I began writing this on a SNOW DAY here in Istanbul. Who doesn’t LOOOOVE snow days? Although, I have to be honest…I am tired of winter and wet weather. Since October it has seemed to rain non-stop. I don’t think I’ve ever worn my rain boots this many days in my life. I live and work on opposite halves of the city (live in Asian-cross the bridge over to Europe to work… just a normal Istanbulu day)— if it’s not raining when I leave home in Asia, it’ll soon be raining in Europe. Every day I have taken my umbrella and anticipated the puddles, the hot sauna-like buses, and the roads that fill ever more with traffic as the usual walking commuters hop in cars. There’s a joke that taxi drivers here pray for rain… I don’t think it’s a joke. On rainy days the roads are full, making the way home even longer. This has me praying for summer. I know summer here is hot…and air conditioning isn’t prevalent …and there are mosquitoes… but please… Bring. It. On.
So, in getting to today’s post, I’ve been marking my calendar and dreaming up weekends away to one of my favorite Turkish summer places: Bodrum. Turkey is famed for having some of the best beaches and resorts in the world. There’s the Aegean Coast ranging from Çanakale to Bodrum as well as the southern side that borders on the Mediterranean and has such places as Fethiye and Kaş. The Aegean Coast (Ege in Turkish), lying closely to the Greek Islands, is speckled with olive groves and dotted in between with rocky cliffs and pebbly beaches. It’s the home of several historical settings from mythology. While I do adore some of the sandy beaches along the Mediterranean coast, the Aegean has always been my favorite. It’s waters are generally deep and cold. Of course like all resort areas, in summer nearly everywhere is crowded, but you can still find quiet havens to yourself. Everyone has their favorite spots and their favorite towns…and everyone will also happily tell you that their place is better than yours. I won’t do that, but I will say that I absolutely LOVE Bodrum. Bodrum itself is a whole area of beach villages and more of a ‘region’ although there is a ‘Bodrum Center’ that has the old castle and old fishing port. The city center of Bodrum is quite adorable…by day. At night it turns into the club ‘boom boom’ central with outrageously overpriced cocktails and music that’s too loud to stand for. However, it’s worth a visit in the daytime to walk around the castle and explore the old shopping district. Legend has it that Bodrum was actually Halicarnassus as mentioned by Homer in the Iliad. Because Bodrum itself is comprised of many small villages, I’ve never actually stayed in the center and instead asked locals for the best places that are quieter and not so ‘party scene’.
After suggestions, I have stayed now in both Gundoğan and Gümüşlük but also traveled around Turgutreis and Yalıkavak. Both Gundoğan and Gümüşlük are on the opposite side of the Bodrum Peninsula…making them more difficult to reach from the airport, but also less touristy. They tend to be more residential with tiny quaint little fishing harbors at the centers of each. My feelings about Gümüşlük are just those of pure love and contentedness.
The town center is tiny, you can walk it in all of 7 minutes, but it’s precious. Perfectly picturesque in every way imaginable. There are touristy shops leading down the hill as you get closer and closer to the water, selling “nazar boncuk” (evil eye) jewelry or wind chimes for the house. Along the waterfront, fish and meze restaurants line the shore. The restaurants are carefully planned and thought out as to how to make this area really just cute (for lack of a better word) and there are chairs and tables literally placed in the shallow parts of the water and dead trees decorated with twinkle lights and hanging evil eyes. Bougainvillea blooms everywhere and crawls through every crevice or crack in the walls and sidewalks. The water is turquoise in the shallow areas then deep cerulean farther out. The view from the water leads you to a scruffy looking island that juts out of it.
Gümüşlük is supposedly the ancient site of where once stood the city of Myndos which circled around a small rocky island known as “Rabbit Island” (Tavşan Adı). According to lore, an earthquake destroyed the city but ruins can continue to be explored on Rabbit Island which is still standing. You can easily walk across a sunken pathway to Rabbit Island, although I’ve never done it. To be honest the view is so gorgeous that I can never tear myself away from sitting at a cafe along the water to be bothered to walk over to the island. One day maybe. Hands down the best thing to do in Gümüşlük is to just go, walk the tiny village, find one of the numerous adorable cafes along the water, sit down and order a glass of wine. If you go early in the day, you can have light snacks (fried calamari or stuffed mussels), or if you go at night, you can enjoy the lights shimmering off the water while eating meze. It’s beautiful anytime of day and changes dramatically as well in terms of landscape.
