Melissa Shales dreams of escaping to a life of pleasure on Turkey’s Turquoise Coast.
Imagine crystal-clear Mediterranean waters, deep turquoise fading out to midnight blue. Imagine a crescent of small white sugar cube houses piled up the rocky hillside beneath a clear sunny sky.
Imagine a forest of masts, gaudy fishing boats, sleek yachts and wooden gullets with curved prows like old- fashioned pirate ships bobbing at anchor in the bay. Imagine lines of hotels stretching out like giant arms along the coast in both directions as far as the eye can see. This is Bodrum, Turkey’s party playground, a town that is all about chilling out during the day and dancing all night.
Tucked into the southwestern corner of Anatolia, where the Aegean and the Mediterranean meet, Bodrum town oozes wealth. This is where Istanbul socialites come to play along with the jetset yachting crowd. Strict planning laws have kept the town centre low-rise and utterly charming – many of its little white houses given over to some seriously good shops and a huge array of restaurants, cafés and bars.
There is some sightseeing. The fabulous Castle of St Peter beside the harbour was built by the crusading Knights of St John (forerunners of the modern St John’s Ambulance Brigade) in the 15th century. There is a stunning Museum of Underwater Archaeology inside. Just outside the castle is a statue of Herodotus, officially credited as being the world’s first historian, who lived here in the 5th century when the town was known as Halicarnassos.
The town’s other sight is the remains of the Mausoleum – the one that gave its name to all the others forever afterwards. Built as a tomb for King Mausolus of the Carians in the 4th century BC by his sister/wife, Artemesia (yes, she was both), it was so magnificent it became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Little of it survives now, but the museum surrounding the remains is interesting.
But the very best thing to do here is to head out to sea on a blue cruise on a traditional wooden gullet. You can stop and swim where you like, eat barbecues in deserted coves, sunbathe on deck, and visit remote archaeological sites, only accessible by water, even snorkelling amidst the marble columns toppled by ancient earthquakes. It’s a magical way to spend a day.