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Local Things To Do In Bodrum, Turkey

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I’m sitting underneath an umbrella on a terrace in Bodrum, having a Turkish coffee.This will keep going on for some hours if not days. It’s tasty and strong. Next to me, there’s a mandarin tree. In front of me, there are some fishing boats rocking from left to right. The horizon is scattered with boat masts. From little sailing boats to superyachts and gulets, the traditional wooden sailing boats from Bodrum.The sun is glittering on the water. Between the masts, the medieval Bodrum castle is prominently present. When I look a bit further I can see the Greek island of Kos. There’s a German shepherd dog keeping me company. It’s a wild dog but she looks like she just came from the beauty salon. There’s not a single cloud in the sky.  I breathe the ocean air and observe the relaxed ambiance of the ‘mahfel’, the gathering place.

On the table next to me some old but cheerful men are playing backgammon. I hear their chips clicking. There’s the occasional sound of the steering spoons in typical Turkish tea glasses, and my favourite sound, the constant sound of the sea. People are chatting Turkish around me.

By now I know a few words like teşekkür (thank you), elenize sağılık (To thank the cook), and şerefe (Cheers). I’ve got to work on this. And I will because I’m not going anywhere. I love it so much here,  so I decided to stay around and discover more. There’s so much to explore!

3 weeks ago I had absolutely no idea about Bodrum, Turkey. I had never been to Turkey and my image of Turkey travel WAS ‘all-inclusive, sun sea and resorts.’

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Friends and family found it strange and worrying that I was going there. Because the news says it’s not the right moment with unfortunate situations and events. Wrong! It’s exactly the right moment. My instinct has not let me down. In fact, it has gone beyond expectations.

Here are some thoughts on what has made an impression so far.

THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE IN BODRUM

The people I have met are so warm and hospitable. They share stories about their life and Turkish traditions with excitement. They are the most generous people who don’t just care about themselves. They laugh, they joke, and they are proud to be Turkish. They invite me for coffee and let me in their homes. They walk an extra mile to help out with whatever. With full attention, they take their time to read your future from the leftovers of a Turkish coffee.

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I’m impressed by the efforts made to support each other and the local economy. They live by the rule ‘if your neighbor has it, buy it from them. If the village has it, buy it from them, if the town has it, buy it from them.’ But many people I have met also just grow their own mandarins or olives, collect their herbs from nature or make their own cheese from the milk of a cow they have.

Traditions are preserved and this helps the place to remain authentic.

GETTING CULTURED IN BODRUM CITY

Generally, I’m not a city person, too busy and crowded. I love nature, tranquillity, and swimming in the sea. Bodrum has that, without the noise. And more.

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The city is a beautiful mix of nature, culture, modern life and history that goes back 3000 years. It’s the fisherman of Halicarnassus that put Bodrum on the map for the artists, writers, culture and nature lovers. Just a stroll through the sokak (street) is like visiting a museum.

If you walk up the hill you can stand in an ancient amphitheater, still in use for summer concerts, and have a magnificent view over the white city of Bodrum, its huge harbor and the bay with the beach.

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Bodrum used to be home to one of the seven world wonders: the Mausoleum, of which you can visit the remains and a replica.

There is the Medieval castle which hosts the underwater Archaeology museum with one of the most special archaeological discoveries of time: the ‘Uluburun shipwreck.’ Myndos gate, the city walls, old houses, towers, and structures throughout the city make Bodrum an open-air museum. 200-year-old windmills mark the landscape on the north side of Bodrum.

Domed water systems are scattered through down, used as water catchments. No buildings are allowed to be higher than 2 floors which make it a beautiful scene.

Bodrum also has one of the most impressive maritime museums in the world. A must for every sailor to visit!

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THE LIVELY STREET AMBIANCE IN BODRUM

I’ve seen him many times now: the melon man driving through the streets screaming in Turkish. He has some HUGE kavuns (melons) for sale. Also the old man in his tractor still happily drives through the ancient streets making you feel like back in the old days.

Elsewhere throughout the streets, soaked almonds are being sold, mussels with lemon (this seems to go on 24/7), and ice cream, loads of ice cream. Bodrum has a thriving art scene with painters, jewelry makers, musicians, galleries, street exhibitions, and performances. It’s a creative and entrepreneurial town. No wonder, in such an inspirational setting. Its streets are typical Mediterranean style: narrow, to give shade. White walls and sunny skies are covered with grape plants, the purple Bougainvillea or the Hibiscus surf flower.

