TRAVEL: Weekend in Bodrum, Turkey
Bodrum… Located in the south western tip of Turkey and is one of the most well-know places in Turkey when it comes to beaches and summer travels. I had heard before that it was so well-know and well-visited by the Brits that the prices on products were written in pounds. I did not see that on our short trip this time, but to be fair, it was the off-season.
And even in off-season, it was still a wonderful place to visit. Bodrum is a province(or state) in Turkey, but within the state of Bodrum there is also a city named Bodrum. When we are talking to any friends(Turkish or foreigner) about the area around Izmir, Bodrum is one of the first places they want to know if we have visited. In turn, we promptly made a mental note adding it to our future travel list.
So when our German friends invited us to tag along for a quick overnight trip to this city, we happily agreed! And so, one Saturday morning we headed out of the city for a mini German/American roadtrip. Now, something you should know about me – I LOVE a good road trip, and it was even more fun to explore with new friends. Since we personally don’t own a car here, it is an extra special treat to spend the weekend freely moving about the country on our own schedule(in our friends car of course) – which is something public transportation just doesn’t allow for most of the time. Running a little late(which we did)? No prob… we will leave a little later! (*See note at the end about public transportation)
From Izmir(depending on where you live) to Bodrum, travel by car takes around 3/3.5 hours. Since we left early, we stopped about halfway at the Çeri Restaurant (Instagram) located on Bafa Lake and did the breakfast Turkish style. The day was slightly cloudy but the views of the lake and the surrounding mountains were gorgeous. The food was delicious and a perfect brunch.
I love when a restaurant gives you the option of ordering a ‘domlek’ of tea. They bring out the candle warmer, hot water pot and the top domlek kettle with the strong steeped çay. The Turkish tea here is done with a 2 story kettle similar to the one pictured. The bottom kettle heats the water, and you then pour the water into the top kettle that has the tea. While the tea is brewing (about 10-20 minutes) you reheat the water in the bottle kettle as well. Since the top kettle has strong tea, you can choose how dark or light you want your own personal tea to be by combining the tea and hot water.
Our sweet German friends!
After our breakfast, we headed onward to Bodrum. The city is actually not as big as I thought it would be. In September, our sailing trip left from another coastal city in Turkey, Fethiye, which has around 100,000 people. I think that visit influenced my expectations about the size of Bodrum which I found out later has around 40,000. 60,000 people is a considerable difference and I actually liked that it was smaller. We could walk everywhere we wanted to explore. So after checking into our hotel, we did just that.
I will briefly mention our hotel for those who are curious. In past podcast episodes you have heard about 2 different ways we have found accommodations, Airbnb and Booking.com. This time we booked last minute via booking.com and I was a little careless about reading the reviews. The hotel was clean, but small. The complimentary breakfast was sufficient, and the location was ideal. However, the hotel(Albatros Otel) was literally wall to wall with a night club which, much to my astonishment, was going strong until 4 AM regardless of the so-called ‘off season’ (remember our other night club experience in The FunkTravels Podcast’s Episode003?). I had thought it would be preferable to be close to the water, but really anywhere BUT the water is a better sleep! We walk a lot in Izmir so the distance from one location to the next was not far, and next time I will happily stay further inland to get a few more hours of rest and sleep.
It was about 1 pm when we left the hotel to explore one of the biggest historical sites Bodrum has to offer, the Bodrum Castle. If you are a long term visa holder (1 year residence or work permit) or a student, you are eligible for a MüzeKart, a one-time payment museum card that allows you entrance into most museums in Turkey for one year. There are two levels: the red 40 TL cards allows you to enter a museum up to 2 times for one year and the blue 50 TL card allows you unlimited entrances to the museum for one year. Since the tickets into the castle were 30 TL each, our friends opted for the red MüzeKart and we opted for the blue one. It took a little time to figure it all out, but in the end I am glad we did. I just wish we would have figured it out back in Cappadocia! (For short-term tourist (3 months or less), there are 2 options for you as well which you can find on their website.)
Inside the Bodrum castle are exhibits about old life in Bodrum, an underwater museum about discovered shipwrecks, and an old chapel/mosque. From the castle walls, one can see several stunning views of the whites homes that line the coast. The castle is deceivingly large. I would suggest wearing good walking shoes and blocking out around 2 hours for exploring and learning. In the summer months there is a cafe in the middle of the castle grounds to sit and enjoy a cup of tea if you need a break.
