Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bodrum, Turkey

We had no idea what we were getting into when we got off the boat in Turkey. We never did any research on Turkey, we really didn't know anything at all about this country... except that it was close to Greece. So we didn't know what to expect. We arrived in Bodrum, Turkey, a nice town that is a big tourist attraction in the summer, but becomes a ghost town in the winter, which we experienced a bit. We caught a mini-bus (their public transportation) which is a little bigger than a mini-van and sits about 8-12 people, to our hotel, Bodrum Park Hotel. The hotel was pretty big but completely deserted, which was nice. We got the pool table and ping pong to ourselves whenever we wanted. Which consisted of some pretty heated games. The owner of the hotel, Hamza, was very helpful and incredibly nice. He hooked us up with a huge room and with a Turkish breakfast every morning, which we ate by the pool in solitude. The breakfast consisted of a hard-boiled egg, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, feta cheese, bread, butter and jam with coffee. It was simple but we looked forward to it every morning. 

Walking around Bodrum we were in awe of all the mosques, they were everywhere, you could see the minarets rising above the rest of the homes. That first night in Bodrum we were awakened really early in the morning by the Adhan prayer. It was quite an experience to hear for the first time but after a few days you get used to hearing it all the time. The Adhan prayer is done is called out 5 times a day from the minaret in the mosques. You can read more about the Adhan prayer here.

Bodrum used to be a big sea-sponge diving town. A lot of the men used ships called gulets to go out to sea and fish for sea sponges by scuba diving, and made good money doing it. They didn't have wetsuits and other high tech gear like we do today, they did it old-school, with the huge metal helmet and tube running from the suit to the boat, feeding the diver oxygen. Eventually the sea sponge business started declining so the divers started turning their beautiful gulets into boats for tourist excursions. These boats line all of Bodrum along the water, with such names as Princess Leyla, Zeus, and Nostalgia. The gulet is a traditional design of a two-masted wooden sailing vessel which was primarily built in south-west coast of Turkey. They are usually 14 to 35 meters and were so beautiful and in such good condition, it was quite a treat to walk down the boardwalk and see all these boats. 

A few other things we noticed:
-Greece had cats everywhere, but Bodrum had dogs everywhere that quietly followed us around.
-While walking around we came across many cafes or benches in the park where a few old men were playing backgammon. This game is very popular here, we unfortunately don't know how to play and never had the chance to learn in Turkey.
-The beach was completely deserted but we had a great time walking on the shore and in the water, although it was too cold to swim.
-Blue eyes (a ceramic eye, also called the 'evil eye'), which are very similar to the ones in Greece are everywhere. In doors, cars, shops and even in the pavement. Turks believe that they protect from evil.
-Mandarins and pomegranates were very cheap and we both love these two fruits so we went through quite a bit of mandarin peeling and pomegranate eating. They were delicious.
-Turkish flags are everywhere. Anywhere you look you will most likely see the Turkish flag. 
-Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is everywhere. There are photos of him in shops and restaurants. There are statues of him all over. We had no idea who this man was. So we did a little research and found he is the one who made Turkey what it is now. He was a Turkish army officer, revolutionary statesman, writer, and founder of the Republic of Turkey, as well as the first Turkish president.  He transformed the former Ottoman Empire into a modern and secular nation-state. In 1924 he changed the language from Arabic to a new Turkish language. He changed the ancient dress to a more western style of clothing. Up until this point Turks had no surnames, but Ataturk changed that, he made everyone decide on a surname for themselves. 

We have a few more posts coming up about Bodrum, Turkey. From Bodrum, we rented a car and explored the ancient cities of Priene, Ephesus, and Hieropolis in Pamukkale. We have a lot of catching up to do with our posts and a lot of good photos to share with you.