Architecture goes way back and ruins are turned into restaurants, bars, and houses. Most of the houses have blue paint around the windows and doorstep. It’s believed that keeps the scorpions away.

Then there’s the boulevard with hip coffee places, restaurants and cocktail bars with a view. As the sun sets it becomes fully alive with people making a stroll, having a laugh with their friends, making music, showing their artwork, or selling foods. With lounge chairs, chill out music and Nargile (waterpipe), the bars and restaurants make an effort to optimize chillaxing time in the bay. It’s vibrant, outdoorsy and alive.

The nightlife is booming. With live music, hipster bars in old ruins and open-air disco dancings mixing Turkish drama music with European house beats, there is entertainment for everyone. It’s Ramadan. Still, I see as many women as men in the street. I thought I should dress quite modest here. But it doesn’t seem the norm here. Everyone seems to wear whatever they like. It’s a liberal town and as a solo female traveler, I’m feeling completely safe and at ease.

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THE BODRUM PENINSULA, IN AND AROUND.

Bodrum city lies in the Bodrum peninsula. With such a large coastline and islands all around, I could stay here until next year and definitely not get bored. But also inland there are loads to explore. The region is scattered with ancient ruins.

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There’s remains to be found from way before year 0. The city of Stratoicea I found most impressing. Here you can get lost in a 2000-year-old ancient town. It’s well preserved but not regulated or protected in any way. May you visit: please don’t climb the 2000-year-olds pillars and stone formations. The backcountry is also where you’ll find rough landscapes, stunning views, local producing and life as the inhabitants have been living for generations.

Impressive are the olive trees, some of them to be believed 1000 years old! The Bodrum region is important for olive and olive oil. I visited an olive factory where the villagers can bring their own olives and get them processed into olive oil to bring back home.

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If you want to go off the path in adventure style, check out Outdoor Difference where knowledgeable locals, dedicated to maximizing community-based tourism, give you a perfect introduction to the real Turkey. You can also go local style on yourself and take a Dolmus bus. They can bring you to any part of the peninsula. It’s a fun and an adventurous way to go around. You can hop on the bus in the ‘garage,’ the bus station, or just raise your hand in the street and the bus will stop.

BODRUM, A VEGETARIAN FOOD HEAVEN   

The Turkish cuisine is delicious. As a vegetarian, I find the options endless. My favorite is the ‘Mezze’ part of the meal, which is the appetizer and consists of a collection of small different dishes of local specialties. Perfect to try the local foods like smoked Eggplant, stuffed peppers, zucchini, hummus, spreads, and salads. And the olives! The black ones are the best I’ve tasted – ever. Fresh herbs like dill, parsley and rosemary are present in abundance in every dish. The lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers taste as they come straight from rich soil, not from a pesticide sprayed modified supermarket wrapped item. It’s delicious and so nutritional.

Eateries go from street food cheap local style to fancy high-end gourmet. I’m more of going local style so by now I’ve tried most of the vegetarian (and often vegan) street foods out there. For example Gözleme, a kind of bread pancake filled with spinach, cheese, or potatoes. Also, Kumpir is a street food not to miss, it’s like a jacket potato. If you want something sweet and not so healthy, try lokma balls!

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THE SAILING HUB OF TURKEY

I’m extremely happily surprised by the thriving watersports potential I discovered here, sailing in particular. Bodrum has more boats parked than cars. It is the sailing hub of Turkey and for a reason. With so many islands, remote beaches, and turquoise bays, Bodrum is a gateway to heaven. This is the place where Mavi Yolculuk, a ‘blue voyage,’ originates.

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It all began with sünger (sponge diving), where the divers started taking their friends out on their diving Gulets. These are big beautiful traditional wooden yachts, still being handcrafted in Bodrum today. Over the years more people have discovered this paradise lifestyle. A blue voyage is a journey to get fully energized in nature. It allows for destination exploration beyond the crowd, multiple jumps in the sea per day, falling asleep under the stars while breathing the fresh air from the sea. And making great new friends sharing the fun. This experience makes you feel 100% alive and excited. For me, it is a must.

With visiting dozens of bays and inlets, blue voyages also provide loads of exploration below the surface. As a freediver, I am particularly interested in the sponge diving. The Aegean is where this underwater art originates 3000 years ago. So I went to look for a diver and found one who passionately explained to me all about it.

