Bodrum is a port city on the south-western Aegean Sea Coast of Turkey. Its location is beautiful and so is the weather. Unlike many, once picturesque, fishing villages that were ‘discovered’ by holiday makers and mutated into a hotel/motel and garishly lit tourist-targeted towns, Bodrum has retained its original character.
The local authorities have played a big part in Bodrum retaining its charm. Building regulations and town planning control the height of buildings and preserve the traditional whitewashed houses with their distinctive blue-trim. The surrounding green-clad hills, numerous coves, bays, marinas and winding backstreets make this once unknown seaside town a very attractive place to spend a few days.
However, Bodrum has changed. It is now the favoured retreat of the wealthy and powerful. It has a number of high-end boutiques, salons, and elegant restaurants that cater to them. There are also petite cafes, dressed with bright flowers, several excellent museums, shopping areas and other attractions that draw the package tourists too.
Despite the million or so tourists who pack its streets, beaches and hotels every summer, Bodrum has managed to keep its essential nature. The Ottoman era mosques, ancient relics and the Crusader era castle have helped retain that lost-era flavour.
While the town has essentially become a ‘getaway’; a place to relax there are several historical attractions for the sightseer.
Before he died King Mausolus (376-353 BC) planned and started to build his own tomb. It was designed by Pythius and Satyros. When he died, his wife (who was also his sister) Artemisia completed it. It was a massive and impressive temple-like structure.
It consisted of tonnes of white marble crowned by stepped pyramids and decorated with carvings and statues. The tomb was among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It survived for 1700 years till earthquakes brought it down. Today, only its foundations and few bits of statuary can be seen. It is from this man and his tomb that we get the word “mausoleum.”
The Crusader Knights Hospitallers showed up in 1402 and began to build a castle in 1406. They used the marble and stones from Mausoleum’s ruins for their construction. They finished it in 1437 but kept adding fortifications, a cistern and a moat. It is still a very impressive and well-preserved structure. They named it The Castle of St Peter and the town around it Petronium. Over time the name was turkicised to 'Bodrum.'
Within Bodrum Castle is the French Tower containing the tomb and remains of Queen Ada (died sometime between 360 and 325 BC). Along with her body were buried a gold crown, necklace, bracelets, rings and an exquisite wreath of gold myrtle leaves – all incredibly valuable.
Bodrum Castle is also home to one of most important museums of the world. The Museum of Underwater Archaeology houses items collected from underwater missions. The exhibits are creatively displayed and include maps, drawings and murals.
Another relic from ancient times is the Myndos Gate – now restored. It the only remaining portion of what was once a 7km wall built by King Mausolus. In 334 BC many of Alexander the Great’s soldiers perished at the wall and the moat around it.
Fate and forethought has been kind to Bodrum and saved it from becoming like other Turkish fishing villages that have become touristic nightmares.