After the castle, we stopped for a coffee and snack at the local Starbucks and enjoyed the view of the sea from the outside sitting area. Then we proceeded to wander the streets and coast line. There are lots of little quaint shops with local goods and other promising touristy items for purchase. I found the least touristy one and found some glass turkish coffee mugs that I have been looking for – simple and no frills which is great for future guests visiting our home in Izmir. Bodrum is well know for it’s white houses that line the coast and run through the city and up into the hills. The white building are splashed with colorful window sills and fabrics. On one of the side street we found a Spanish restaurant, La Pasion Restaurant, and after a warm chat and a complimentary sangria, we made reservations for later that evening.
Our seven pm dinner reservation definitely meant we were the first ones at La Pasion. Even when we spent a month in Spain, we were the first ones to the restaurants and normal opening time for the kitchen was around 8 pm. What can we say… we are early dinner goers! And according to American standards, seven is a little later! The restaurant has several options from tapas to entrees, but our little party of four decided to share a several tapas and split a bottle of wine. The portions were small but most tapas had 4 servings that we all were able to share. The staff was great at helping us know what to order and the serving sizes. Ordering tapas allowed us to try 6-7 dishes that the restaurant had to offer, but if you are hungry, I would suggest to order fewer tapas and skip to the entree as you will get considerable more food. We skipped dessert as we were sufficiently full, and I may have wanted a delicious dessert waffle from another local shop. After paying our bill and thanking the staff for a lovely dinner, we headed out in search of my waffle. Unfortunately, we were surprised to find all of the waffle locations to be closed by 9 pm on a Saturday night!
After our previously mentioned sleepless night, Lisa and I still made it our for a morning jog along the coastline. It was a gorgeously sunny day and a few degrees warmer than our normal morning runs in Izmir. After a few hills in our little loop of the town, I may reconsider future thoughts of running the Global Bodrum Run 10k on April 30… After our run, we enjoyed a simple breakfast, grabbed some coffee and headed out for a short walk uphill (again) to a couple of other historical sites – the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus and the Ancient Amphitheater. Along the way we found a little Sunday street bazaar of handmade items.
Along the way we found a little Sunday street bazaar of handmade items.
The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus is one of the Ancient 7 Wonders. An even cooler fact is that the word we use for Mausoleum today started from this structure. I will say that it was very underwhelming site, but way more interesting to think we were standing at one of the Ancient Wonders. Since most the bigger pieces have been used in other structures over time, most of ruins were still scattered around on the ground are not able to make any formation. There was a little TV showing how the archaeologist learned about the structure and some pictures.
Following the yellow theater signs from the mausoleum, the Ancient Amphitheater is just a short 10 minute walk uphill through the narrow street of a neighborhood. The path can only be used by pedestrians, mopeds and bicycles(but I am not sure who would every ride there bike up that hill). Once you make it up out of the neighborhood, you find one of the best views of Bodrum’s Castle and city. The theater also has some great views if you climb up to the top of the rows which was said to hold about 4,000 people. Even better is that there is no fee for visiting this site!
After our morning hike to these two places, we said our goodbyes to Bodrum and headed on home to Izmir. Following the advice of some our waiter friends at La Pasion Restaurant, we stopped at a unique little hidden bay area called Cennet Köyu, aka Paradise Village. The water was crystal clear and the views were amazing. It was worth the little extra detour (and the turnaround since I forgot to tell them to where to turn off!) for us to see this little local treasure.
All in all, we found Bodrum to be all others said it would be (including the sleepless night at the hotel). I am sure it is even better in the summer months when the streets are crowded and spirits are high, but I tend to like seeing places outside of the ‘perfect’ times. Instead of standing in line or pushing through the hussle and bussle, you tend to learn more about the ‘real’ life and year-rounders and spend time meandering the back streets. The next time we go back, we will know now how to spend our weekend and where NOT to stay!
You can hear more about our time in Bodrum via The FunkTravels Podcast’s Episode028.
Questions for our readers:
Would you want to go visit this area of Turkey one day?
Have you been to Bodrum, Turkey?
If so, what are your thoughts?
What suggestions do you have for our next visit?
*While it has it’s flaws, public transportation is cheap, frequent and well-used in Turkey. You can find buses that go from the Izmir Otogar to Bodrum at all hours of the day. From our neighborhood in the high season, I have seen that there is a bus that goes every hour. If you are looking for buses, check out this site for more information.