The most famous “instagram” spots are at either Mimoza or Melengeç, towards the far end of the waterfront. I can’t say anything about the food at either, but I do love to plop myself down in one of the chairs sitting in the water at Melengeç and have a cold glass of rose (or a bottle). Everything along the waterfront in Gümüşlük is a bit overpriced to be honest but one recent discovery has been Nazmi Balık Restaurant. “Balık” means “fish” in Turkish and pretty much every time you see signs with this word you know it’s a Meyhane, a “rakı balık” restaurant–the kind serving meze and fresh fish. Nazmi, for its location, was a surprising find. The meze were delicious and the prices were reasonable. For meze we ordered atom(thick yogurt with hot chilli peppers and oil), biberiye yoğurt (thick yogurt with roasted bell peppers and garlic), kabak dolma (stuffed zucchini flowers), and kalamar ızgara (grilled ‘calamari’ or squid). Each meze was fresh, tasted of simple and clean flavors, and light. The grilled calamari was delicious. I wish we had ordered 2 portions of it. It wasn’t rubber-ey at all but instead buttery with charred pieces on the outside and it tasted of the sea itself. Eating and looking out at the water with the lights shimmering off of it… magical.
After we finished eating, we wanted something sweet but weren’t really satisfied with the dessert menu options. We stumbled across a little stand selling lokma (Turkish mini doughnuts, read about them here from a prior entry: https://girlmeetsturkey.blog/2017/10/08/reminiscing-over-summer-street-food/) that are kind of like a thin beignet soaked in syrup…but also fried crunchy like a funnel cake. They are sweet and greasy while still being light and airy. There’s just something about summertime and the beach that just feels right with doughnuts. It’s like being at a carnival or fair…watching families stroll around…kids running by, lights shimmering off the water, with portable fried dough in hand. It was the perfect way to end the night for the end of an overall perfect day. We came back a few times to the center, to walk around and eat again at Nazmi, each time feeling the same delight with the view. It doesn’t disappoint.
Still in Gümüşlük, but about a 10 minute drive away from the little town center, my favorite place to eat that I discovered on my last trip, was Limon Kahvaltı. It’s a breakfast (brunch) place, serving only Turkish Breakfast from mid morning to late afternoon, and I swear, it’s worth the flight alone. My love for brunch runs deep… pancakes every Sunday growing up is still a cherished memory that never fades, and I cannot underplay my intense relationship with all things ‘breakfast’. ‘Turkish Breakfast’ might be my favorite experience of Turkish cuisine. I can’t say it’s a meal, because it’s truly so much more than just ‘breakfast’ (Read a past blog post that goes in depth about Turkish Breakfast here: https://girlmeetsturkey.blog/2016/10/25/food-first-coffee-after-turkish-breakfast-and-a-recipe/).
At Limon Kahvaltı, the usual Turkish breakfast fair is elevated to a more elegant level. The setting alone of the restaurant is kind of like a ‘brunch paradise’ version of Alice in Wonderland with the Mad Hatter. The restaurant has tables perched on a cliff that overlooks the water. The furniture cleverly doesn’t match at all– antique chairs or sofas and wooden tables painted with mismatched table cloths. Flowers and cacti are potted everywhere. The result is that you are seated in the most perfect backyard overgrown garden with an incredible view. Then the food comes, again on all mismatched colorful little plates, and it just gets even more perfect. The food isn’t only pleasing to the eye but also is super tasty. This is because everything is made from local ingredients, so the taste is a tiny bit fresher, a tiny bit richer, and just a tiny bit sweeter than normal. This region of Turkey is known for olives, olive oil, jams, cheeses…and it shows in the quality and the flavor of the food.
Pictured above is the ‘Serpme’ breakfast spread, which basically is a family style order that consists of everything the restaurant has to offer and they fill the table. Local cheeses, honey, homemade jams, grilled hellim cheese, omelettes made to order, menemen (tomato egg casserole) that sizzles as it’s placed on the table, all accompanied by fresh cut cucumbers and tomatoes. As usual, all is served with tea in the traditional tulip shaped glasses.
The flight is an hour and a half and booked early enough, pretty cheap… I would seriously fly down there just to sit at this restaurant looking out over the water, cozied up under a huge morning glory vine. However, as all summer beach places, it’s probably not open until beach season. I have a few more months of waiting to do. For now I’ll have to keep counting the weeks, umbrella always at the ready.
**Addendum: since finishing this post, it hasn’t rained in almost a week now! Although I am still wearing my winter coat.