Calm seas & skilled sailors
G0 TURKEY: Having read about a waterside getaway near Istanbul, DEIRDRE McQUILLANembarked on an unforgettable week
UZLA? WHY TUZLA? It’s a big industrial area – why are you going there?” quizzed the baffled Turkish woman sitting beside me on the flight from Dublin to Istanbul, as we swapped information about our destinations. “We’re heading to a sailing place – taking a bit of a chance,” I replied. She shrugged, shook her head in disbelief and smiled.
It all began a year ago when I read about a boat-lover’s waterside property at Tuzla, outside Istanbul, with a fleet of wooden dinghies that he had not only sailed but had built and restored, and which offered accommodation and other activities for similar enthusiasts. His dinghies, to my amazement, were exactly the same as our own little clinker-built wooden boat called an International 12. But of that, more later.
The taxi drive to Tuzla – some 90km from Ataturk airport and €50 – in the dark of night passed endless processions of new skyscrapers and apartment blocks, evidence of Turkey’s burgeoning economy and the might and confidence of a city now home to 15 million people. Turning off the motorway and down a dark country lane, we finally arrived at a rickety metal gate to be greeted by the unmistakable sound of the sea and the barking of what turned out to be the resident hound, Sophie.
Inside, a verdant garden of tall trees and shrubs was choc-a-block with boats (some even suspended on roofs), rudders, oars, salvage and other sailing paraphernalia, interspersed with an eccentric arrangement of diverse buildings, including a towering tree-house built of scrap timber.
Somewhat overwhelmed, we were led by a wiry Italian/Romanian called Giorgio through an archway made of bamboo and old masts to a comfortable sittingroom furnished with a piano, a cello, books, music and family memorabilia. Left there beside a roaring wood fire with a bottle of wine, sweetmeats and nuts, we had time to take it all in. Later, shown to our room, we were told the owner would meet us for breakfast. That was the introduction to Harun’s Paradise and the beginning of an unforgettable week.
Located in the southern suburbs of the Asian side of Istanbul, on the Sea of Marmara, Harun’s Paradise is named after a legendary Turkish boat-builder and Olympic sailor considered Turkey’s greatest yacht designer. Formerly a monastery and site of an ancient Roman settlement, the Edin family bought the place as a summer haven from the city in the 1960s.
Rifat Edin, the current owner, who sailed here as a child and opened it to the public two years ago, restores and recycles everything from plastic bailers to Bosphorus mansions, as we were to discover, but his passion is dinghy sailing, particularly the International 12.