Sponge diving, the ‘gold from the bottom,’ is a challenging practice. The sponge has to be cut at depth. It has to be cut correctly in order for the sponge to be able to continue to grow, which takes 3-5 years. The quality of the sponge depends on the depth they take it from. As from 40 meters you can find qualified sponges. The deeper it’s taken from the more soft and expensive they are. It’s a good sponge when they have big holes and go back to its shape after squeezing them. Sponges are still being dived for today but most ’sünger’ man prefer to use their boats for simply blue voyages now.

I’ve jumped in myself and seen the gold of the sea flourishing at the bottom. The waters along the Turkish Aegean are crystal clear. Its underwater geology is spectacular with walls, cliffs, and caves. Also, many shipwrecks are to be found. And strangely enough, ceramic plates. I haven’t figured out yet what’s the deal with that but everywhere underwater there are some plates (Crazy Greek parties?). Let me know may you know. There is not much fish life and this worries me. So does the number of plastic bottles I found on the shorelines. This region is no exception. I see it everywhere in the world and it’s a problem we have to tackle all together. We have got to become part of the solution, and not the problem.

I am happy to get to know the Turkish culture. I have visited more than 40 countries but this place is so unique on it own. And I have only experience an eeny tiny part of this immense country. I feel relaxed, at ease and alive discovering all the Turkish excitement. I feel 100% safe and cultured and energized and still don’t have the plan to leave anytime soon.

I got to go back to my Gulet now. The sea is calling so I’m going on another Mavi Yolculuk (Blue voyage). So much more to explore!

Where to stay in Bodrum, Turkey?

I couchsurfed with an amazing local girl, I spent a few week on a boat, and I stayed in Mazi, one of the most beautiful little peaceful towns I’ve lived. Here I wrote large part of my book Ocean Nomad

I highly recommend to stay in Mazi!

Where to stay in Mazi, Turkey?

Via via I was able to rent a little studio.I’ve explored the whole bay (Bay Inceeyali-not hurna, which is the bigger one)

Recommended places to stay in Mazi:

Mazi Kale Pension (The view can’t get better)

Merve Apart Holidays Homes

Yakamoz Pension (Right on the beach)

Say hi from Suzanne if you happen to go there!!

How to get to Mazi, Turkey?

Every hour there’s a bus going from Bodrum. It’s about a 40 minute ride from the Airport to Mazi. A cab is around 150 Lire (50 euro).

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Disclosure

All opinions are my own and no one is paying me to write this. Some accommodation and experiences were provided by the Turkish Tourism board and the hospitable tourism stakeholders of the Bodrum peninsula.

A special shout out to The Blue Cruise that has been made possible by Barbaros Yachting, a professional local Gulet holiday operator which I highly recommend. The value is just amazing. More photos of the sea adventures to be found on my Instagram and Facebook.

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Thank you, Inma (A world to travel) for sending me this way.  This blog has originally been published on her website. Thank you Turkey tourism for facilitating the trip. Your introduction made me stay. Who knows for how long… And thank you to all lovely people I have met that made my impressions of Bodrum way beyond expectations.

Looking to go sailing in Greece? Great choice! Here’s how to explore the Greek Island under sail, adventure-style! Everyday I see sailboats passing by. I just have to be on one. Not looking at one and not only writing about one. I’m getting too comfortable in Turkey. The ocean is calling. The time is right for another sailing adventure! Only I don’t have a boat, and I don’t have the funds or desire to book an organized sailing charter. Let’s hitch a sailboat ride across the Greek Island archipelago!

How to tackle a hitch-sail island-hopping adventure across Greece?

Here’s how I do it.

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1. What are the personal possibilities & requirements

This basically comes down to flexibility in time and money. When actually being on a boat you need to adapt to whatever situation you put yourself into. Firstly you are entering someone else’s home and secondly the sailing itself never goes as planned. It’s weather dependent. And captains change their mind accordingly. So thinking about scenarios in advance makes it easy to peacefully change course and comply with captains’ calls. How much time do I have? What obligations do I have? How much money can and will I contribute to this adventure? Where do I need to be when? My requirements for this boat hitchhike adventure:

  • Destination: West. I don’t care which island. I’m curious to all of them.  I have to go to the Ionion Sea since I organize The InsPirates sail adventure there.
  • Minimum 2 other crew. I want to reduce the risk of being stuck with a maniac and I like to meet people.
  • Relaxed sailing. I prefer not to make 150 miles a day since I want to keep releasing the mermaid in me, as well as work on my oceanpreneurial projects. Not ideal when continuously sailing since Greece can be rough sailing.
  • Timeframe: 1 month.

