We sailed to Turkey and I found the port at Bodrum to be a nice surprise. I hadn’t been to this city before and didn’t know what to expect. What I got was a luxury development, a town that increases tenfold in the good weather months (which is just about everything except January and February) and, because it is on the Turkish mainland, has become a destination resort for urban Turks and world travelers.
The port is about a seven euro (or 16 lira) ride from the center of the city. The road into town goes by what looks like a lovely hotel with a smashing view (Diamond of Bodrum), good looking apartments and condos, and settles down into a bustling, clean commercial center that is a short walk from the historic castle in the harbor.
The shops on the way are pretty enticing. I saw some lovely bedspread-sized embroidered textiles from Uzbekistan and told myself to stop there after my visit to the castle and the underwater museum inside it. I had been warned that the underwater museum was not underwater, but apparently a lot of tourists don’t know that so several signs were posted to disabuse people of the idea that they were entering some sort of aquarium. But truly, even if you were disappointed to find everything high and dry, you would likely feel compensated by the quality of the artifacts that have been rescued from the sea and the very good explanations (in both English and Turkish) about the significance of the artifacts.
The castle itself was handsome with several levels of gardens and some awesome views. One caveat here: the path can be steep and uneven and if you are at all unsteady on your feet, it could be daunting. However, it’s worth seeing even if you have to take the incline at a slow pace and if you skip the dungeon — as I did — it is a very romantic excursion. Inside the castle, shaded gardens provided places to stop and rest. Outside, down at the port, a walk along the quay revealed the most amazing row of teak yachts I have ever seen. Called gulets, they were all polished and perfect — waiting for a lucky owner — or a charter to sail them into some of the luscious coves of the Turquoise Coast. (Seduced by the idea of swimming off a secluded beach, two of our party, Ed and PJ, went off to Camel beach, however, it turned out to be quite urban and not appropriate for snorkeling. Still, it was refreshing — the heat by this time was in the nineties.)
As for me, after exploring the castle and exhibits for a couple of hours, I went back to see the shop I had noticed earlier. Galeri Anatolia had beautiful oriental carpets and kilims — but I was still stuck on the embroidered textiles and ended up buying two.
After a very civilized bargaining session, the owner, Ercan Actkel, invited me to have tea with her — quite a common occurrence in carpet shops. She, however, was an uncommon person, a fascinating and independent lady who had many famous clients and extensive knowledge of the United States and the rest of the world. We knew people in common from Seattle (!) and she was so knowledgeable and personable that an hour spent chatting about her life, her business and her clients just whizzed by.
She had come to Bodrum in the 1970s (for love, of course) when the town was only about four thousand people, and made a great success out of her shop and real estate investing. She had (and has) an adventurous life — I will enjoy remembering her stories as much as looking at the beautiful things I bought from her.
That night was a night for romantics. We ate dinner at C Prime, one of the particularly good restaurants on the Azamara Quest and then went back to our room. The port was lit up, and Bodrum twinkled brightly not too far away from the boat. We opened up the doors to our balcony and let the sounds of the water and shore waft in. Every now and then a party boat full of dancing (and probably drunken) revelers would pass by and the music would stay in the air and then, as the boat veered away, grow quieter little by little until it disappeared entirely.
If my guy had been with me, I can imagine we would have held hands or cuddled and felt lucky to be together. My friend Janet and I enjoyed the moment — but it definitely held different romantic possibilities for couples. It made me think how different some trips are for couples versus singles. I think the Greek Islands and the Turkish coast are totally enjoyable for people who are not in a couple — but there are definitely moments when you could reasonably wish to be with someone you loved.