Bozburun

Springtime travelers to Bodrum or Marmaris who make a side trip to Bozburun will be bowled over by the scent of wild thyme and French lavender.

I t is one of those days when spring showers the sea with pollen. The Bozburun peninsula is just beginning to flaunt the beauty nature has bestowed on it. The waterfalls at the village of Turgut exuberantly drench the roots of the cedar trees. European jays and blue-winged Eurasian rollers seek remote niches to build their nests. The almond trees are exploding with blossoms. An aged sponge diver is spinning a tale about the cats sleeping next to his nets for the grandchild ensconced in his lap. The beekeepers have gone to check on their hives. At Selimiye a banana tree flaps its leaves in the garden of one of the houses. Music drifting over from the open window of a car parked at the brink of a precipice conjures up memories of Bülent Ortaçgil, who once found his inspiration in the Bozburun archipelago: “The song of the scents rises from the depths of the secluded bays...” The thyme and French lavender listen blissfully to the song... for Ortaçgil speaks their language.

IN SWEET REPOSE
Below, a sailboat slashes through the blue waters like a white knife, heading for Orhaniye. An enormous fish leaps out of the water in front of the little wooden quays at Söğüt. And one is overcome by an irresistible urge to shout, to the waves, to the islands, to the distance: “Hey! It’s great to be alive! Hey, Fisherman of Halicarnassus, can you hear me? Greetings from Bozburun...” Will the sea be able to carry my greetings to the Fisherman? Who knows? But the divers preparing to explore the sunken ships have certainly heard me. So has the man brandishing his hammer over the backbone of the yacht he’s building at Bozburun dockyard. So have the old horses put out to graze quietly in the meadows at the edge of the dilapidated old houses in the village of Taşlıca. The carob, olives and fig trees were the first to hear. Such a serene, peaceful peninsula is Bozburun that if an oar slaps the water someone is sure to hear.
The Bozburun that gives its name to the peninsula is 50 km from Marmaris and dotted with villages each more charming than the last: Hisarönü, Orhaniye, Turgut, Selimiye, Bayırköy, Söğüt, Kızılger and Taşlıca... And at the tip, Serçe Limanı (Sparrow Harbor) and Bozukkale. Its inhabitants are expert yacht builders, having launched a virtual ‘Blue Cruise Fleet’ over the years! As they carefully paint their latest masterpieces, fishermen and their children mend nets in front of the rock formations known locally as Gemen Cove. The women of Bozburun work as hard as their menfolk, pursuing their livelihoods of sponge-diving and fishing well into their
seventies.

WALKING ON WATER
There is an interesting beach at Orhaniye. According to geographers, the 600-meter-long road that cuts through the center of the bay at a spot known as Kızkumu (‘Maiden’s Beach’) is a natural sand bar created by the shifting sands. Laughing and frolicking, people walk here literally ‘on the water’, not a few of them for its therapeutic properties. The legend of Kızkumu has it that pirates once attacked these shores, going in pursuit of the most beautiful maiden in the village. Filling her skirt with the ruddy sand, the girl took off at a run. When she reached the shore, she kept on running over the sand that spilled from her skirt, until suddenly the sand ran out and she vanished forever in the drink. The beach here is packed to capacity on summer days. Those who want to go to the villages of Inbükü and Amazon or the island of Dişlice can rent boats from the fishermen’s colony at Kızkumu.
The hundreds of yachts moored at the marina at the entrance to Orhaniye Bay cause drivers on the road to stop dead in their tracks. For whoever sees the yachts and sailboats here can’t help but pull over to gaze at this marina peeking through the pines. And smack in the middle of Orhaniye Bay lies an island that recalls the pirate legend, and on it, a ruined castle. Three kilometers from Orhaniye, the village of Turgut is a favorite with tourists for its famous waterfalls and an astonishing landmark known as ‘the Pyramid’. A popular stop on jeep safari tours is the shade of the trees that surround its waterfalls, each of whose seething ‘witch’s cauldrons’ forms a natural pool. Wooden bridges span the two banks of the stream, while an old mill on shore is the sole relic of the past.

A GIGANTIC AQUARIUM
A pyramid-like structure stands on the road from the village to the waterfalls. It is actually slightly misleading to say that it stands ‘on the road’. The villagers have dubbed this structure, perched on a rock some 35-40 meters high, a ‘türbe’ (cone-shaped mausoleum). If you make the ascent you will see bits of cloth tied to tree branches as votive offerings. Made of stone, the structure consists of three sections. Most of the first section, which dates to the 2nd century B.C., is below the ground. It is thought to have been built either as a tomb or a watch tower. A stone chamber was later constructed on top of it. The sarcophagus over the entrance, as well as ‘excavations’ by treasure-hunters, indicate that it was built in the Hellenic architectural style. The third section is a pointed dome that sits atop it like a dunce cap. It is this dome, built in the Byzantine period, that renders the structure so intriguing.

SUNKENSHIPS GALORE
With its secluded coves, Bozburun peninsula offers several safe havens for yachts and ships. Nonetheless it has not escaped battering by many a Mediterranean storm, and its shores are littered with shipwrecks on the sea bottom. One of them, found to the west of the Sığ Liman (‘shallow harbor’) in 1973, was a commercial ship carrying a cargo of two thousand amphorae. The famous ‘Sparrow Shipwreck’ (Serçe Batığı) on exhibit at the Bodrum Underwater Archaeological Museum is another local find, this time an 11th century galleon. But the area that most excites diving enthusiasts at Bozburun today is the open sea off the Cape of Apostol. The peninsula is suitable for yachting on all sides. Just be sure to check the wind before you set out; otherwise your return could be difficult. More than a spit of land, Bozburun is like a balcony jutting into the sea. Together with Reşadiye peninsula, it is one of the world’s most beautiful flower gardens. And now, in springtime, it is preparing to steal your heart away with its heady scents and the gentle breezes that waft them.