Back in 2012 we found ourselves unwittingly in Kos, Greece, One of those tourist resorts we never thought we would travel too again! But this was a necessary trip for a family wedding, however whilst here we made the most of the adventures and explorations there were to be had on this small Aegean island. One of those was to sail across from Greece to Turkey, from Europe to Asia, from one culture to another… over to the ancient lands of the christian crusades and ottoman conquers and back to a country we love!
As with most places if you look hard enough there is always some culture and adventure to be found and sure enough we decided to make the most of this trip to Kos and venture out and see what we could find. I wrote a post detailing what Kos has to offer here: 10 Things To Do In Kos.
I am also keen to stress that wherever you find yourself, whether that be on the trip of your dreams or dragged to a part of the world you had no interest in visiting, it is all about attitude, keep your mind open and your heart willing to search and you might just enjoy yourself! We most certainly did in the end!
However, that being said, one of the best things to do on Kos is to leave…Now, that sounds harsh and maybe it is but sitting across the waters from this little island lies the Turkish main land. You can make it out from some of the many hills on Kos as is the closeness of these two countries, looking across from Europe over to Asia you get that sense of the romance of travel and exploration.
We decided to take a ferry across for the day and head back to a country we have visited on several occasions, sailing across continents and cultures this was definitely a highlight of the trip!
Bodrum, the ancient land of Halicarnassus, even in this typical hectic Turkish port city, the blazing sun beating down on its streets, there is a coolness to it. From the serine marina to the coastal cafes, flowers blowing in the sea breeze to the grand castle looming above, this is an elegant and energetic city which offers both culture and relaxation!
It is however quite saturated by tourists, but unlike its neighbour across the short stretch of sea it hasn’t become a tacky shadow of itself, its own identity still shines through. Its typical Aegean character has been preserved unlike many other old fishing-villages-turned-resorts which have become generic and faceless. Bodrum is a unique mixing pot of cultures, from the white washed and blue trimmed houses more commonly associated with its rival, Greece, to the ancient ruins, defensive castle and Ottoman mosques.
Booking the ferry:
You will come across many people selling all sorts of boat trips in and around Kos, you will even most likely be able to buy tickets from your hotel if you travelled with a tour company as many do. Our advice, as ever, would be to totally ignore most anything your “Rep” says, as they seem to spread a paranoia about exploring on your own, primarily to fear you into staying either in the resort and spending money at the bar or on one of their overpriced trips!
Neither are our idea of a good or fulfilling time. Instead head down to the docks the night before and sniff out a last minute bargain. Most of the boats travelling out the following morning will be quite full but usually have a few spare spaces they will want to shift for a much lower price to cut their losses. We managed to pay only €15 for our tickets when hotel wanted €30!
Of course, you will need to bring your passport along and you also need a visa. However these visas are obtainable from a booth just before you head into the main waiting area at the dock, this is like a mini Turkish embassy, bit strange but convenient all the same! You can choose to have a full visa which will cost around £10 or a day visa for £5.
Your day visa will be put onto a piece of paper and taken off you when you arrive instead of inside your passport, so if you want a stamp to keep then pay the £5 extra! When you leave you will have to go through passport control, customs and baggage check just like at the airport and even more so when you get into Bodrum, it can take as long as an hour to get through at either side if it is busy so leave plenty of time for this.
Sailing across two continents:
One of the things Turkey is most famous for is how it crosses two continents: Europe and Asia, the romance of sailing across the Bosphorus has that particular allure of old time adventure and exploration into the unknown east! It is something we definitely have on our Bucket list, but hey, why wait when we can do it here! Ok, so not exactly the same but an adventure nonetheless!
The short boat is only around 12 miles and takes between 30-45 mins so our departure time of 8:00am gave us plenty of time to have a good look around, returning at around 6:00pm.
During the crossing one of the interesting things we noticed was the changing of the flags, as soon as we began nearing Turkish waters the Greek flag had to be pulled down and the Turkish one begrudgingly raised above the ship. We had spotted earlier on in the holiday a massive Greek flag painted on the cliff face pointing towards Turkey, no love lost here!
Coming in to Bodrum:
The first thing you see as you come into the port in Bodrum is the imposing castle, built up high by the knights of St John it tells of this city’s turbulent past, from various crusades, to the fall of Constantinople. Bodrum castle was a monumental symbol of Christian Europe against the Ottoman Empire and ultimately fell, but the impressive structure still looms large over the docks, a great sight view as you sail in.
As soon as we entered Bodrum the temperature seemed to go up at least 10°, it was sweltering, the heat rising off the tarmac in waves. We wanted to do as much as possible here but soon realised our usual pace would be hampered by the need for more pit stops along the way!
We found ourselves down a small street at one point, frequented only by locals and selling delicious freshly squeezed orange juice sat, sat in the shade with the sea just in sight, wonderful and quite the opposite to our usual hectic travel schedule, sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and take it all in!
When coming over to Bodrum you will find that the money changes from Euro to Turkish Lira, however if you have visited Turkey before you will know they seem to often accept any currency, we have even spend Dollars and Pounds over in Fethiye!
We found that for most of the day we got by using our Euros without having to bother changing over. However a big exception would be the castle which only accepts Lira. As a general rule most shops, markets and restaurants accept many of the main currencies, but more “official” type places will only take local currency. There are many exchanges throughout Bodrum so best to change a little but if only visiting for a day not much more is needed.
