. There is some fisherman too and the fish is abundant but there is no fish restaurant! The liveliest section of Datça is the port area where many Blue Cruise boats drop anchor. The shops in the port area cater for almost every need of the passengers. The roads and streets leading to the town center are full of quality restaurants and colorful bars. You will discover a small lake that is connected to the sea. The traditional Turkish stone houses may be another attraction for those curious visitors. One should not forget the Hızırşah Village, 7 km. to the town, which is home to a Seljuk built antique mosque. One must see the excavation site of the antique ceramics workshops that are discovered to be used in 4 century B.C. MÖ. 4. between Old Datça and Hızırşah Village. A private property, the “Reşadiye Eski Konak” is exquisite in that the interior decoration and ceiling works are unmatched. Datça is the meeting point for the Aegean and the Mediterranean. 7 Km in length towards the west from Marmaris, one side of the peninsula faces the Aegean and the other the Mediterranean seas. Right at the tip of the peninsula, one may feel the excitement of being on a spot where you have the Mediterranean at the inner port and the Aegean at the outer port. Datça peninsula is large. The boundaries start at Bencik port, which is the narrowest point, and extends all the way to Knidos. The Hisaronu bay side of this narrow point is the Bencik Port and the side that faces Gökova bay is Bördübet. At some points, the distance drops to about 800 meters. It is said that in the ancient times, there were discussions on separating the land bridge and turning Datça into an island. According to Herodotus, the father of history, Knidos inhabitants wanted to dig the narrow isthmus and turn Knidos into an island when the Persians entered Ionia. Indeed they had tried but were unsuccessful in separating the stubborn peninsula from the mainland. History says that those who worked on this section had developed incurable wounds in their eyes and bodies and works ceased. Strabon the Geographer prophesized “God sends those faithful servants to Datça peninsula for a long life”. This is not something that is said without basis. A story told in the region proves Strabon right. About 500 years ago, Spanish Pirates decided to leave the lepers in the ship to Datça and left many in Sarıliman bay for dead. Due to the high oxygen content in the peninsula atmosphere, the lepers were cured and continued to live in the region. Whether the story is true or not is not known but it is a fact that the climate of Datça keeps one healthy. May be it is because of this that the Dorians have formed over 50 settlements in the region and the population of the town was 70 thousand about 2700 years ago. Considering that the current population is about 15.000, one can see the extent of the development of the civilization than. Lately, Datça is being rediscovered. Those who escape from the crowds, noise and pollution choose Datça to spend the rest of their lives. You must not think of Datça as a daily haunt. You will find exactly 52 bays around the peninsula. Some of those bays can only be reached via the sea and you may be by yourself the whole day. Those of you wanting to be amongst the crowd by the beach can get themselves to one of the beaches, shore lines of which in total are about 13 km. in length. I promise you, you will never forget the deep blue of the aquarium like sea. You will stay in small, boutique hotels, sail through the bays, discover the past through the ruins of antique Knidos settlement and collect wonderful memories in the colorful Datça nights. Handicrafts and the Marketplace The most characteristic handicraft of Datça is the point lace. The pure silk used is obtained from the tussah bred in the village homes and is cooked and spun by the villagers. Artisans work on small motifs or large covers. You may purchase the point lace work from the shops, Sunday markets or if you have time, directly from the villagers living close by. Another craft that is supported by the Local Governorship is the art of kilim weaving. A kilim weaving course in Sındı village teaches the art to the young. A school building in Old Datça suburb has been restored by the Governorship and is turned into a handy crafts center. The point lace works, kilims and cloth woven at the center are sold in the market, boutiques and gift shops. Water sports and diving centers You may try surfing at Gebekum and Periliköşk. You may also try your hand at sailing at Periliköşk. There are two diving centers in Datça. One of them is located at the town center and the other is at Datça Aktur. In addition, you may use the services of Villa Datça Water sports center located at Özbel region. Cuisine Keşkek is the most known traditional food of the region. Stuffed vine leaves and cracked wheat (burghul) salad are a must at the wedding dinners. All with interesting names, Elmasçık, Harpız, Garağan, Sepsuyu and Nettle are some of the tea varieties brewed from local grass. A must on the dining table is the figs filled with famous Datça almonds. Surely, we all know that figs and almonds, along with grapes are referred to as holy fruit in the holy books, which is another testament to the health giving qualities of Datça region. Turkey is the homeland of all three. Datça Almonds The most beautiful and tastiest of almond species cultivated in Turkey are the Datça almonds. Such varieties as. Nurlu, ak, kababağ, dedebağ, sıra and diş (tooth) tickle the taste buds of the culinary buffs. The best is said to be the Nurlu variety and the easiest to eat is the type with thin skin, the dişli almonds. When the outer skin is still green it is called Çağla (the green almonds) and harvested between February and April. The shelled and iced almonds sold in the bars by peddlers are obtained by shelling the almond fruit between May and June. The dried almonds are harvested from the trees where the fruit left intact cracks by itself in July to August. Datça inhabitants fill dried figs with a few almonds, cook them in an oven and market them either as they are or covered with honey. Cooked Snails I had said that you will see many an interesting things in Datça. One of those is the food made out of snails, called karavilla in the region, few times a year for health purposes. The snail season starts in March, when they come out of the ground and begin their journey towards the plants and continues until “three rains”. The settlers believe that those who eat snails do not get hernia and those suffering from hernia will be cured.

Article by Kenan Gürbüz / Translation Doğan Sahin

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