We had 2 weeks free after our house sit in Turkey before we needed to be in Istanbul for a flight out of the country. Rather than spend a few days at several spots along the 1,000km route, we planned a (hopefully) quiet week in one coastal town followed by a (likely) crazy week in Istanbul.
We took the bus from Kalkan, leaving at 10:00 a.m. Buses in Turkey are comfortable and modern, and provide a few extra services. As soon as our tickets were checked the driver’s assistant offered us water and tea, and a few minutes after delivering beverages he came back with packaged snacks. After a few stops when more people had joined us, he once again offered beverages and snacks, but this time he rolled his tea cart down the aisles of the bus.
At our transfer stop in Muğla, we easily found the bus to Bodrum. No advance ticket necessary as, on this shorter route/smaller bus, we just paid the driver when he came by.
As we neared Bodrum, we saw flashing blue and red lights and could see an official waving the bus to the side of the road. Everyone else on the bus seemed to know what was coming and dug out laminated cards. We had our passports at the ready. An officer came down the aisle collecting everyone’s offerings except ours and took them into the building nearby. Almost all of the passengers then disembarked, but only to take advantage of the wait time with a smoking break. About 10 minutes later, an officer returned to the bus, handing the stack of cards to one passenger who distributed them (or, more accurately, allowed everyone to grab their own and their family members’ cards out of the pile).
We were curious about this event so did a quick Google search about checkpoints in Bodrum. We were saddened to discover that the Bodrum province had been a key location for Syrian refugees trying to cross the Aegean Sea to the Greek island of Kos. Refugee deaths (including the young boy found dead on the beach in 2015) and protests, we guess, led to controls like ID checks in this area.
As we drove closer to the city of Bodrum, we passed many opulent resorts or, in some cases, gateways that looked like the resorts would be opulent. We arrived at the bus depot, caught a taxi for the few kilometres to our hotel, and hoofed our bags down the stairs from the drop-off point.
Our accommodation was a small hotel, 4 floors, no elevator, and a tiny pool deck (pool not yet open for the season) in the center. The included breakfast was served in the lobby area as the staff felt it was too cold to serve it on their rooftop patio. Our room was on the 3rd floor, the same floor as the terrace (one wing of the building had one more), and the terrace had fantastic views over the city and out into the bay. This became my office on workdays and a peaceful place to hang out when we had had enough of wandering around the town.
Our hotel was just a block or so away from the seaside. Since the town flows around several bays, it was easy to get a bit confused in the little corridors of shops and restaurants. But it isn’t very big and confusion just led to discovery, often, so we were happy to wander, if a little blindly sometimes.
We had seen blue glass ornaments with concentric white, blue, and black circles everywhere in Kalkan, and thought they were specific to that town. But we found out from our restaurant server one evening that they are a protection against evil (check out nazar boncuğu). They can be seen in many shapes and sizes, hanging on every building or embedded in the concrete or grout in front. I don’t know about their protective powers, but they are quite decorative and sometimes even whimsical.
We would have loved a trip out to one of the Greek islands, or just around the bays on one of the gorgeous wooden (or wood-trimmed) boats moored along the bays. We might have been able to work something out with a captain privately, but none of the tourist trips were running yet.
We were introduced to eating in Turkey by our hosts in Kalkan, where they explained how you ordered your meal but then many accompaniments came free (for example, bread and dips, soup, olives, maybe even dessert). But they also mentioned that many of the restaurants targeted at tourists no longer provided the extras. We found this to be true in Bodrum, as well, where you could order mezes (like tapas) from the display fridges, and then, if you were still hungry, order a main plate like a fish. We found one market-like area filled with restaurants where their seating flowed together under haphazard rooves. Alongside the restaurants were several fish market stalls, still open in the evenings. These markets served the restaurants. If someone ordered fish, restaurant staff would take a plate to one of the fish stalls and come back with the fish ready to cook.
Ken wandered on his own on my workdays and brought back the following images.
He tried to show me this market on a Sunday, but it had reverted to a parking garage filled with cars.
Though 2 1/2 hours away, Ephesus, one of the best preserved Roman ruins, seemed worth the effort. We rented a car for one day and drove out to see this famous site. We were there at a perfect time–the weather was nice but not overly hot and the crowds were reasonable. We can’t quite put our finger on why, but we really enjoyed wandering these ruins, which are in a beautiful setting. Once again, Rick Steves provided the audio commentary as we explored.
As we tried to drive out of the Ephesus parking lot, one of the drivers hanging around outside hollered to Ken, “Can I ask you a question.” Though he had an agenda (he wanted us to go visit a government carpet factory “with 2,000 women making carpets” so he would get “points”), during his chatter he handed us two of the biggest and heaviest pomegranates we had ever seen. He said he had a car full of them and 12 trees at home. We opened one back at the hotel and it was, by far, the best pomegranate we had ever eaten.
- Bus from Kalkan to Muğla: 20 TRY ($7 CAD) each, purchased the day ahead at the bus station.
- Bus from Muğla to Bodrum: 7 TRY ($3.35 CAD) each, purchased from the driver.
- Accommodation in Bodrum: 7. Art Feslegen Hotel. Booked through hotels.com (booking.com is currently blocked in Turkey) for 105 TRY ($35 CAD) per night including a delicious Turkish breakfast every morning.
- Rental car: 130 TRY ($43.33 CAD) arranged for us by the hotel (it was hard for us to find a reasonably priced rental car that didn’t require pick up at the airport), and delivered to the hotel.
- Ephesus entry: 40 TRY ($13.33 CAD) each.