Bodrum 1-3 October, 2011
I arrived in Bodrum at the southern end of the Aegean coast of Turkey, after a 3 hour bus trip from Selcuk. Bodrum was called Halikarnassos in the times of Ancient Greece. It was the home of Herodotus (“The Father of History”). When he wasn’t wandering the ancient world collecting information for his famous history book. I read in “The Middle Sea” that until fairly recently he was regarded only as a fanciful storyteller, but subsequent archaeological discoveries have corroborated many of his assertions. Halikarnassos was once the site of another of the seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Tomb of King Mausolus (from where the word mausoleum comes). The structure survived for more than a millennium, but then was flattened by an earthquake.There is a connection with my home town of Melbourne, Australia. The design of the Shrine of Remembrance (for fallen soldiers) is based on the Tomb of Mausolus, being rectangular with 36 columns, 10 per side. On my last morning in Bodrun, befor catching the bus to Marmaris, I visted the Museum of the Mausoleion. There is a big hole where the burial chamber used to be and a scale model of the Mausoleum. Apparently it was topped with a marble quadriga (4-horse-chariot), probably with a statue of Mausolus holding the reins.
If you are looking for a truly authentic Turkish experience, you might need to look further than Bodrum. It is really a very touristy seaside resort town, with a lot of British visitors, cafes serving English breakfasts and bars with wide-screen TVs showing English Premier League matches. On the other hand, if you have been doing the hard yards backpacking through dirt poor Anatolian villages, this would be a welcome oasis. And there are some interesting things to see and do. The Fort built by the Knights of St John (Knights Hospitalers) is a nice place to visit. Their main base was on Rhodes. After that (and then Bodrum) was captured by the Ottomans they were forced to move a long way west, reestablishing their base in Malta. One part of the Fort (the Snake Tower) housed a hospital (the main mission of the Knights) as well as a torture chamber. Very eclectic of them.
The Fort also hosts the Underwater Archaeology Museum. A sign announced an important disclaimer. The Museum itself is not actually underwater, so don’t bother asking for your money back. There are details and exhibits from at least three shipwrecks. The first was a second century BC Bronze Age ship. One exhibit was an early example of a “folding book” (as mentioned by Homer in The Iliad). It consisted of boxwood covers, with ivory hinges. The recessed panels were covered in beeswax and written on with a stylus. The second was a Fifth Century BC Greek ship, with amphorae originally containing wine. The third was a Sixth Century AD Byzantine boat, whose hull was reconstructed (inside the Knights’ Chapel, later converted to a Mosque by the Ottomans).
I have just learnt that the season for ferries to Rhodes from Bodrum has ended, so I will have to go to Marmaris, probably staying Tuesday night and catching the ferry Wednesday morning.