Bodrum – Relaxing on the Mediterranean Coast
Our Adventures Abroad tour of western Turkey continues as we wrap up our time in the famous ancient city of Ephesus home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. This morning we visited the famous Temple and Oracle of Apollo at Didyma before heading for yet another Seven Wonders of the Ancient World site, Bodrum, known in antiquity as Halicarnassus. It was home to the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the most famous burial site in the ancient world after the Pyramids. Bodrum not only has this must see ruin, but a beautiful location on the Mediterranean Sea, one of the most famous crusader castles anywhere and was the home of the father of history, Herodotus. Please join us as we spend two days exploring and relaxing in this exceptional place.
This is a map showing our route from Didim to Bodrum which included a combination of forested hillsides and Mediterranean views.
We’ll visit the Castle of St. Peter and its Museum of Underwater Archaeology in a separate post. Wisely our Adventures Abroad guide Yasemin Reis is giving us a day off at about the halfway point on the tour. Bodrum with its many attractions, good restaurants and lovely harbour is the perfect place to do this. In October the weather is excellent with daily highs of 26 C (79 F) and lots of sunshine. The rest of this post will focus on where we stayed, where we ate and what we visited during our day off in Bodrum.
As I’ve noted on many posts about Adventures Abroad trips, the selection of hotels they use is uniformly very good with some that rise even above that standard and the Manastir Hotel in Bodrum is one of those. It has a great location on the side of hill that provides for great views of the harbour and is just far enough away from the hustle and bustle of the harbour front to be quiet, yet still within easy walking distance. This photo gives a better idea than just words.
The rooms are spacious and airy compared to many European style hotels. I’ve stayed in rooms in Venice that were smaller than that bed.
The room’s best feature was the balcony which is where I took the sunset photo and also where I was able to get some photo editing and writing done with lovely bougainvillea flowers only feet away and a beer at hand.
Although I’m not a pool person, many in our group took advantage of the great weather on our day off to spend some time lounging and swimming there.
The breakfasts at the Manastir Hotel were worth getting up early for. In my post on the Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel I was effusive in my praise of the breakfasts there and the ones in Bodrum, while nowhere near as opulent were a healthy way to start the day. Like the Istanbul Hotel the breakfast was a buffet, but here you were allowed to serve yourself. Here are a few photos of the buffet stations to whet your appetite.
I can never get enough cheese and olives and there was a great selection at the Manastir.
There were plenty of greens to go around.
Fruit, nuts and yoghurt added to the healthy side of life.
And of course this being Turkey, lots of breads.
This was the end result for one of my breakfasts at the Manastir. Somehow I missed the station with the kale, but even so, most of what is on this plate consists of ‘good cholesterol’ selrections.
And Alison’s choices. Gee, she missed the kale as well.
Seriously though, the last thing you need if you are about to head out for a day of walking, especially in a place as hilly as Bodrum, is a gut full of the ‘Traditional English Breakfast’ on offer at many of the tourist restaurants near the waterfront. Don’t worry I’ll get my artery destroying cholesterol at lunch.
OK, let’s get going and start exploring Bodrum on our own and on foot.
The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, Bodrum
This is a map of Bodrum and as you can see it is not an overly large place. There is a large cove and then a smaller one inside that. Bodrum Castle sits on a peninsula that separates the two. The larger cove on the lower part of the map is mostly sand beach while the inner cove has a quai that surrounds it and is where the fishing and tourist boats are moored. The Manastir Hotel is a few blocks up from the large cove. The Mausoleum is a few blocks up from the inner cove and the Roman theatre about twice as far from the waterfront and on the other side of the main road leading into Bodrum. These will be our first desinations.
Looking at the map shows that getting to the Mausoleum will require some diligence as Bodrum is not exactly laid out in a grid pattern, but appears more to have been developed along the pick-up-sticks scheme of urban planning. Fortunately there are quite a number of signs pointing the way to the Mausoleum, but you need to be on the lookout for them as there seems to be about fifty changes in direction between the hotel and where we are headed. But don’t worry if you miss a turn, Bodrum is not a bad place to get lost in and eventually you will come to another sign showing the way.
So what exactly is the big deal with this mausoleum and why is it worth going to the trouble of getting lost to find it?
Well for starters, it is not a mausoleum, but rather the Mausoleum for which all others are named. It also just happened to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, one that lasted for sixteen centuries before its final destruction.
