Undiscovered Hideaway in Turkey’s ‘St. Tropez’
By Sophie Thornton
For those clients who have been there, done that and are always searching for a new resort destination, Bodrum (right), Turkey may just be the answer. Considered the “St. Tropez of Turkey,” Bodrum is a port town in the southwestern Aegean Region of the country just over 500 miles south of Istanbul. It is easily reached via a one-hour flight from Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport aboard Turkish Airlines or AtlasJet.
With the sea being the primary focus for all who visit here, Bodrum has a very relaxed ambiance. Resorts are set up to feature magnificent water views, many have outdoor restaurants so that one can enjoy the sunshine and refreshing sea breezes, and the décor is elegantly casual and comfortable. At many resorts, children are also welcome.
Visitors who seek a typical Turkish resort with an intimate ambiance may opt for The Marmara Bodrum, a 96-room luxury retreat — and member of Small Luxury Hotels — built into the hillside with spectacular views of St. Peter’s Castle and the Aegean Sea with the Greek Islands off in the distance.
French interior designer Christian Allart, who conceived many of the Turkish Marmara properties, did some of his best work here, taking typical historic Turkish items and repurposing them as furnishings and artwork. Old-fashioned square saddles that once helped riders sit atop camels are now used as coffee tables. Stones now function as doorknobs. Intricately carved wooden stamps once used to place patterns on textiles are now wall art. The result is stunning, rustic, and inviting.
The resort features two restaurants; a lounge bar and pool bar; a swimming pool with a panoramic vista; The Marmara Spa where the Spa Manager mixes all of her own essential oils including a chocolate oil which is said to make the skin incredibly soft; a fitness center; tennis and squash court; traditional Turkish Hammam; and a boat which can be rented for day sails on the Aegean. The property is just minutes from downtown Bodrum.
For something on a larger resort scale, the Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay features its own beach (reachable via golf cart) as well as a magnificent 5,500 square meter spa operated by Six Senses. A bit far from downtown Bodrum, this resort is perfect for those who want to get away from it all on a grand scale and make their resort stay the main focus. The Kempinski’s 148 suites are exquisitely decorated and guests can also enjoy a daily fitness program including Yoga and Nordic Walking, the KempiKids Club featuring a variety of day and nighttime activities for children, a swimming pool, heated indoor pool and whirlpool, a library, and six restaurants and bars as well as the Kids Restaurant Turtle Club. Visit www.kempinski-bodrum.com
For a resort on a much smaller scale, the Ada Hotel is a boutique-style Relais & Chateaux property with 14 beautifully decorated rooms in a rustic French style. There is a choice of accommodations in addition to a Family Suite. The Mahzen (Cellar) Restaurant is reminiscent of a medieval chateau, while the Ada Beach Restaurant is actually a five-minute walk from the hotel, yet offers outstanding views and delightful cuisine. Other facilities include a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, Turkish Bath, fitness room, and massage room. Visit www.adahotel.com
For travelers who want to add a little culture and history to their resort vacation, St. Peter’s Castle, built in the 15th century, overlooks the harbor and the International Marina and features a fascinating Museum of Underwater Archaeology. This museum has exhibits taking visitors back in time into the worlds of ancient mariners who were ultimately shipwrecked on Anatolian shores and to the medieval Age of Knights who built the castle from stones that once were part of one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient World: The Mausoleum of Halicarnasus.
Another point of interest in the town is the Ancient Theater, which dates back some 2,500 years to the Hellenistic Period. Only recently three huge backstage rooms as well as two long tunnels used by spectators and artists to pass under the theater were restored and opened to the public.
For those who want to venture out of their hotel at night, the city offers a wonderful selection of restaurants and nightlife with a good number of popular discos and clubs. Taxis are easy to get and transport you from your hotel to the club and back. For shoppers, Bodrum (above) is known for its leather goods, blue glass beads and natural sponges as well as carpets, sandals, and embroidery.
