I spent 4 days in Turkey, specifically in Bodrum. I lived in Turkey for a year about 13 years ago but my experience was very different this time. I travelled with my very good Canadian friend named Mieke who’s mum has a friend who lives in Bodrum in a gorgeous big house with the best view down the sea and she built this house. We had a good chance to see Turkey with a different view as she told us stories. This lady is from Canada but she wouldn’t ever move out from Turkey. According to her, you’d never find a kinder nation, where people would offer you their very last piece of bread and they call it: hospitality. Now, I work in hospitality, I do events in a 5 star golf club. I thought I know what hospitality is but imagine a poor country where people earn £200 worth of Turkish lira per month. And even Turkey is cheap, no one even here can live on £200. But it doesn’t matter because their hospitality comes from their heart. They always smile and offer you the best instead of the most expensive and even more. They are kind and helpful and always have a nice word towards you. This is the real Turks.
But let’s start at the beginning. Turkey has Turkish lira, where 1 lira is about £7.8. They are mostly Muslims but you can find Christians too. Part of Turkey lays in Europe while the bigger one lays in Asia. If you go to Istanbul don’t forget to visit the Bosporus bridge which leads you from Europe to Asia.
I don’t want to cause any arguments, everything I write here is either from experience or I’ve heard in stories. Years and years ago Turkey had a leader called Atatürk. You can see his pictures everywhere. In offices, bus stations, shops, on buses, trees, walls, etc. So I asked Anne (the Canadian lady) if she could tell me a bit more about him. What she said is, when he was the leader of Turkey, he wanted to lead the country towards West instead of East. He allowed women to vote, opened up the way of Western thinking, allowed import and export in the country, so you could start to see all sort of international products you’d never see before. He did good by his people so the people thought to honour him with all the pictures. He passed away and they have a new leader who thinks very much the opposite (East) way and wants the country to go backwards instead of forward.
We had lots of types of food to try. When you sit in a restaurant, they will give you the ‘European’ menu. Don’t hesitate to ask them for Turkish food. They will show you the lovely koftas (meatballs), sish (which is either chicken or beef skewers), çorba (soup – lentil is amazing), the really cool amphora which is basically chicken or beef in a clay pot, they cook it in that then they bring it out while it is still on fire and either pour it out on your plate and leave it for you to do giving you a special glove. Or they have their very popular and famous baklava which is a VERY sweet dessert made of honey and pistachio. Food generally cost about 30-40 lira but you can find cheaper depending on what you want to eat. Everything comes with some sort of salad which is normally tomato, cilantro and olive oil. They also have their very famous chai which is a black tea without any other component and it’s actually a very light, nice tea. They drink it after meals, during the afternoon or over meetings. We only had either gin&tonic or cocktails, they are around 25 (G&T)-45 (cocktail) lira. Turkish people eat very healthy, they buy their weekly products at a market that opens once a week. You can find almost everything in the market. Spices, nuts, fruits, vegetable, meat, cheese everything you can imagine and they are all fresh from the producer. Nothing is fake or from big shops, purely from the gardens. We got to eat lots of goats cheese, tomato, cucumber, olive oil, sheep cheese and freshly baked bread. Oh… food is just amazing when it’s fresh.
On our second day we visited Ephesus which is a beautiful roman city that has been abandoned centuries ago so unfortunately only ruins left. It is still exciting to walk around and see the very old toilets (latrinas) or the beautiful library which is one of the best preserved place there. It takes a good 2 hours to walk around and if you’d ever want to go there, do it early as from 11am is starts to be VERY hot and you are exposed to the sun during the whole trip. Typically the taxi or the tour company takes you to the bottom gate where you can catch a bus to the top gate so you have to walk DOWN instead of UP. Highly recommended as walking upwards in 40 degrees isn’t fun 🙂 At the bottom they offer you 2 shuttles to take you up. One is free but it does stop by a carpet and jewellery making shop where they will try to sell you both (but you can just walk in,have a quick look around and walk out) or you can take a shuttle for 25 lira that doesn’t stop anywhere just by the top entrance. I recommend the free shuttle. It does stop but they know not everyone will buy their stuff. The ticket price to Ephesus is 40 lira and there is a small exhibition where you pay 20 lira but that’s an option you can either take or not. A bit further from Ephesus there is a museum for the statues and items they found during the excavation, it’s 10 lira but definitely worth it.
