Bo­drum? It’s back... so get in there now!

As Turkey tries to lure back tourists af­ter a tur­bu­lent time, one re­sort beloved by Ir­ish hol­i­day­mak­ers is show­ing its best face to all who visit

Irish Daily Mail - - Travel - BY MICHAEL BUERK

KOCABAHCE is its name but ev­ery­body, even the Turk­ish peo­ple, calls it Sailors’ Par­adise.

It’s ex­actly that, a rus­tic res­tau­rant and home­made jetty at the head of a pocket fjord in prob­a­bly the pret­ti­est bay, on the loveli­est coast­line in the Aegean. It’s just around the cor­ner from Bo­drum.

My wife and I have been sail­ing here for 20 years. We’ve watched the palm trees and the ole­an­der grow up to frame the sim­ple wooden build­ing.

We’ve been greedy with the best meze in the Gulf and drunk raki late into the night with Mehmet, the mourn­ful lit­tle man who’s put his heart and soul into this won­der­ful place.

He has much to be mourn­ful about. The boats are largely gone. The tourist gangs of mid­dle-aged Ger­man men head for Croa­tia. The rest of the Euro­peans have moved to Greece. The flotil­las have fled.

It’s not par­adise lost, it’s par­adise aban­doned.

Turk­ish tourism was hit hard last year, and this year it seems worse. But tourists don’t know much about Turkey, and even less about ge­og­ra­phy, and are spooked by re­cent events. No mat­ter the Syr­ian war is roughly 1,000 miles away – as far as Ukraine is from us.

No mat­ter the bomb­ings have been in Istanbul and Ankara, farther away from some­where like Mar­maris than Cologne is from Dublin. The truth is that Turkey’s re­sorts feel free, calm, safe and de­ter­minedly sec­u­lar. Selfishly, all this is great.

The an­chor­ages this year are largely de­serted, the restau­rants and traders keen, verg­ing on des­per­ate. So we de­cided it was the ideal time to go to Bo­drum, a town we have avoided be­cause it is buzzy, fash­ion­able – the so­called St Tropez of Turkey.

Bo­drum, the Ir­ish well know as a tourist des­ti­na­tion they loved from Celtic Tiger days and be­fore.

An added in­cen­tive was a chance to sam­ple the new­est and pos­si­bly most lux­u­ri­ous de­vel­op­ment.

We squeezed our shabby lit­tle boat onto the jetty of the Ca­resse ho­tel, be­tween the ho­tel’s sleek gulet boat and its jet-set speed­boat, with such lack of skill we nearly de­stroyed them both.

The re­cep­tion com­mit­tee hid any alarm be­hind fixed smiles and stepped smartly for­ward with wel­come cock­tails and chilled tow­els. It’s taken five years and, ac­cord­ing to the lo­cals, €120mil­lion to build Ca­resse. The lo­ca­tion’s per­fect. It’s on the edge of Bo­drum, ranked down a steep hill­side above the sea. It looks over the most beau­ti­ful, un­spoilt view of Black Is­land and the Gulf of Gokova.

You can see it from nearly all of the 67 rooms and nine suites, let alone the in­fin­ity pools, the beach of im­ported sand, the two restau­rants, bars and acres of the finest Burmese teak deck­ing which, on its own, is said to have cost €1.75mil­lion. It’s de­ter­minedly mod­ern and high tech.

Ca­resse is do­ing bet­ter than many Bo­drum ho­tels. But it was launched when Bo­drum was get­ting a mil­lion tourists a year and this dras­tic down­turn makes even the very top end a (com­par­a­tive) bar­gain.

Ca­resse’s spa helped make it Euro­pean Re­sort of the Year. I’ve al­ways been sniffy about mas­sage. But the Thai ther­a­pists with fists like jack­ham­mers gave me the kind of brisk go­ing-over that had my mus­cles still singing at sun­down.

Bo­drum it­self was bet­ter than I re­mem­bered. At­trac­tive even.

The white-washed, blue-edged houses are charm­ing and the town is dom­i­nated by the Cas­tle of St Peter, built in the 15th cen­tury. It houses a fine un­der­wa­ter ar­chae­ol­ogy ex­hi­bi­tion – in­clud­ing the wreck of a ship that sank in 400 BC. Bo­drum has long been the town of choice for the Istanbul glit­terati and for­eign tourists who still go.

The down­turn has done us all a favour. The night­club party boats seem to have been an early ca­su­alty.

The peo­ple have al­ways been warm, the food ex­cel­lent, the coast­line beau­ti­ful and stud­ded with an­tiq­uity, the cli­mate ideal.

Now it’s even cheaper and we’re spoiled for choice.

Crys­tal blue: The har­bour at Bo­drum

Re­laxed: Michael Buerk

Sump­tu­ous: The ex­otic Ca­resse Ho­tel

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