Some great things to do in Bodrum!
Castle of St. Peter/ Bodrum Castle
The Castle is most definitely the city’s most dominant feature and one of its most revered. The area where the castle sits has been a site of fortifications since the Doric Times, 1110 BC. The castle which exists today was built in response to the invading Seljuk Tutrk by the christian Knights Of St John in 1402 whose headquarters were on Rhodes at the time. For more than 100 years St. Peters castle was the second most important castle of the Knights order and gave shelter and refuge to many christians in Asia Minor.
The castle occupies a massive site and is in great condition, much better than the mostly ruined Kos Castle. It has many features to hunt out from unique towers and maze like corridors to painted coats of arms and carved reliefs that has survived to this day. It also offers a great panoramic view of the city and harbour below.
Location: Right by the port, you can’t miss it!
Visiting hours: 8 am – 6.30 pm (until end of October) – 05.00 pm (Winter), Closed Mondays
Entrance Fee: 25 TL (Cards accepted)
Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology
Located inside St Peters Castle is the Museum Of Underwater Archaeology, it is that impressive and detailed that is is a sight within itself! Many of the articles on display are over 3,000 years old, recovered from the ancient shipwrecks of the Anatolian shores. One of the most important objects on display is that of the world’s oldest known shipwreck; Uluburun and is kept in a special temperature controlled environment. Many of the items found aboard were from Egypt including Jewellery and a gold seal of Queen Nefertiti, fascinating stuff and well worth a visit whilst inside the castle!
The port in Bodrum is a destination in itself, the highly regarded area is home to the rich and famous of Turkey as well as having its fair share of dignified guests housing their yachts in this picturesque locations. The gentle sea breeze drifting in makes this area a refreshing break from the scorching centre of Bodrum, lined with cafes and benches under midday shade of the grand old trees it is a great place to sit back and watch the world go by. The port itself a fascinating mixture of heavy industry, tourism, tiny fishing boats and millionaire playboys all jostling over this packed harbour!
Mausoleum of Halicarnassus
One of the original seven wonders of the ancient world the Tomb Of Mausolus now lies in ruins after successive earthquakes from the 12th to the 15th century brought this magnificent structure tumbling down. It was built between 353 and 350BC for Mausolus and Artemisia II of Caria. The term Mausoleum has come to be used a general term for above ground tombs after the legend of this construction.
Visiting Hours: 08.00 am – 6.30 pm (Summer) – 05.00 pm (Winter), Closed Mondays
Entrance Fee: 10 TL
This recently restored artifact is the only surviving gate from the walls built in the 4th century BC by king Mausolus which was originally around 7km long. The imposing gate was built to face the city of Myndos and facing strong resistance from the Persians was the site for a particularly bloody battle in which many of Alexander the great’s soldiers either drowned or died in a shower of arrows in 334BC.
The markets of Bodrum are a chaotic mix of old traditional wares such as rugs and lamps and modern bargains including rip off t-shirts and dodgy watches! It’s all about shifting through the rubbish and haggling for a great authentic Turkish souvenir! The atmosphere in these bazaars has an authentic and local feel, you can often find older men relaxing with some Turkish tea or playing a highly competitive game of “Okey” (Similar to Rummi) whilst sipping a milky Raki.
There are several impressive Mosques around bodrum whose towers pierce the sky and their call the prayer rings out five times a day to call the faithful. These places are not necessarily tourist attractions, but that is what is great about them, they give an intriguing insight into local life and customs. One of the things you notice is the sheer volume of people attending, the shoes pile up high outside the door which is left open to allow those who won’t fit inside to kneel on the steps just outside, the beautiful sounds leaking out and filling the air with its exotic charm.
When visiting a mosque be aware of your clothing and make sure you cover up your legs, shoulders, for women wear a head scarf and always remove your shoes before entering.
Shorty revisiting Bodrum:
When growing up Shorty would visit Turkey almost every year and as such has a real connection to the culture of the country and a real love for the place. The first trip his family took over there before heading over to Hisaronu where they would end up returning many time and still have friends was Bodrum. This was in 1994, when he was 7 years old, they visited the castle back then and took this cute photo of him posing with this statue. Well we decided to re-create this 18 years later! Quite a special travel moment!
As I mentioned above Turkey is somewhere we, in particular Shorty, has a real connection to and he has visited around 12 times and for me (Nic) this was my third time. It’s a great place to go back to and visit all the locals his family are friends with over in Hisaronu/ Oludeniz and that allows us to really see a great deal of the culture and lives of Turkey behind what have become quite touristy locations.
Given the number of times we have visited we have much more to talk about when it comes to Turkey and will hopefully be catching up on some of these as we really love Turkey! We also would love to revisit and see many places such as Istanbul, Cappadocia and Pamukkale.
So, a brief return to a country we have a great affinity too and one we will most likely return to again. It almost felt like returning home, especially for shorty, heading over to Turkey and in all honestly we didn’t want to go back to Greece. The culture here just seemed so much more authentic and appealing!
If you want to read more about Kos however, as it does in fact have some quite cool things to do if you put the effort in you can see my post here: 10 Things To Do In Kos.