After travelling around Turkey for 2 months my intention was to head to the Greek Island of Kos. But after a somewhat slow bus journey through the rugged mountain passes in south west Turkey I found myself in the delightful seaside town of Bodrum. However once reaching Bodrum I decided to stay a few days longer basically to relax. The Hotel I stayed at was great, cheap and had a pool. Bodrum is a touristy area but not over the top, and because it is on the coast its a nice place to chill for a few days.
Bodrum is a very nice place indeed it is built on two adjoining harbours that are divided by a large castle. Modern day Bodrum is a marina town that has actually planned its development to keep a wonderful European atmosphere. The coast line of the eastern harbour is particularly pleasant place to stroll along where you can sit back and relax at any of the many beachside cafes whilst watching the sun set. In the old town behind the bazaar area there are narrow streets where you can go to escape the growing crowds. Situated in the western harbour is the port, where you can admire the seriously expensive yachts that fills the marina.
Many Hellenistic influences can still be found in Bodrum due to its closeness to Grecian trading and social centres such as Rhodes and Athens. I ve never really known much about Hellenism nothing about the promotion of principles and ideals of classical Greek civilisation which includes aesthetics, philosophy, science, law and democracy outside ancient Greece. Bodrum was a major port in ancient Greco-Roman times and was known as Harlicarnassus , and because of its beautiful Mediterranean environment it is easy to see why Hellenism was practised here.
The main feature of Bodrum is the castle and according to an information board situated in Bodrum it is the ‘strongest castle on the Mediterranean’. It was built by the Knights of St John but in the name of St Peter why I have no idea !! The work started in 1406 and wasn’t actually finished until 1522 and was just in time to be peacefully handed over to the Turks one year later when Rhodes finally fell to Islam. You have to pass through seven fortified gates to reach the inner sanctum that was built to support up to 50 knights and more than 150 soldiers. 249 coats of arms cover the walls, mainly belonging to the Grand Master of the St John order and to various castle commanders. Five internal towers were built by specific Crusader nations England, France, Germany, Spain and Italy. The English Tower was built under Henry IV and is the largest English monument built outside England according to another plaque however I find this quite hard to believe.. The castle has also been used as a prison and in more recent history it was used as a target for French naval bombing in WWI on May 26th 1915 as the Allies suspected Turkey was helping to refuel German subs in Bodrum.
Once you get inside the castle you will be fascinated as a number of rooms and courtyards house the fantastic Museum of Marine Archaeology. Here you will find recoveries from some of the oldest wrecks ever excavated and that are displayed here you can also see pottery and glassware that was found from the Minoan trading period 1,600 to 1,200 BC and hundreds of amphorae, which include some dating back to 3,000BC.
One wreck which is known as the ‘Uluburan’ which sunk around 1,400BC contained about 20 tonnes of raw materials, including seals from Assyria and Babylonia, Jewellery and weapons, Cypriot ceramics and copper pieces, African ebony, Eastern spices, Baltic Amber and swords from Italy and Greece. This exhibit shows the extent of international trade in ancient history. The wreck was found in 1982 in waters of 44 to 61 metres deep. The divers could only do dives of 20-25 minutes at this depth and it took more than 22,000 dives over an 11 year period to complete the excavation!
Bodrum Castle is a great castle, with plenty of detail on every wall to compliment the museum and the significant aspects of its construction. Parts of the older carved stones have been built straight into newer walls and the many coats of arms are evidence of creativity on the part of the allied Renaissance period and European builders.
Even the smaller details like the wall lanterns and the Hellenic statues and carvings placed over the vast public grounds make every turn an adventure.
Bodrum is just a short ride from the town of Gumbet which is a tourists paradise with much livelier nightlife than Bodrum. During the day you can soak up some sun which is exactly what I did on its long beach where the waters are perfect for floating around on a lilo… I got talking to a group of British girls who go there pretty much every year and they invited me out.. So after heading back to Bodrum getting changed I met them in Planet Yucca one of the main restaurants in Gumbet and geared up for tourists you wont find much locally cooked food but I did have a huge bowl of pasta for a really good price.. After dinner we headed for Bar Street which consists of a number of bars all blasting out music and trying to convince you to enter… The two main bars on the strip are X Bar and Shakers both are cheesy but were good fun and both open until the early hours of the morning… Luckily for me the mini buses run 24 hours so I managed to get myself back to the hotel even though I was a little worst for wear..
The next day waking up feeling not to healthy I decided to visit a Hamam also known as a Turkish Bath. The older more traditional Hamams are mainly for male clients, and females are only allowed in during limited hours. Luckily there are Unisex ones although they are more touristy than traditional but this was fine for me. So I booked my Hamam with the hotel and I was picked up in a minibus. Once I had arrived and the guy behind the counter shows me to the lockers and tells me to leave on my bikini and put on the plastic slippers provided.
I was then lead into a large steam room. The steam room was really pretty and totally made of marble, with a domed roof, and a raised circular marble slab in the middle of the floor. I was then told to lie down, and the man then poured a few buckets of water over me, luckily it was warm water. He then said in a gruff voice ”someone will come in to scrub you in ten minutes ”’…. By this time I was starting to feel just a little uneasy !! This was due to the fact that I was the only one in there and I am sweating and steaming away in the humid and slightly smelly surroundings. Ten minutes then turns into twenty and all of a sudden in strides a local man, short ( like most Turkish men ) and stocky, wearing only a towel around his waist and carrying what looks like a huge brillo pad on his hand. For one slight second I had flashes of ‘Midnight Express’, and every other foreign prison film I have ever watched in my life. Here I was alone in a bikini with a foreign bloke in a bathing area, with him wearing nothing other than a loin cloth and a glove what the hell was I thinking.
The glove man then told me to sit up while he poured a few buckets of water over me. With his hand inside the white brillo glove, he then grabbed my arm and started running this harsh scrubbing glove all over it. He then proceeded with the other arm. Then to my surprise my chest and back. Next he grabbed a leg and so on. This part of the Hamam is apparently to rid me of dead skin layers. Next he pours more water over me, and then tells me to lie down on my stomach… He then switches the glove for a large towel looking thing that somehow contains a huge amount of soapy foam. He then squashes the towel together so that I am covered in soapy suds while he rubs the towel on my back and shoulders legs and arms and he even manages a small massage !!! Quickly enough he is covering me with more water. Then I here the magical words ‘Finished’ thank god is what I reply !!!
Outside of the steam room I am pointed to a ‘sofa for me to chill out on. I am then asked if I want a massage or other treatments what other meant I am not to sure but I quickly declined the offer…I paid for the bath which cost me about £5 and was then whisked back in the mini bus to the hotel. The experience was very strange but my skin felt amazing and it did look awesome…
That evening I sat down at the western bay in a lovely pier restaurant drinking and enjoyed a nice bottle of Rose and again eating some quality pasta. This is the ideal place to sit and watch the yachts and best of all people watch….
The next day I decided to do something more adventurous and booked myself to go horse riding in the town of Turgutreis which is 20kms from Bodrum on the Peninsula. So I was booked up around lunch time and it took us about 40 minutes to reach the riding school. The journey was really pretty with some great scenery.Once we reached the riding school we were each given a horse depending on your experience. My horse was nice tempered and had I had no problems guiding him on the trek. The views are splendid and the trek lasted just over an hour and we even got to see a camel which was all alone just grazing in a field. The trek was through the countryside and I did feel totally isolated and away from any other communities and I could imagine how Turkey used to be before all the tourists etc..
So that was just a few nice days spent in Bodrum and then it was on to visit some of the Greek Islands…
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