A visit to Bodrum features everything a sophisticated client seeks in a seaside vacation — a choice of resorts, wide variety of dining options, fabulous Turkish cuisine, warm Turkish hospitality, and the opportunity to explore some historic and cultural sights in addition to working on the perfect tan. For more information, contact the Turkish National Tourist Office, 877-367-8875; E-mail: email@example.com; www.tourismturkey.org
May 2008 Feature
Turkey: Land of the Sunrise
By Denise Mattia
Istanbul is full of adventure, full of discovery, full of life. It’s a city where 11 million inhabitants work and play hard in equal proportion. It’s like New York in overdrive. And, as in any cosmopolitan city with an exuberant youthful population, it’s not uncommon to see rules customized occasionally. I watched in amusement one evening while a motorcyclist, impatient with congested traffic, picked his way through the pedestrian Istiklal Caddesi, along the track of the 19th century funicular that trundles down the center of the avenue during the day. No one was the least perturbed. It’s just the way things are here.
Istiklal, a 15-minute walk from the Hyatt Regency Hotel (www.istanbul.regency.com) where I stayed last month, begins at the southern end of Taksim Square Park, across from the Independence Monument, an impressive edifice commemorating the establishment of the modern Turkish Republic in 1923. The memorial is positioned in the center of a wide circle, where a multicultural flurry of activity continues until sunrise. Residents of the five-star Marmara Hotel nearby can watch the fray or view the Bosporus from their windows (www.marmarahotels.com).
This district, known as Beyoglu, is a maze of streets full of boutique hotels, sidewalk restaurants, nightclubs and trendy shops. By contrast, the stately 19th century Pera Palas (www.Perapalas.com), which accommodated the rich and famous arriving on the Paris-Istanbul Orient Express, will retain its Old-World charm when it reopens later this year.
One of the smart “watering holes” in this area is the 360 Rooftop Café (www.360istanbul.com), which offers a fabulous view of the city and comes alive after sundown. Refreshed after a strong Turkish coffee, I moved on to the lively Cicek Pasaji, a 19th century restored courtyard that’s surrounded by rows of fast-food shops and good restaurants. Later in the evening I dined on chicken tandoor with jasmine rice at Cezayir (www.cezayir-istanbul.com), a former Italian operatic school converted into an elegant bistro.
Still, I hadn’t forgotten about the art and architecture (or the opulence) of Istanbul, which were my initial reasons for visiting the city. Sultans of the Ottoman Empire (14th to 20th centuries) added glory to their reigns by constructing buildings related to the Muslim religion, as well as public utility monuments such as marketplaces, citadels, fortifications, baths, palaces, fountains and bridges.
I headed due east from the Hyatt and the Hilton to the Dolmabahçe Palace, today, a 285-room structure. Built by Sultan Abdülmecid between 1842 and 1853 at a cost equivalent to 35 tons of gold, it stands at the edge of the Bosporus that runs through the city. European-influenced Baroque and Rococo designs in the form of crystal chandeliers (the largest weighing 4.5 tons), a gigantic Baccarat crystal balustrade, gilded ceilings, hand-woven silk carpets and innumerable objets d’art that contribute to the grandeur of the apartments.
Nearby, the Ciragan Palace Kempinski has hosted guests since its conversion to a hotel in 1991. In addition to luxurious rooms, the palace has a spa and fitness center. Prices to stay there are palatial, ranging from about $700 nightly for a standard room to $54,000 for the Grand Sultan’s suite or the one-bedroom Seaview Palace Suite costs about $10K.
Call 800-745-8883; www.kempinski-istanbul.com.
Crossing the Golden Horn, an inlet with a natural harbor where traders from distant lands once disembarked, I imagined what the city looked like centuries ago. No less crowded and exotic now than it must have been then, a cornucopia of meats, produce and condiments line the streets of the 17th century Spice Market. Luncheon at the popular Pandeli consisted of a steamy fish in papiote with a flakey spinach-filled pastry.
Farther south at the Grand Bazaar, few can resist stopping at stalls to look at inexpensive souvenirs, shiny ornaments, sensual fabrics and plush carpets in the labyrinth of 61 streets sheltered by roofs and Byzantine domes.
Eager to embrace additional wonders of Istanbul, I lingered at the thousand-year-old Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque, finally entering the high walls of the Topkapi Palace, the residence of Ottoman sultans from the 15th to 19th centuries. Since 1925 the palace buildings have been state museums, and their famous collections contain the magnificent Topkapi diamond in addition to golf-ball-sized rubies and emeralds.
The antiquities (many dating from the 6th century B.C.E.) housed in the Archaeological Museum include mosaics, friezes, statues and sarcophagi that come alive through the vision of photographer Ali Konyali, whose images appear as backdrops to the oeuvres.
