Bodrum, a peninsula extending into the Aegean Sea, is one of Turkish most popular tourist destinations. The mountainous area is dotted with large and smaller coastal villages, all with their own unique atmosphere. Whether you’re looking for a lively nightlife, picturesque bays, a romantic getaway, a walk through history or sunbathe by an azure sea, Bodrum, formerly known as Halicarnassus, has it all.
These are the words that welcome you upon entering Bodrum:
“Don’t ever think that you will depart as you arrived.
The ones before you made that mistake too.
They all left, forgetting their hearts and souls in Bodrum”
They are perhaps the most famous words ever written about the peninsula in western Turkey. They are written by the writer Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı. In 1925, shortly after the founding of the Turkish Republic, he was exiled to Bodrum. The government blamed him for writing a paper about by mutinous soldiers.
Blessing in disguise
But instead of feeling bad about his exile, Cevat was soon feeling blessed instead of punished. He started to feel at home among the pine forests, beautiful views and archaeological riches. He mingled with the locals – who mainly consisted of fishermen – and frequently went out to sea with them. As a result, he soon got his nickname – ‘Fisherman of Halicarnassus’ (Halikarnas Balıkçısı). This refers to the old name of Bodrum which was ‘Halicarnassus’.
It doesn’t take long for the exiled writer to start writing laudatory poems about his new life. And to prove how much he was enjoying himself, he invited his intellectual friends from Istanbul to come over. They were also very enthusiastic about the uncomplicated life in Bodrum. They wrote stories about their trip there and called them – because of the colour of the water- Mavi Yolculuk, or Blue Cruise.
It’s hard not to lose your heart here
Thanks to the stories of Cevat and his friends, the Gulf of Gökova becomes famous. In the 40s of the twentieth century, hordes of artists and writers visit the area. And since the ’80s, the place becomes more and more popular among the affluent part of the Turkish population. Meanwhile, Bodrum has become one of Turkey’s most popular tourist destinations. And when we decide to travel to this part of the Aegean coast for a short break, we can only agree with the Fisherman of Halicarnassus: it’s hard not to lose your heart to this special place.
Breathtaking everywhere you look
Bodrum has, more than other coastal tourist destinations, a certain elegance about it. It is picturesque and romantic, than again luxurious and abundant, glamourous and steeped with culture and history. But Bodrum is most of all breath-taking. Years ago, the local government introduced strict laws to protect the authenticity of the region. The laws limit the height of houses and buildings and Greek blue and white are the standard colours.
Every village has its own charm
These white houses surrounded by a colourful beauty of flowers fill the hills of the peninsula and as you drive along the winding, accessible roads, you can see the boats bobbing in the turquoise water.
Whoever is going to discover Bodrum will find that there is something for every taste. The area is dotted with villages and towns, each with its own charm. Like luxury Yalıkavak, where huge yachts moor from all parts of the world, during the season. Or picturesque Gümüşlük, where you stroll on sand paths running along the beach and where the best seafood restaurants on the island can be found.
And then of course there is the town of Bodrum, the centre of the area. The city has two bays, one on each side of the pointy peninsula. In one of the bays lies the medieval castle of St. Peter. It is partly built with the remains of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, known as one of the Seven Wonders of the Classical World.
One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
The city of Bodrum was built on the location where once was the city of Halicarnassus, capital of so-called Caria.
In the Classical Period (700 BC -. 476 AD.), Caria was a region in south-western of Asia Minor. The area was ruled from Halicarnassus. In Halicarnassus was also Mausoleum of Maussollos, who was governor of Caria from 377 to 353 BC. It was built after his death by the architects Pytheos and Satyros commissioned by Maussollos’ widow, governor Artemisia II.
When the Mausoleum was finished, everybody was so very enthusiastic about the aesthetic and architectural structure that it was named one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by the Greek poet Antipater of Sidon.
The building had a rectangular shape. On top of the structure was a chariot drawn by horses which seemed to ascend. In the chariot the governor Maussollos and his wife were portrayed. It is known that at the time of Columbus’ discovery of the New World, the monument still existed. Not much later than the 15th century the building was destroyed by an earthquake. In 1522 it’s material was used to reinforce St. Peter Castle.
The poet gets the last word….
The variety of villages and towns, the great history it houses and the wide range of art, culture, concerts and performances. There is a lot to tell about Bodrum. But who can better describe this place than the Fisherman of Halicarnassus? We will give him the last word:
A Greeting to Heaven
“This is the land of boundless skies.
Give way to a folk song
coming from the inside
and drifting apart
it will turn azure in the sky.
The light here does but only erase
the darkness, it alters the matter,
illuminates and transforms
it into the dream of a poet”
This article is published in Hello Alanya Magazine September 2015 and updated on 26 March 2017.
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