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BODRUM

Turkish celeb hangout                            Population: 140,000

Borum3Old name: Halikarnasos (Halicarnassus)

Market day: Friday

How lovely Bodrum looks as you bounce down the hill into town, its pretty white houses gazing out over the azure sea towards distant Kos. Even before you set foot on the sand the view alone will have been enough to put you in the mood for a holiday.

Of all Turkey’s big resorts Bodrum, right over in the western corner of Turkey, has to be the most delightful, thanks to those foresighted locals who made the decision to bar high-rise development from the town. As a result, even when the centre heaves with visitors in July and August, Bodrum somehow manages to hang on to its heart, helped by the fact that there has been a settlement on the site since time immemorial.

Bodrum is the favoured watering hole of Turkey’s rich and famous which translates into many exclusive shops and restaurants, especially on the western side of town where the Karada Marina sucks in a well-heeled yachting clientele. However, you don’t have to have a Donald Trump-sized wallet to have a good time here since there are also plenty of simple lokantas and shops aimed at the average visitor. And of course prices drop dramatically out of season.

There’s no shortage of things to do in Bodrum which is home to the remains of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World - the famous Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. Today you’re more likely to write home about the imposing Castle of St Peter, which dominates the eastern esplanade.

Families with children will also be pleased to learn that there is a waterpark attached to the Dedeman Hotel at Ortakent, a short hop out of town.

The one letdown is the local beach - little more than a slither of over-occupied sand -  a deficiency easily remedied, however, by hotfooting it out to one of the resorts on the adjacent Bodrum Peninsula.

Castle of St Peter/Museum of Underwater Archaeologybodrum5

Started in 1437 by the Knights of St John, an order of Crusading knights who had taken up residence in nearby Rhodes, this magnificent castle continued as a use until the end of World War I, after which it found surprising but successful new use as Turkey’s first museum of underwater archaeology (closed Mondays).

Today the castle’s various towers and chambers house the remains of some of the oldest shipwrecks ever dredged up from the sea, including the Uluburun, which dates right back to the 14th century BC. Here, too, ancient Greek and Roman ships are on display, although perhaps the most impressive sight of all is a wreck dating back to the early 11th century which sank en route from Syria to the Black Sea, leaving a cargo of more than three tons of broken glass to be found by the divers.

Even if ships are not your thing, it’s still worth visiting the castle to wonder at the sheer magnificence of its architecture and at the glorious sea views from the ramparts. Many people will also enjoy inspecting the gold artifacts found buried alongside a Carian woman of the fourth century BC who has been identified on rather flimsy evidence as Queen Ada, who lived from 360 to 325 BC. Manchester University has provided a model of what she might have looked like using the same sort of technology as comes in handy for identifying victims of crime.

Around town

Bodrum’s history stretches back way to the days when, as Halicarnassus, it was the capital of the province of Caria and governed by a king called Mausolous whose tomb became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and gave the word “mausoleum” to the English language. Sadly, very little remains of the tomb after it was shattered by earthquakes, raided by treasure-hunting tomb robbers, and then pillaged for its stones by the Knights of St John when the time came to build their castle. Today’s visitors have to make do with a few pre-Mausolean remains below ground level, the entrance to the tomb, the precinct walls and a big helping of imagination. Hard now to believe that the building once soared 140ft into the sky so that it was visible from out at sea. 

It’s still worth going in search of the mausoleum not so much for what you will find there but because the hunt for it takes you deep into Bodrum’s beautiful back streets where hundreds of pretty, whitewashed houses lurk behind bougainvillea-draped walls, the model for the more successful of the modern villas that now spill out from the town center in all directions.

Bodrum’s great attraction is its waterside setting on a pair of natural harbours. This has been greatly enhanced by the addition of a palm-tree-lined promenade that leads visitors past a line-up of graceful wooden gülets, all vying to take them on cruises to the surrounding islands.

The gülets mainly moor in the western bay, which wraps round until it comes to the flashy Netsel Marina. Beyond this lie slight remains of an 18th-century shipyard where the Ottoman fleet was rebuilt after the Russians destroyed it off Çeşme in 1770, and of the Myndos Gate, the only surviving part of seven-kilometer-long walls built by King Mausolus in the fourth century BC. These walls were originally rendered even more formidable by the presence of a deep moat in which many of Alexander the Great’s soldiers drowned in 334 BC.

bodrum2Myndos Gate

Immediately beyond the Myndos Gate are the remains of a Roman necropolis with 17 tombs dating back to the 4th century, some still with mosaic floors in situ including one of a dog bringing down a stag.

If you continue inland from the Myndos Gate untill eventually you emerge on the main Bodrum-Ortakent highway you will also be able to see the restored remains of the ancient theatre of Halicarnassus. Close by but lost amid undergrowth beneath a car park is the base of an ancient Temple of Mars.

The eastern bay stretches out from behind the castle and boasts a thin strip of sand that is more useful for enjoying a sundowner than acquiring a tan. The area between the castle and the beach is crammed full with shops and restaurants catering for everyone from penny-pinching package holidaymakers to İstanbul’s rich and famous. Most of the town’s infamously noisy nightlife is centred here, with the Halikarnas disco at the far end of the sands bragging that it has the loudest system of all.

Just inland from the Halikarnas Disco is the house once lived in by Turkish diva-extraordinaire Zeki Müren whose clothes and other memorabilia are on display inside what is now a museum. You can't miss it - there's a giant statue of the man in the garden.

bodrum4Also inland as you head towards the bus terminal is the Bodrum Maritime Museum which contains models of the many varieties of boat that have moored here as well as some fascinating information about the lost world of the sponge divers. It is also home to a mesmerising collection of seashells. The huge eucalyptus trees in front the museum were planted by the Boatman of Halicarnassus some of whose personal belongings are also housed here.

