There was a perfect blue sky when I was woken by shafts of sunlight creeping into the room through the gaps in the curtains and I lay still for awhile contemplating being in a new country and I began to think of the most obvious things that I associated with Turkey – Turkish Delight, Turkish Baths, Turkish Tea, Turkish Wrestling, Constantinople, Magic Carpets, Kebabs and Belly Dancers and when my mind was quite cluttered up with all of these items I got up and opened the window and was greeted with a powerful aroma that reminded me of one more thing – Turkish Coffee!
Today was market day in Bodrum and Kim was looking forward to this so after an early start and a good breakfast we set off towards the seafront. It would have been a good idea to take a moment or two to make enquiries because by the time we reached the harbour we had seen no sign of it and at the Tourist Information Office they corrected us and sent us practically all the way back to the hotel to a huge building next to the bus station.
Threading our way inside we came across a scene of madness, complete madness, where thousands of shoppers were pushing, shouting, bartering and negotiating with stallholders who were imploring, insisting, pleading and exaggerating. It reminded me of the Moroccan souk in Meknes full of local people, tourists and traders, a seething mass of people, like a barrel of writhing snakes, being pushed involuntarily along the narrow aisles with no option but to go with the flow – miss a stall, bad luck, there was no going back!
I am not a good shopper – Kim knows this and that she will enjoy the morning much more if I am not there to complain and she therefore didn’t try to dissuade me when after a few minutes I made my excuses and allowed myself to be squeezed out of an unofficial exit (a gap in the wall) and I was pleased to be back on the outside.
My preference is to visit the historical sites and now that Kim has clearly explained to me exactly where she stands on the issue of ruins I thought it would be better to visit the castle by myself.
St Peter’s castle was built by the Knights of Saint John in the fifteenth century as a defensive stronghold in Asia Minor and today remains in much better shape than its neighbour on Kos. Old photographs from the 1960s reveal that there has been a lot of reconstruction but a good job has been done because there is a lot of castle to explore here with several towers, fortified walls and high rampart walks as well as gardens, historical interpretations and the museum of underwater archaeology.
It took me two hours to walk around the whole site and I could have stayed longer but for some unexplained reason, at the busiest time of the day, the exhibits all closed for lunch. We were due to meet at twelve-thirty in a seafront bar advertising cheap beer so I left in good time and walked the short distance back. I arrived first and five minutes later Kim arrived, to my surprise, completely empty-handed from her market shopping experience! We stayed for a couple of drinks but it was obvious that the restaurant would rather have the table occupied by diners so we settled up and left and looked for a kebab experience.
It didn’t take long to be invited and convinced to sit at a pavement table and soon we were tucking in to a delicious lunch of spiced beef kebab with roasted vegetables and playing Russian roulette with a jar of chillies because just one injudicious selection meant a fiery eruption on the tongue! The food was wonderful which made it all the more unbelievable, to me anyway, that just a few metres away from here there was a McDonalds restaurant selling tasteless western burgers!
Kim had promised herself a visit to a hamam so after lunch and a stroll through the streets of Bodrum to walk off the calories she went to a Turkish bath for an exfoliation and a massage. I declined to join her because if truth be told I am quite attached to my dead skin and by this time I was seven days into a self-cleansing experiment and a good scrubbing down would have ruined it.
Instead, I decided to take the opportunity to seek out more ruins and set off to find the site of the Mausoleum of Mausolus, the origin of the word mausoleum and one of the original Wonders of the Ancient World. This was once a magnificent forty-five metre high marble tomb, decorated with statues and friezes and built in the third century BC as a burial chamber for King Mausolus of Caria.
I found the site but all that remains now are a few toppled columns and splintered stones and a hole in the ground where the burial chamber once was because all of the usable stones had been previously carted away by, you’ve probably guessed, the Knights of St John who, just as in Kos, needed a convenient supply of stone to build their castle. The Knights of St John have quite a lot of lost architectural heritage to answer for it would seem and if the World Heritage Organization had existed in the fifteenth century I think they may have had a great deal of explaining to do to the Director-General of UNESCO!
And so to the British for that matter because what the Knights left behind the British took away to the British Museum after it was excavated by English archaeologists in the nineteenth century. Even more bizarre is the fact that the British removed the remaining stones and, following the destiny of the Knights, shipped then to Malta where they were used in the construction of the Royal Navy dockyards.
After a late afternoon around the swimming pool and another above average evening meal and as darkness descended we made our way back into the brightly lit streets and while Kim browsed I practised my ‘no thank-you’ response to invitations to spend unnecessary money.
I had enjoyed my first day in Turkey!