That evening, as we race to meet a sunset-in-Bodrum deadline laid down by Jane (a family friend from New Zealand), we are yet again high on the delights of this vast open-air museum. We've made a small detour on the way, at Jane's suggestion. For several hours we've wandered all but alone along the cobbled highways and byways of the largely derelict village of Eskihisar. This heavenly place reveals itself a bit like ripe autumn pomegranates broken into by birds - the outer skin of the fruit represented by rustic stone and wooden buildings of the Ottoman period, its dried flesh by the remnants of Roman and Byzantine periods and its brilliant red seeds by the city at the heart of the matter, ancient Stratonikeia. In Eskihisar, these superimposed civilisations are visibly layered in a way we have rarely encountered before, and they enchant us.
"Sounds a bit mad," Jane had emailed me, "but it's worth seeing the sunset from our balcony..." We were there, by the skin of our teeth, having loitered in Stratonikeia to stroke the stones....on an empty stomach, no less. The Stratonikeia teahouse (above) was keeping winter hours and we'd forgotten the picnic. Dave barbecued a shoulder of New Zealand lamb bought in Kos (you can see Greece from their balcony). Jane cooked mashed potato and broccoli, then followed up with apple crumble - the quickest back home imaginable. We ate outdoors, in mid-November. If this is madness, bring it on.
|View from their balcony|
|View from the hotel|
My department is play by which I mean the short land trips which have muscled in on the sailing blog of late. Somewhere far past the lighthouse, right? We get a huge amount of pleasure out of these trips but I must admit, they're tricky to translate.
|Morning in Bodrum, off season|
We meandered through Bodrum castle for the best part of a day. It isn't just that the castle itself is in such good nick (despite the best efforts of the French navy who bombed it in 1915 - they succeeded only in knocking off the minaret which the Ottomans added to the Crusaders' chapel when they stormed the castle in the 16th century - what you see here is a new minaret); in each of the towers and halls, there is a spellbinding exhibit, some martial but many watery because the castle hugs within its walls a superb Museum of Underwater Archeology.
Look at this piece of glass, raised from the seabed after lying undisturbed for 2100 years.
Nearly 3000 years later, you have the Knights of St John turning up on the south Aegean shores and they build their castle - so you could say it's relatively modern, in the scheme of things.
I slide into a window seat in the English tower, which Henry IV started building in 1399, and trace with my finger "graffiti" etched into the stones by bored knights who would have warmed themselves in this spot, in the same filtered afternoon light, 600 years ago. What do the years of a human life count for? We leave behind us matter both exquisite and mundane, but our ability to love and be loved - which I consider to be the pinnacle of human achievement - has to be remade each time a human being is born and dies with them.
But no - they were writing a message to a friend who had just given birth to a daughter. Their banner reads "bienvenue Marion" - a message of love from Priene, sent by iPhone.
I'll leave you at Priene. Where better? It sits beneath yet another massive tower of rock and overlooks the fertile plains of the Meander river (from which comes the English word to meander) and out to the coast. Not a bad spot. The massive columns are what's left of a temple to Athena but there's detritus from this city tumbling all down the slope to the cotton fields below. Architecture in this neck of the woods took a wrong turn around the time Atuturk founded the modern republic, but out of town at least there's more than enough classic stuff to see them through the construction drought even if it lasts a millenium.