In 2013 a new attraction was shaping up in the bustling shopping centre where the demolition of a government building has exposed the remains of the huge Aya Nikola Church that was blown up in 1974 during the Cyprus crisis. Plans are now in place to rebuild it. bodrum8

Seen everything? Then one of the joys of Bodrum is that you have easy access to all sorts of small resorts out on the adjoining peninsula.

Blue Cruises

One of Bodrum’s most famous residents was writer Cevat Sakir Kabaagac, better known as the Fisherman of Halicarnassus, who dreamt up the idea of the ‘Blue Cruise’ and whose belongings are now on display in the Bodrum Maritime Museum.. As you stroll along the waterfront you will be bombarded with offers to board one of the graceful wooden gülets (yachts) tied up alongside.

Day trips take in coves with better beaches than Bodrum’s, plus Karaada (the Black Island), where you can swim in hot springs and rub supposedly therapeutic orange mud onto your skin.

Alternatively, you can sign up for a longer cruise to Marmaris, Dalyan or Fethiye. Whichever way you play it, you’ll be in for a treat as your boat meanders past rocky headlands with ancient ruins tumbling down their sides, the limpid turquoise sea a constant invitation to jump in for a swim.

Sleeping

Merve Park Hotel

The lobby of the Merve Park Hotel, a few streets inland from the coast, is rather like a small museum full of ancient artifacts that set the tone for a hotel whose public areas are all a joy: the breakfast area beneath a spreading rubber tree, the neat little pool and bar, the snug little sitting area around a fireplace that looks down into the courtyard. The two suites are equally appealing and equally full of interesting bits and pieces. However, the new and old clash somewhat jarringly in the standard bedrooms. In summer the famous Halikarnas disco is within ear-splitting distance.

Tel: 0252-316 1546, Ataturk Caddesi No. 73

Antik Tiyatro Hotel

Tel: 0252-316 6053, Kibris Sehitler Caddesi

Artunç Hotel

Bac Pansiyon

Tel: 0252-316 1602, Cumhuriyet Caddesi No. 14

Bodrum Marmara Hotel

Tel: 0252-313 8130

İstanköy Hotel

Su Otel

Eating

Bodrum is one of Turkey’s best places for eating out, with restaurants catering for every imaginable taste (and a few catering for all of them at once!). The more atmospheric places are mainly on the western side of town where the Yaghane (Tel: 0252-313 4747, Neyzen Tevfik Caddesi No. 170), housed in an old olive-oil factory, is the place to see and be seen. At the lively Liman Koftecisi (Tel: 0252-316 5060, Neyzen Tevfik Caddesi No. 172) very reasonably priced meatballs fly out of the kitchen in their thousands, while the Kocadon (Tel: 0252-316 3705, Neyzen Tevfik Caddesi No. 160), tucked back from the main road in a romantically secluded garden, perfectly carries off the tricky task of being discreet and fashionable at the same time.

Bodrum may be in thrall to trendy fusion cookery, but while by the sea you will probably want to treat yourself to at least one fish supper. Right on the packed shopping street of eastern Bodrum you can hardly miss the fish eyes staring back at you from the windows of the upmarket Tranca Restaurant (Tel: 0252-316 6610, Cumhuriyet Caddesi No. 36). For something more homely if not necessarily especially cheap seek out Berk Balik Restaurant (Tel: 0252-313 6878, Cumhuriyet Caddesi No. 167), a cheery fish bistro a mussel’s throw from the Halikarnas disco.

The old meyhane action recently relocated to beside Bodrum's market where the fish are guaranteed to be as fresh as can be.

bodrum6Nightlife

To visitors’ complaints that they can’t sleep for the noise from Bodrum’s many late-night clubs, the answer is always: ‘Why come here if you want to sleep?’ Bear this in mind before choosing a hotel anywhere near the famous Halikarnas Disco where a succession of club nights cater for everyone from those who like their dancing sud-spattered to those who prefer it just plain hopping. Its lasers are reputed to make themselves felt across the sea in Greece. Some might say the same of its decibels.

The Halikarnas is Bodrum’s best known nightclub but those with more exclusive tastes tend to head west to the cooler Küba Bar. For something quintessentially British you can always hit the sea-facing Red Lion. Or there’s the water-borne option - a night out on the Marine Club Catamaran, a floating nightclub which doesn’t drop anchor until the postman is stirring.

Transport info

Bodrum International Airport is north of Bodrum in Milas.

It seems nothing short of a miracle that Bodrum''s otogar is still in the town centre despite the narrowness of the streets and all the traffic. So far plans to move it out towards Torba have come to nothing. Long may it last.

From the otogar a fleet of dolmuşes fan out around the Bodrum Peninsula with some services continuing until after midnight.

From Bodrum daily ferries depart for Kos, while in high summer there are daily hydrofoils to Rhodes too. In summer you can also get to distant Datça by ferry; out of season services shrink away to nothing.

Day trip destinations

Bitez

Bodrum Peninsula

Göltürkbükü

Gümbet

Gümüşlük

Gündoğan

İçmeler

Kadıkalesi

Milas

Ortakent

Pedasa

Torba

Turgutreis

Yalıçiftlik

Yalıkavak

bodrum7Statue of Zeki Müren looms over Bodrum

 

 

 

Read more about Bodrum: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-320065-a-sightseers-guide-to-bodrum.html

Read more about Bodrum: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-165637-out-and-about-in-bodrum.html

Read about the Blue Cruise: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-210295-rhapsody-in-blue-cruising-the-turkish-coastline.html

 

 

 

 

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