2. The islands of Greece – Map check

I look at the map for a VERY long time. Where am I? Where do I need to go? How far is it? Which islands are in between? Which ports are near me? I figure I better leave this week if I want to be in West Greece in one month. Greece is roughly 3,000 islands and islets, of which only 227 of which are inhabited! I also realize I actually need to dedicate a whole year, if not a lifetime of sailing in Greece if I want to explore the Greek islands. Wow, there are so many places to be explored! Another time. I got to go to Lefkada for The insPirates kick-off. It’s about 700 miles from Bodrum to the Ionian Sea. Let’s take an average boat speed of 6 knots, that’s already 5 days of non-stop sailing to go the Lekada. No boat will go straight from Turkey to Lefkada. And it’s unlikely that it will be smooth seas and sailing all the time. I need to be flexible with time. Check distances on sailing in Greece with this handy tool Photo taken at Underwater Archeology museum

3. Check the regional weather patterns for sailing in Greece

What’s the weather like in summer in Greece? How’s the wind? So what would sailors do? Central and East Greece have the Meltemi wind in summer, a strong North Eastern wind. Awesome for kitesurfing. Less relaxed for sailing. It usually blows for a few days followed by a few days of calmness. Crossing between island depends on weather windows. Most boats choose to shelter from the wind and swell from the Meltemi. Sailling in Greece close the islands can be a tricky thing as well with quick local weather changes. I’m quite far south and I have got to go quite far north. This is not ideal. I already realize a month is ambitious.

Resources to check the wind and weather in Greece:

4. Throw out some lines to go

Not fishing lines. There’s no fish left in this part of the Mediterranean. I throw out some imaginative lines to catch a ride. 3 tactics: Asking captain connections I made in Turkey, walking the docks in Bodrum Harbour, and online.
sailing in Turkey

What do I catch?

A. Connections

The captains I got to know in Turkey were happy to take me on their next trip to Greece.  Bodrum is the place of the Gulets. I’ve been on those a few weeks and it’s the most pampered sailing there is. BUT with a lot of broom broom. Locally there were gulets happy to take me. In most cases when on a boat for multiple days you will be on a crewlist. Since it is a border crossing, getting on and off the crewlist is a bit more complex. I can join a Gulet but would have to go back to Turkey again. Connections don’t really give a lead this time.

B. Dockwalking

The real, best and most fun way is to just go to a marina, walk around, make a chat, hang in the sailors bar and see what comes out of is. I check the Bodrum marina. Most of the boats I talk to either come from Greece or are planning to go there after high season. That’s after August. Turkey really is the place to be right now for sailing crystal clear waters and having the bay for yourself. In high season! I also go to a few smaller harbours in the Bodrum Peninsula, like Gümüşlük, Datcha and Selimiye. I post little notes on strategic locations like bakeries, end of pontoons and the local supermarket. No leads this time.

C. Online

Let’s try online. I update my profiles on the crewwebsites: FindAcrew.com, crewbay.com, oceancrewlink.com and floatplan.com
I get in touch with some potential boats:
  • On Findacrew I connect with a Turkish dude and his friend that will sail east Greece and West Turkey. Costs: No daily charge. Only sharing food costs. It’s a holiday kind of cruising.
  • On Crewbay I connect with a Turkish couple going to Istanbul and then westwards. They sound really nice and trustworthy and are happy to pick me up in Bodrum. Costs. No daily charge. Sharing food, fuel and harbour costs.
  • On Crewbay I connect with an arty pirate big schooner ship. They need 8 crew. Costs: 150 USD /week + sharing costs for harbour, fuel and food.
  • On FindAcrew.com I get in touch with a Schooner from 1935 planning to do some severe sailing across the Cyclades. I have a call with the wife of the owner/captain. She explains it’s their holiday and would like some extra hands on deck. While the captain can do loads on his own, some deckhand help would be helpful sailing this beauty of a beast. They can pick me up somewhere in the Cyclades (this is central Greece). The end destination is the Peloponnese. Costs: Getting to/from the boat own expenses. Being on board, food and fuel is covered by the owner.


