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Whitewashed Splendor -- a review of Bodrum by Claudia Testa

Spectacular scenery, a historian's delight, sunny climate, Turkey's boat building capital

A party town, don't expect to get much sleep!

The Bottom Line
A charming city on the Aegean Sea, 'Bodrum' which means 'dungeon' in Turkish (seemingly an oxymoron!), has something for everyone.

Bodrum-yachtLocated on the southern shore of the Peninsula, this charming city is perhaps one of the most sophisticated resorts on the Aegean coast. Countless yachts adorn its harbor, along with the famous 'Gulets', those beautiful wooden Turkish sailing vessels one can charter for an outing. Most of these gulets are built right here in Bodrum, the center for boat building dating as far back as Mark Anthony's and Cleopatra's days!

The most prominent landmark is the 'Castle of St. Peter', sitting high on a rocky peninsula and surrounded by a series of dry moats. Located within walking distance of the harbor, a visit here is a must. One of the most interesting facts is that the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World which was partially destroyed by an earthquake, was completely torn down by the Knights of Rhodes to obtain stones for the construction of this magnificent castle in 1522.

The views from the various towers of the castle are stunning, overlooking the harbor, the beautiful whitewashed buildings of the town, the surrounding countryside, and the deep blue Aegean Sea. And, there are interesting artifacts such as jewelry, coins, and flags. Approximately 250 coats of arms are carved into the castle walls, along with other embellishments and relics salvaged from the Mausoleum site.

Bodrum Castle

I highly recommend a tour of the castle for a comprehensive review of its fascinating history. Make sure it includes a visit to the Sunken Boat Museum, located within the castle walls. It offers an amazing array of artifacts retrieved from shipwrecks from the period of the Bronze Age to the Middle Ages. Cargo from a Syrian trade ship (ca. 13th century BC) includes still in tact pottery jars, dishes, even food!
The foundation of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus is still visible just outside of town. There is not much left of the once Ancient Wonder of the World, which at one time was a spectacular marble tomb, built in 353BC for Mausolus, by his surviving wife. Hence the word 'Mausoleum'!

Not far from the Mausoleum is the Amphitheater, the only surviving monument of Halicarnassus. It has been restored and is still used today for occasional concerts and performances.

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There is plenty of shopping in Bodrum and you can get great deals on leather, carpets, gold jewelry, and cashmere shawls (pashimas). You are expected to bargain after an initial price is quoted (merchandise is not marked with prices). The rule of thumb is to bargain down to about 65% of the initial quote. If the vendor does not agree, just walk away. More often than not, he will chase after you and agree to your final offer! You won't get the best price if you intend to pay with a credit card, they much prefer to be paid in US Dollars. Turkish Lira are accepted, of course, but considering the exchange rate of 1,600,000 Lira for a single US Dollar, the numbers are staggering and it's easy to get confused.

It is very common to be offered Turkish apple tea, soft drinks, or Turkish coffee, especially in carpet stores. Feel free to accept the offer, this in no way obligates you to purchase. It is just part of the Turkish hospitality!

Turkey is one of the few countries growing enough produce to sustain their own. Especially the fruit is wonderful, such as figs, melons, berries, mangos, etc.

You may want to rent a 'Gulet', one of those beautiful wooden boats lining the waterfront. Again, you will have to bargain for the price (approximately $25 per hour). Sailing around the coast of the Bodrum Peninsula is magical, and there are lots of small coves, ideal for swimming. A delicious 'local' lunch is served on board. We found the water surprisingly cold (early October), but enjoyed it nevertheless. The Aegean Sea is crystal clear and VERY salty, giving it great buoyancy.


Bodrum is particularly known for its more than lively nightlife. It is the town that never sleeps and where parties continue into the early morning. Among many international visitors, this is where you will find the Turkish 'jet set', French Riviera style! Cruise ships arrive on a daily basis and new construction extends the pretty whitewashed villages far into the countryside. Tourism is big business here, but the people are worried. With the events of 9/11 and Iraq as a close neighbor, they are more than concerned about the future.

Bodrum can certainly be considered a jewel along the Turkish Coast and is well worth a visit, whether it be for an extended holiday, or just for a day from a cruise ship.

To see more pictures & to take a mini-tour of Bodrum Peninsula, where Lorraine & I will be living after March '06, visit our Bodrum Pictures page.

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