The word mausoleum comes from Mausolus, a king of Caria who founded the city of Halicarnassus in what is modern day Bodrum. He married his sister Artemesia, which was not a no no to many ancient civilizations, especially the Egyptians. Between them they decided to build the mother of all tombs which, like the almost contemporary Pharos of Alexandria would be seen for miles by anyone passing by in a ship. They hired two Greek architects from the nearby city of Priene and between them created what was for over a thousand years considered to be one of the greatest architectural achievements of all time. In other words, unlike Saddam Hussein, they did succeed in creating something that was the ‘mother of all’.
Unfortunately, Mausolus died before the building was finished but his sister/wife carried on the work and when she died the remaining siblings got the job done. The actual graves of Mausolus and Artemesia were not in, but under the Mausoleum and they may have been cremated first. It is known that the tomb was robbed at some point. The structure itself stood until the 15th century when the last of a series of earthquakes brought it down. Many of the fallen pieces were incorporated into Bodrum Castle by the Knights of St. John so in a sense, parts of it survive to this day. Aside from those, the British Museum has a few statues that once adorned the Mausoleum and we saw this one in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum.
This is how the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus looked for hundreds of years based on the very detailed description provided by Pliny the Elder when he visited it in Roman times. This model is in the small museum on site in Bodrum. It was remarkable not only for its size, but also the many sculptures with which it was adorned. You can make out the lions near the top.
And here’s what the Mausoleum looks like today. Pretty sad really.
It’s a bit less depressing when you get right down into the site.
This is described as an ancient altar.
And this apparently is where the actual bodies or their ashes were buried.
I have to admit it felt kind of weird to be the only two people visiting this ancient wonder because I knew there were actually a lot more tourists in Bodrum than we had seen at Ephesus. I guess for most tourists the euphemism ‘That’s ancient history’ really does apply.
Perhaps the most unusual thing on the grounds of the Mausoleum was this tree with six distinct trunks. It appears to be some kind of fig
If you made it this far on your walk you should make the effort to continue moving up the hill to at least get a look at what is referred to as the Antique Theatre. Initially constructed by Mausolus in the 4th century BCE, what you see today dates from six hundred years later when the Romans enlarged it to 13,000 seats.
It’s still in good enough shape to hold events even today. Those Romans surely knew how to build things that would last.
Time now to head down to the waterfront and meet some famous people along the way starting with Mausolus and his sister Artemesia. These are replicas of two statues found on site and now in the British Museum.
Next we run into that other famous character from Bodrum, Herodotus the world’s first acknowledged historian. He traveled widely throughout the ancient world and his Histories provides our best account of the wars between the Greeks and the Persians. Thucydides called him a bullshitter, but while some of his descriptions of events are obviously exaggerated, much of what he has written has proven to be true by later archaeological findings. I certainly find him to be a far more readable historian than Thucydides. As a student of history myself, Herodotus has always been a favourite and it was a pleasure to meet him in person.
One of life’s great pleasures is simply walking along a tree lined promenade with the harbour on one side and cafes and interesting shops on the other. The one at Bodrum is exceptional.
You will come across Turkish fishermen simply shooting the breeze while dangling a line in the crystal clear water with Bodrum Castle as a backdrop.
And while there are no motor vehicles permitted in this area that does not stop the people on scooters, unless their’s is already occupied by some of the local residents.
Before Covid you couldn’t get near this fixture of almost every Turkish community without having dozens of other people in the photograph. No problem this morning.
By now we were starting to get a bit peckish, what with the light breakfast and had to decide which of the many restaurants in this area of Bodrum to choose. We did consider The Beatles Cafe, but then I remembered what the food was like in Liverpool and gave it a pass.
I love The Beatles (see my post on a tour in Liverpool with ace guide Paul Beesley) and I have great respect for Winston Churchill (see my post on the Churchill War Rooms in London). So after turning down The Beatles I couldn’t do it again to Winston so we opted for lunch at the Churchill Grill which has a great waterfront location and a huge selection of menu choices. This is not always a good thing; you know, jack of all plates, master of none. However, I knew from perusing the menu before going in exactly what I wanted and it turned out to be a great choice.
This is Churchill’s Fake Big Mac. Thankfully it was 180° from the ‘real thing’ which is an epicurean atrocity. This was the only time on the entire tour I opted for a burger and fries and I was glad I did. Remember I said at breakfast I would get my cholesterol overdose at lunch. Sometimes you just gotta say f*** it when it comes to you’re diet.
Alison opted to stay on the straight and narrow and went with the Greek salad which was pretty to look at and better to eat.
Well it’s time to make our way back to the Manastir Hotel where I’ll try to do something I’m actually not very good at – just chilling out.
In the next post we’ll rejoin the Adventures Abroad group and our guide Yasemin to visit Bodrum Castle and it’s one of a kind Underwater Archaeology Museum. Hope you’ll join us.