Just a little side advise. ALWAYS carry some sort of photographic ID with you or at least have a picture of it on your phone as the so called Jandarma can stop you anywhere, anytime and ID you. When I first ever visited Turkey, they wanted me to spend a night in a cell cos I didn’t have any on me. Luckily my Turkish friend talked the soul died out of it. This time, my friend Mieke forgot it and on the way to Ephesus they stopped us. Again, it was pure luck that our driver could convince him to let us go. Just have something on you!
On Sunday we tried a real Turkish hamam. We went to the one called Rashid’s Hamam in Yalikavak (well on the road between Bodrum and Yalikavak). Firstly, it’s VERY pricey so I wouldn’t suggest to go. An hour ‘session’ cost about €35 and they pretty much sent us out after we finished… this is unusual as they normally let you stay as long as you want to. Unfortunately I got physically sick and pretty much spent my time at the toilet but my friend described the experience. Here it is with her own words:
‘ In the beginning the gentleman that greeted us was nice and walked us into the Hamam to a seating area where he described the different types of spas and scrubs you could get. He was a little too friendly with his touches towards the older ladies we were with, however one of the ladies says this is not normal of other Hamam. Once we put our belongings into lock boxes we were escorted to the changing room. They had these weird wooden shoes for us to wear around the Hamam that were very uncomfortable but you don’t wear them in the Hamam. We then made our way into the main Hamam and had a few buckets of cold water poured over us. There was a large marble block in the center of the Hamam were we lay down to steam and relax. The atmosphere was nice as it was only us. There are sinks around the room that you can use to pour cold water on you. Usually I can’t deal with saunas very well but the sinks helped. After about 20 minutes a lady came in and brought a bucket of soapy water over to me. First the lady started scrubbing my face and arms with a loofa and then asked me to lay down and take my top. It was alright for me as no one else was in the room but it would have been weird if someone was there. The Hamam’s are gender specific though so there won’t be any men in the ladies and vice versa. Once laying she took a cloth out of the bucket with soap and swayed it in the air to fill it with air. Then she rubbed my legs and arms before ringing it out over my belly to let all the soap out. She did this twice and scrubbed me down in between each session. They really do a thorough job. It was nice and relaxing and I could feel all the oil, sunscreen and dead skin being scrubbed off me. Once clean we moved to a seating area by the front door where she poured water over me and then shampooed my hair. Once thoroughly rinsed she gave me a towel and escorted me out. One of the other ladies we were with said in a different Hamam in Bodrum that she went to just let you stay in the Hamam as long as you wanted after they scrubbed you. This place seems to want to get you out as soon as they are done. Once into the relaxation room the lady dried my hair and sat me down in a lounge chair. The whole experience was nice and I’m glad I tried it out, but my advise to you would be to ask the prices before hand and maybe go to one that is in a large town because this one was very expensive compared to the ones in Bodrum. ‘
As my friend mentioned, it was way more expensive than the ones in Bodrum. So if money matters, don’t go to this one!!
Bodrum itself is very nice, it has its new part and the old town. I really liked the old town, typical Turkish, you have shops, cafes and restaurants everywhere. It has a few free beaches, they are fairly nice and the water is surprisingly clear. You’ll see lots of dogs on the street but they are all well fed from restaurants and they are completely harmless and ignoring people. Every Saturday there is an amazing concert by the yacht marina. The guy sings is a well known American comedian (Carlton J Smith from Brooklyn) but he also sings. His show is absolutely fantastic! We had so much fun watching him, it was unreal. Since he is there every Saturday, maybe go once or twice but after the second time it isn’t that funny listening to the same thing over and over again. We did go out for clubbing but since our friend who lives here payed for everything, I can’t really give you prices. All I know,at one point we paid for 4 G&T’s and that cost us 200 lira….
We also bought a pair of really cute typical Turkish trousers for 110 lira and a beautiful silver ring with zirconia stones for 110 lira.
Now we are heading to Greece, that will be my next story. We go to Kos first but then straight after to Santorini. Ferry ticket cost €17 from Bodrum to Kos and €37 from Kos to Santorini all with Blue Ferries