. . . . By the way, my article on the Bodrum Peninsula ran in the Moscow Times
last Saturday. I'm attaching a copy of it. As you'll see, I direct readers to your web
Hope you guys are doing well, that the sun shines, the breeze whistles and that
business is booming.
SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT TO THE MOSCOW TIMES
Tourism in Turkey has gone on vacation. Scanty bookings and overeager carpet salesmen
indicate that potential visitors are being deterred by threats from the separatist
Kurdistan Workers Party, the drama of the recent trial of Kurdish guerrilla leader
Abdullah Ocalan and the general sense that in Turkey, political turmoil prevails above
culture, sun and sea.
Not so. In fact, now is a perfect time for Turkish travel, because prices are low,
crowds are small and, as revealed in a recent trip to the heart of the former Ottoman
Empire, Turkey still plays host in splendid Mediterranean style. Its inhabitants are warm
and upstanding and its streets feel instantly like your own. Never having been to Turkey
before, I was quite surprised by the depth of its Westernization, symbolized by the
ubiquitous image of Kemal Attaturk. This early 20th century reformer, who began by
outlawing the fez, succeeded in transforming Turkey into the most modern and secular of
Islamic nations, where the melodic ring of prayer call mingles with the din of commerce
and city life.
For the traveler in search of a tan and a little rest, with a dose of adventure and
history, it is well worth heading to the southern Turkish coast, where the Bodrum
Peninsula lies opposite the Greek island of Kos. Rising like an amphitheater above the
bay, the town of Bodrum, formerly called Halikarnossus and founded circa 1100 B.C. by
Dorian Greeks, has undergone many incarnations that have taken it from Greek, Persian,
Alexandrian, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman domination, to its current phase as a French
Rivieraesque resort town on the Aegean Sea. Once the proud home town of Herodotus, the
proverbial Father of History, Bodrum is now a thriving tourist hub that gains its popular
status from several converging features. It houses a marina of wooden yachts that face off
every October in a regatta called the Bodrum Cup. At the tip of its bay sits Bodrum
Kalesi, a gigantic Medieval fortress that once lodged the international order of the
Knights Hospitalliers of St. John. Farther up in its winding streets are the remains of
the original Mausoleum, built in posthumous homage by the wife and sister of Persian King
And at night, Bodrum offers a raucous and celibacy-defying club scene, marked most
visibly by two leggy girls who glide daily along the harbor in the back of an open truck,
brandishing their behinds to the pulse of disco pop to advertise Ladies Night at the
Halicarnassus Nightclub. With Bodrum as its node and link to the rest of Turkey, the
Bodrum Peninsula hosts a lush variety of different towns and environments, ranging from
the picturesque and quiet harbor of Gumusluk and the lazy local swing of Turgut Reis, to a
string of pre-fab tourist villages and the rocking, neon zoo of Gumbet. When choosing a
place to stay, it makes sense to consider the desired ratio of activity to rest.
As a general rule, the towns closest to Bodrum, starting with Gumbet and Bitez, will
deliver night-time action, rows of restaurants, crowded beaches and a lively scene. Bitez,
a windsurfing mecca, boasts a nice if slightly cluttered beach lined with rambunctious
Yalikavak, a smaller and less developed version of Bodrum, retains its ancient village
flavor with curving alleys, first-class harbor-side restaurants, daily boat charters and
crowded outdoor cafes where local men play mah jongg over glasses of Turkey's excellent
Heading outward from Bodrum, you find quieter areas where there is little to do but
read, relax, sip wine in pleasant and inexpensive water-side restaurants, and venture past
ancient walls and grazing cows to snorkel in secluded coves.
Gumusluk, where I stayed, is an enclosed bay, ringed in a sparkling blue haze of small
islands. One of these, Rabbit Island, can be reached by foot by passing through a fish
restaurant and walking along a rocky stretch of knee-deep water. Nearby, Feridun Boruk,
the old and kindly local scuba master who rents snorkel gear for a song, will point out
the neighboring sites of the ancient civilization of Myndos, which are now entirely
undersea and reputed to be older than Odysseus himself.
At Turkish seaside restaurants, it is customary to walk over to the ice-box and point
out the fish you desire, as you survey its eye for freshness and have it priced by weight.
Dinner usually starts with mezzes, tasty cold pre-cooked appetizers, also identified by
pointing. Yakamoz Restaurant was a great favorite for its brimming atmosphere, late hours
and gregarious waitstaff. You learn quickly in Turkey to be cautious with compliments, as
the owner will invariably be compelled to give you the thing you praise. We had to protest
vehemently and apologetically to prevent our waiter from giving away the phrasebook he
used to be able to chat with us during our meals. Though there is an inexpensive hotel in
Gumusluk right on the water, we enjoyed staying in an apartment overlooking the sea, just
a short walk up the gentle hills.
In the last decade, there has been a flurry of development throughout Turkey and, thus,
an abundance of vacation homes and apartments available for short-term rental.
Aegean Tours, a tourist agency that markets over the Internet (http://www.aegean.com.tr), offers
various types of accommodations according to specific budgets, as well as boat charters
and scuba rental. It is run by a nice couple, a Scottish expat and a Bodrum native, who
proved to be gracious and knowledgeable hosts.
As a handsome perk, Turkey also delivers an impressive amount of Greece. Just an
hourlong ferry ride away from Bodrum lies the whitewashed and far more touristy island of
Kos. Inland, about three hours driving, stretches a chain of archeological sites dating
from Greek Ionian and Roman times, Euromos, Priene, Ephesus, Aphrodisias. Along with Troy,
which is farther north, one of the most famous of these sites is Ephesus, a sprawling
marble metropolis that once sat on a harbor that has long since filled with silt. With an
amphitheater that can seat over a half-million people and an agora to rival America's
greatest shopping malls, it stirs the imagination to muse on times when Rome was just a
distant rumor and the Apostle Paul a voice in the dark.
Upon return to the Bodrum peninsula, the lights of disco row reach out in greeting with
waving halogen beams that follow you down the winding road. Under the incandescent glow of
Yalikavak’s minarets, the night rocks, the fish sizzles and white wine flows, fresh from
a bountiful harvest. As you order, the Aegean sea laps at your side in a cool siren song
of seduction. You raise your glass to the night. You'll always have Yalikavak.