Istanbul has the vibe, but if God asked me where I wanted to live, and then made it so, I’d be hard pressed not to say the Western or Southern coast of Turkey.
Bodrum is an ancient town right on the Aegean Sea that has a famous Medieval Crusader castle that is now an excellent underwater archeological museum. But perhaps more famous is its summer nightlife with clubs and cafes lining the harbor. There is a quaint old shopping district, where you can buy a lot of crap and some actual quality items if you get reliable recommendations about where to go. Everyone who spends time in Turkey has their favorite rug shop and my mother is no exception. She has one in Istanbul and another in Bodrum. So, yes there was a little purchase made.
Tucked away in this small, but picturesque town is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, which is a tomb for Emperor Mausolus and his wife/sister Artemisia II of Caria (I guess spousal options were limited back then). This is just one of maybe 300 active excavation sites in Turkey, which is an archeologists’ dream country.
Bodrum is also one of the main ports of departure for the famous Blue Cruises http://www.bluecruise.org. We went out on a luxury 6-bedroom Gullet for an afternoon of eating, cruising, and swimming. The experience was beyond magical! I had visions of renting the yacht for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary this summer but the $60,000/week price tag made me rethink those plans in a hurry. But the afternoon on the boat was a taste of the good life that I won’t forget.
Farther along and into the Mediterranean Sea coast our next stop was the town of Kaş (pronounced kaash). Bigger than Bodrum, Kaş is also a lovely seaside town with an active port. The topography is absolutely stunning with mountains, islands and brilliant blue seas, if you like that kind of thing. I definitely do! Please God, make it so.
The old part of the town of Kaş is delightful with a vibrant shopping district and alleyways leading to charming restaurants, Ottoman-style houses and even an ancient burial site or two. The cobblestone streets were lined with hanging bougainvillea and the best part of all, they are pedestrian only. As with most seaside towns, the old district is directly opposite the harbor, so an afternoon of strolling is a must.
There is a tremendous list of ancient archeological sites that I visited. Some Lycian, Greek, Roman. If I described each site this woldn’t be a blog this would be a dissertation, so I won’t. I will say they were all amazing, all taught me something different. Here’s the list and a few pictures:
The last stop on the Mediterranean was the gem, Antalya. One of the largest cities in Turkey it is filled with palm and orange trees, new apartment buildings, parks galore, a glorious old town called Kaleiçi.
It also has Russians, by the thousands during peak season. The Russians are there for a few reasons, there is a middle class that has disposable income, Turkey is close and relatively inexpensive to get to, has great weather and beaches, the home church of their patron saint, Saint Nicholas is there. Because I had listened to an expert on the way to visit the 4th Century church in Demre I knew that the Russians prayed to the wrong sarcophagus, and therefore wrong set of bones, which had been removed by the Venetians centuries ago, by the way. There is a plain one and an ornate one. Saint Nicholas is/was buried in the plain one but the Russians insist on praying to the fancy one, throwing pieces of prayer paper into the Plexiglass covered niche, kissing the tomb, weeping, singing, all to the wrong tomb. OK whatever. They chose…poorly (couldn’t help the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade reference).
I would say, forget the expensive French Rivera or Amalfi Coast, think Turkey!