We flew to Istanbul one week before the cruise began so we could explore that ancient city at leisure. It would be our third exploration but there is so much to see and shopping in the Grand Bazaar deserves a trip in itself. Our hotel surpassed our expectations and then here we were ready to board our luxury yacht.
Yes! As fans of small ship cruising we were about to board a five-mast staysail schooner, one of the largest sailing cruise ships in the world. No, I am not a sailor but that is the description of what would be our floating hotel for the next seven days. The number of passengers on board was a mere 294.
The first exquisite experience was to watch as the computer operated sails were raised with coordinating music. Istanbul slowly faded. We saw other ships and boats but none compared to ours. I knew this cruise would be special
We arrive at Bodrum, the only maiden port for us on the voyage so off we go to explore. I had done my research on Bodrum so my head was filled with Halicarnassus, Herodotus and events that occurred in years that were followed by BC, and The Mausoleum.
I like to think that Bodrum is famous because of ostentatious love. When the Satrap, or ruler, Mausolus died in 353 BC, his wife had an enormous white marble monumental tomb built. The top was a stepped pyramid and was such a wondrous accomplishment that the Greek historian Pliny designated the Mausoleum as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was designed by the great Ionian architect Pytheos. Not only was it the largest tomb ever built by the ancient Greeks it was also well built as it stood for 19 centuries until an earthquake destroyed it around the 14th century. Only the massive foundation remains though some artifacts can be viewed inside the Castle of St. Peter.
With my head filled with all this antiquity and the romance of a bygone era, I was so surprised to see the modern, clean city nestled on the sunny bay and surrounded by spectacular scenery at every turn. The only discordant note was the proliferation of vacation villages and timeshares cluttering up the shores. It reminded us of the Costa del Sol. I thought of it as the Marbella of Turkey. Despite this, it still had the ambience of being a step back in time. It would not have surprised me to see Anthony and Cleopatra holding hands and strolling through the Theatre of Ancient Halicarnassus.
Yet the best was yet to come. On arriving back on our yacht we were informed that a dancer, an expert in both the history and art of belly dancing was on board to entertain. We debated going but curiosity won out. There was an introduction and history of the art by an emcee who informed us that the dancer would perform four stories in dance.
Oh, what a treat. This gorgeous Turkish woman came out, gave an elegant bow and the music started. Within a moment we knew we were experiencing something special. This was pure artistry. She was grace incarnate. She moved in fluid, sinuous, sensual patterns, undulating from her toes to the ends of her hair. The tiny musical coins sewn into the costume added to the mystique. The movement of her eyes, the flutter of her lashes and the placement of hands and fingers and the ripple of her undulating torso and hips were all integral to the telling of the tales. We were in awe.
I looked over at the resident dolt, yes, there was one. He had a beer bottle almost at his mouth but he did not take one sip, so enthralled he was. That was the greatest compliment. She danced as if she was engaged in intense communion in a separate interior place. Yet we were totally engaged. Her dancing was a most eloquent language. Mesmerizing.
You know an outstanding performance by what happens when it is over. Here, there was a long moment of complete silence, a collective letting out of breath, and sighs of wonder broken by: “Oh, what a performance.” We rose as one and the sound became a cacophony as we each tried to find the words to articulate our admiration and appreciation of what we had just witnessed.
Nearly every guest had seen belly dancing performances prior to this one but we all agreed that they fell far short. My Bert kept asking: “How did she do that”?” He was not the only one.
The Meander: We try to find pleasure in everyday small miracles. This was a miracle, not so everyday and not so small. My memory is packed with travel miracles.