A visit to Turkey is always a delight for me. The people, the scenery, the beaches, the food, I've enjoyed everything about the country during earlier visits to Istanbul, Ephesus and Kusadasi. This time I decided to explore the coast between the towns of Bodrum and Fethiye – where the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas meet.
I arrived at Bodrum by ferry from the Greek island of Kos, about a one hour trip (40 euro). Bodrum is a bustling tourist center. The harbor is dominated by the impressive Castle of St Peter built by the Knights of St John. Yachts from all over the world anchor there and the seafront is lined with charter and excursion boats.
After settling in at a back-street pension and getting acquainted with its resident chickens, ducks and roosters in the yard, I went to see the Castle of St Peter. It has the unique distinction of housing the world's only undersea archaeological museum.
On display are replicas or portions of ships found "in situ" dating from 1400 BC to Byzantine times. One amazing Bronze Age find is a ship laden with Hittite and Egyptian treasures, some of which were already antiques when the ship set sail.
Leaving the castle, I wandered by the east harbor where I found a carnival atmosphere of laser lights and disco music blaring from the dozens of bars and cafés lining the waterfront. Scantily clad young women gyrated on platforms in front of the clubs; raucous drunks reeled through the crowds. None of that appealed to me. I beat a hasty retreat back to the more sedate, traditional part of town, found a quiet table at a seaside restaurant and ordered a plate of Iskendar kebaps – lamb fed on wild spices laid on a slice of pita, topped with tomato sauces and browned butter (5 euro).
The next day I took a half-hour dolmus (minibus) ride to a fishing village called Gümüslük and got set up for a day of seaside relaxation. The sea here is jade green, the water calm and shallow, though the blue flag (eco-label award) beach, is mostly stony. I got a chair and umbrella free for the day courtesy of the café where I ate lunch.
The next morning I left Bodrum on a four-hour bus trip southeast down the coastline of pine-forested mountains to Fethiye, a town located on a lovely bay strewn with islands. The town crawls up the hillside toward some Lycian rock tombs. The ruins of a Knights of Rhodes castle crown the hilltop.
I had always wanted to visit these famous tombs carved from the rock face to represent the facades of Doric-style temples, but by the time I'd walked to the outskirts and up a steep slope I was nearly exhausted from the heat and almost opted not to go the final 200 steps. Reminding myself it was now or never, I waited a bit, caught my breath, then up I went. At last I stood right at the predominating Tomb of Amyntas, which dates to the 4th century BC. It was breathtaking in every sense of the word to make the trek and see up close this ancient sculptured marvel in combination with a magnificently heightened view across the sparkling turquoise sea.
I found Fethiye to be a more traditional town than Bodrum. Most of the tourists stay at the out-of-town resorts.
My last day I spent at the beach. I caught a dolmus for the 9-km trip to Oludeniz, but I ended up at the larger Belceky Beach. "Oludeniz" translates as "Calm Sea." But at Belceky big rollers crashed in on the pebbly shore, although it is absolutely gorgeous – clear, turquoise and warm, located on a bay surrounded by pine-forested mountains. It's a popular resort with lines of colorful umbrellas and lots of tourists. You can rent sports equipment here, and I saw a few brave people plummeting off the cliff in tandem para-gliders.
There were also a number of parasailers out over the sea. I spent the day frolicking in the waves then went strolling at the Oludeniz village bazaar and bought some made-on-the-spot gozleme, (thin pancake filled with shredded potato, cheese and onions) – a delicious snack while waiting for the return dolmus.
I would have liked to stay longer in Fethiye and take the 3 or 4-day sailing cruise down the Turquoise Coast. But that is something I can look forward to on my next visit, for I will certainly return again.