A charming pocket on the Mediterranean, famed for floating gulets on the crystal clear Aegean Sea, Bodrum is only four hours away by plane and yet arriving from a grizzly, grey England, I felt that I was on another planet.
The rugged landscape is greener than I expected it to be with olive groves and pine trees cascading down the hilly terrain to Turkey’s white sandy coastline meeting bright blue water.
We were staying halfway between the old and new marinas, a convenient thirty minutes drive to each in opposite directions. Bodrum is geographically placed on a peninsula facing the Greek island of Kos, a nine hour drive south west from Istanbul.
The region’s rich history is evident in the old marina, with it’s French riviera feel, lined with arabic souks, bright pink bougainvillea and Mediterranean vegetation. It’s easy to walk around the filled harbour or meander the streets stopping in on cafes and restaurants with outdoor verandas. It was a public holiday whilst we were there and the locals were all out socialising together over Turkish coffee – much thicker and more bitter that what we are used to, or tea, served in small glass cups.
The old marina is sprawled around Bodrum castle, which took over 100 years to build and features French, English, Italian and Greek influences. It’s quite a steep climb up to the top as it juts out to sea but its favourable offers incomparable views across both the harbour and bar side of the marina town.
We ate at a small restaurant for lunch enjoying local dishes such as Atom, made with yoghurt and chili and other mezze items such as hummus and Greek salad. Being on the Med, there is abundance of seafood – calamari, prawns and sea bass which is served mostly everywhere.
Another of the local dishes we tried was Pide, a sort of Turkish pizza which is a flat dough topped with either meat or herbs. Turkish cuisine, we were informed, is all about sharing and using your hands, a more informal approach to communal dining which suited us.
On one of the evenings we visited Yalikavak, or the new marina, which is suited and booted with gym-palaces and designer shops, as well as several restaurants. We ate at Sait, a seafood place right at the end of the harbour with sunset views across the sea. Rather than ordering from a traditional menu, diners were asked to go up and select which mezze and fish you would like to eat. We ordered mussels stuffed with rice, aubergine salad, another yoghurt-based dish similar to atom, succulent vine leaves filled with a mince, grilled prawns, sea bass and butter beans in a tomato sauce. Though there was a little skirmish over the bill which wasn’t cheap, it was great, fresh food and a memorable way to finish off our 4 day trip to Bodrum.
Staying at the Mandarin Oriental, we were spoiled with restaurants too. On one evening we dined at Assaggio, with design features reminiscent of being on a boat. The Italian restaurant has delicious pasta, pizza and seafood. Another evening at Bodrum Balikcisi we ate traditional Turkish food with a twist – including what I can only best describe as seafood kofta – normally stuffed with lamb mince, this was instead stuffed with fish.
Naturally for me, the most important aspect of the trip was making sure we had enough time to enjoy the water. The azure sea was so inviting – and with a warm sun, the slightly-chilly temperature was no deterrent. On one afternoon, the sea was calm enough for some SUP yoga and waterskiing – ultimate indulgence but not badly priced at EUR 50 a head. Scuba diving is also incredibly popular in the region with amazing wrecks from ancient times lining the sea bed.
I would happily return to Bodrum for their welcoming and friendly people. Turkey has been hit with unpopular views due to threats and attacks – but miles away from that in Bodrum, you wouldn’t believe it. The locals are optimistic that their beautiful scenery and fares will coax travellers back – certainly, they do not talk about the misfortunes and with a slower pace of life, bare shoulders and strolling the white washed streets in shorts, it’s not difficult to see why. Living in Bodrum when the sun is shining must be like living in paradise.