29 November 2021 – Visit to Bodrum and area
It was time for a road trip. Looking back to July/August of this year, we met our friends Niko and Marina while cruising along the coast of Turkey. They invited us to visit them in their home in Bodrum. Also, our friends Steve and Liz on SV LIBERTE had just arrived in their winter berth in Kusadasi at the Setur Marina “nearby” – so we decided to pay them a quick visit as well. Our route, including side trips, totalled more than 1500 km.
We stopped for pide along the way. It is similar to pizza and you can have a wide variety of toppings.
Kusadasi is a much larger city than we were prepared for, or really wanted to stay in “long term”. While it was nice to visit, we didn’t think it was appropriate for our interests, as a winter berth. There were just too many shops and restaurants, and much of the geography was all on hills, steep hills. Nonetheless, it was good to stop in and see our friends. So, we headed back to Bodrum, to see what that was like. In Bodrum, we stayed with our friends Niko and Marina in their beautiful 3 story home. Surrounding the home were dozens of fruit trees, and we had fresh squeezed orange juice every morning.
Lording over the seafront of Bodrum, the Castle of St. Peter is a must-see attraction. The Knights Hospitallers of St. John built this structure between 1402 and 1437 (during the crusades), and knights of the various nationalities of the order were entrusted with the defence of particular sections of the walls.
During the reign of the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, the castle passed into Turkish hands and the chapel was converted to a mosque. Today, many of the vast halls inside the castle display various exhibits, including Bodrum’s Museum of Underwater Archaeology. This is the Theatre at Halicarnassus, also known as Bodrum Antique Theatre, a 4th-century BC Greco-Roman theatre located in the centre of Bodrum. The theatre is considered to be built in a similar style to the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus.
On the Bodrum waterfront, the marina is jam packed, mostly with large and expensive Turkish Gullets. There is no berth that we can afford here.
A tour around the peninsula of Bodrum yields stunning views of the islands in the distance. These Greek islands are very close.
We easily found a Turkish restaurant featuring authentic non-tourist cuisine.
In the area NW of Bodrum, lies Lake Bafa, a vast inland freshwater lake.
Thousands of years before, Lake Bafa was a bay, and lay on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. With the receding sea levels, the lake eventually became landlocked. Apparently, this is an important bird sanctuary in Turkey, a shallow area where migratory birds stay and breed in autumn and spring. Lake Bafa was declared a nature reserve in 1994, but, the changing chemical content and decreasing oxygen levels have resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of fish and the ecosystem suffered irreversible damage. Redirection of the Büyük Menderes river away from the lake and the continuing waste of olive oil factories surrounding the area has distorted the natural habitat. Nonetheless, it was very picturesque.
We spent one day touring the ancient city of Ephesus. This city was built in the 10th century BC (1,000 years before the birth of Jesus Christ) on the site of the former Arzawan capital by Attic and Ionian Greek colonists. During the Classical Greek era, it was one of twelve cities that were members of the Ionian League. The city came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC.
The city was famous in its day for the nearby Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), which has been designated one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It’s many monumental buildings included the Library of Celsus and a theatre capable of holding 24,000 spectators. This is what remains of the Library of Celsus.
Ephesus was also one of the seven churches of Asia cited in the Book of Revelation; the Gospel of John may have been written there; and it was the site of several 5th-century Christian Councils. The city was destroyed by the Goths in 263 AD. Although it was afterwards rebuilt, its importance as a commercial centre declined as the harbour was slowly silted up by the Küçükmenderes River. In 614, it was partially destroyed by an earthquake.
Today, the ruins of Ephesus are a favourite international and local tourist attraction, perhaps partly because they are easy to access from Adnan Menderes Airport and from Kuşadası, a cruise ship port some 30 km south of it. In 2015, the ruins were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can even buy “genuine fake watches” there.
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Turkey is covered in ruins, from all ages. Driving on the highway to Ephesus, we passed by the Magnesia Ruins, named after the Magnetes from Thessaly who settled the area along with some Cretans. In earlier times, it was the site of Leucophrys mentioned by several ancient writers.
The territory around Magnesia was extremely fertile, and produced excellent wine, figs, and cucumbers. It was built on the slope of Mount Thorax, on the banks of the small river Lethacus, a tributary of the Maeander river upstream from Ephesus.
We also stopped in to visit the Shrine of the Virgin Mary – considered to be the last home of the Blessed Virgin, mother of Jesus Christ. According to historical records, St John cared for Mary and took her with him, fearing persecution and leaving the Jerusalem area for Asia Minor. Also, the tomb of St John was found in Ephesus. This Chapel was rebuilt upon the original foundations of the house of the Blessed Virgin, dating back to the first century.
Just on the outskirts of Bodrum, you will find the ancient city of Pedasa, where the ancient Lelegs lived during the Bronze and Iron Ages. Lelegs were considered as a separate nation of the Ancient Carya, and they moved to this area after the Trojan War. Their civilization existed during the period from 11th to 6th centuries BC.
Today Pedasa’s ruins are fragments of fortress walls and two internal towers. Several dome-shaped tombs have been preserved in the southern part of the hill. To get to them you have to leave the road and walk quite a bit by foot over rough terrain and steep hills.
There was no shortage of stunning landscape views.
Driving back to Alanya, we were finally able to stop in for lunch at one of these road side restaurants that offer fresh grilled lamb. We had a feast.