5. Assessment & decision making time

The above is just a snapshot of the boats! There’s so many options out there. What an adventure dilemma’s eh? Coastal/island hitch sailing is not as much as a risky business as crossing an ocean. Still, I listen to my instinct and I would be stupid not to take the opportunity to sail with a 80 year old Schooner. The other options raise a few question marks with me in regards to crew composition, sailing plan, money and timing. The Schooner is a classic and it’s going to be free of costs. Besides the owner there will be two Brazilian girls on board. Cool! The only downside is that the Schooner is in the Cyclades already. And I’m in the Dodecanese, +/-150 miles more east. The idea was to hitch-sail ALL across Greece. Well, then let’s try to find a boat from the Dodecanese to the Cyclades. I would have to be in the Cyclades in three days if I want to hop on the Schooner. Looking at the chart and weather forecast that is extremely ambitious. I take a ferry, which appears to be a like cruise ship. I hate it. I don’t like to take airplanes and ferries. They are noisy, pollutive, crowded and not an adventurous means of travel. But it’s worth the comprise….
Sailing the Schooner! Wowie, wow, wow! No regrets of this decision! She is a beauty of a beast! [justified_image_grid preset=4 ids=”810,808,807,802,803,805,804,806,801,800,799,798,797,811,792,793,794,795,796,791,783,790,789,788,787,782,784,785,786,809,781,780,779,778″]

Lessons learned and take-aways:

  • If you want to hitch-sail and only that, you can not be on a schedule and have too much work or appointments going on. You have to adapt. I prioritize the book writing and working on the insPirates event. Perhaps one day I get less ambitious, have raised the adventure fund, and I will be sailing and documenting about the ocean adventures,  just that. If you just want to go sailing in Greece and don’t have much time, you’re better off finding a charter.
  • Turkey and Greece have the Meltemi wind in summer. This is strong wind from the North East. You have to wait weather windows. Flexibility is a must.
  • When assessing the options and figuring out if a boat is a good match, always talk to the captain. Not (only) other crew, relatives or passengers. The captain is the decision maker and one that knows the boat best so you want to know about him/her (capabilities and preferences), and, the boat, his/her plan. I write A LOT about how to figure out if a boat is safe and a captain is reliable in my upcoming book Ocean Nomad.
  • Environmental awareness and awareness about the importance of eliminating of plastic and it’s impact is very low in Greece. Especially on the islands. Every drink get’s a straw, if not two, including the frappees. It’s really helps to be prepared with a reusable bottle, reusable bag, reusable cup, reusable straw and saying NO to plastic (Zero waste travel ideas and more resources on my travelblog – migrating this content soon to this website). Not only to minimize your personal negative impact but to help create awareness amongst the general public. I’ve had dozens of chats to the locals and it does rings bells. Here’s more on what you can do to travel with a positive impact.
  • [embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DPg8REzxww[/embedyt]
  • A Schooner is the most beautiful boat to sail on. If you ever get the chance, do it!
  • Don’t assume that other captains and crew know everything about the weather, islands, achorages, route etc. Many of them just want to sail and look up things on the way. Own research and input can be welcome and helpful.
  • Don’t book tickets, houses or trips ahead if you don’t ‘need’ to. You might end of boat-sitting on a ridiculous beautiful yacht.
  • Need a ferry to go to one of the islands in Greece? The internet is a wild wild west when you search for “Greek island hopping” or “ferry schedules in Greece.” The ferry system got privatized and the amount of ferry operators seems endless. Bluestarferries is a big one. Greekferries.gr can get you somewhere. As well as Rome2Rio.com, which was quite accurate when I checked transports options in Greece.
  • How about flights to go from one to another island? Flightconnections.com is a good resource to find out which connections exist. I don’t like to take airplanes and ferries. They are noisy, pollutive, crowded and not an adventurous means of travel. So let’s look for a boat powered by wind! More on finding out logistics on my travelblog (migrating the content soon to theOceanpreneur.com)
  • Greeka.com is a good resource for general Greek travelinfo.
  • FAQ. Which Greek Island do I love most? My hitch-sailing adventure has brought me to +40 islands in Greece. I visited most of the islands in the Dodekanese, the Ionian Sea and a few in the Cyclades. Every island is unique on it’s own, has something special and deserves dedicate exploration time!

Nice extra from updating my crewprofiles in july:  I got approached by a boat if I would like to join the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers + (ARC) with them. The ARC is when more than 100 boats together sail out for the ocean. This must be spectacular! I’ve started the feasibility, happiness and risk assessment on that one and I’m hopping on board next week in Nice for a test sail! Would you like to go on a hitch-sail adventure? I add more and more resources to this website to help you go on this kind of adventure! Questions about hitch-sailing in Greece? Leave a comment. If you would like personalized help on boathitchhiking, contact me via Clarity. And a few last words of inspiration… Sailing-in-greece-inspiration

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A happy message from the sunny seaside in Turkey. Because its people deserve it.

And for those curious what I am up to in Turkey.

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