Istanbul’s rich artistic expression is in evidence at the Istanbul Modern (www.istanbulmodern.org), the city’s first institution dedicated to contemporary art. Another “must see” is the santralistanbul, with its Center of Contemporary Arts, Museum of Energy and educational center. Built on the site of Istanbul’s first power station, the museum complex opened in Sept., 2007 and includes an art park and an excellent restaurant. Visiting the 50s retro-modern bathroom is worth the trip (www.santralistanbul.org).
For a knowledgeable and professional guide, E-mail Prowin Tour, at firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit www.prowintour.com.tr; request Gulgun Bogrek.
Turkish Airlines flies nonstop to Istanbul from New York and Chicago and has a code-share partnership with American Airlines. In March Turkish Airlines had joined the Star Alliance. Visit www.thy.com
For general information, contact the Turkish Tourist Office, 212-687-2194; E-mail email@example.com; www.tourismturkey.org
July 2007 Feature
Turkey’s Endless Mysteries Revealed
By Tom Bross
For a proper grasp of Turkey as an immensely appealing travel destination, start by backtracking through 9,000 years of history. Then map-read this democratic republic’s dimensions—a three-percent portion of Thracian terrain on Europe’s southwestern edge, dwarfed by Turkish Anatolia’s lengthy vastness, across the Bosphorus waterway in Asia Minor.
Recently, JAX FAX joined an agents’ fam trip organized by FLO USA, a Florida-based tour operator devoted exclusively to marketing Turkish travel products since 1989.
Choices of 15 all-inclusive tours (12-16% commissionable) are detailed in the company’s sales guide. Offerings range from six- and seven-day programs, focused primarily on Istanbul to regional and country-wide packages covered by 10- to 30-day itineraries. Available is a travel protection plan provided to clients at no surcharge.
Must-Sees in Istanbul
The capital of four mighty empires over different periods of history, inhabited by 11 million-plus people living in bustling European and Asian districts, is on UNESCO’s World Heritage list and will be crowned as a European City of Culture in 2010.
Two of Istanbul’s 2,600 mosques are world-famous edifices, “musts” on any first-timers’ sightseeing tour. At one side of Sultanahmet Square: Haghia Sophia, more than 1,400 years old, beautified by Byzantine mosaics and now a museum. Opposite, festooned with six minarets: the Blue Mosque, so-called because blue Iznik tiles cover interior surfaces. Nearby, on a promontory overlooking the Bosphorus, gardens and courtyards surround 15th-century Topkapi Palace, a third “must.” The palace’s treasury showcases the fabled Topkapi dagger (with three gigantic emeralds), an 86-carat diamond and a 16th-century gold-plated imperial throne.
The vaulted-ceilinged Grand Bazaar, in existence since the mid-1450s, contains 5,000 booths peddling heaping carpets, jewelry, textiles, leather goods, clothing and random souvenirs. Close to that is the smaller but exotic Spice Market dating from 1660. For contrast, visit the Istiklal Gaddesi pedestrian shopping corridor in the Euro-hip Beyoglu district that leads to Taksim Square. Also in Beyoglu: the high-rise Mamara Pera (www.themamarahotels.com), one of FLO USA’s preferred hotels for groups.
Treasures of Asiatic Antiquity
After a half-hour ferryboat ride from Istanbul’s piers, travelers set foot on what seems to be another continent. From Cannakkale’s Tusan Hotel (www.tusanhotel.com), Aegean coastal roads curve south to the remnants of Hellenistic Troy as well as Pergamon, best known for its hilltop Acropolis.
But Ephesus dominates the regional scene. In Biblical annals, St. Paul, St. John the Evangelist and the Blessed Virgin Mary came here during early A.D. decades, when this thriving city of half a million people had maximum clout as capital of imperial Rome’s Asian realm. Excavations make it easy to envision the original layout: colonnaded main street (paved with marble blocks), temples, Agora marketplace, Roman baths, amphitheater (24,000 seats), Hercules gate, double-level library of Celsus. FLO USA books tour participants in the five-star KoruMar Hotel, a clifftop seafront property. Visit www.korumar.com.tr
Now for two geologic oddities on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, reason enough for excursions into the Turkish heartland. First: Pamakkale and its white travertine terraces, a “cotton castle” overflowing with mineral springs. Then, eastward in central Anatolia: Göreme National Park’s surreal landscape of lava-shaped cones and pinnacles—their insides carved into Byzantine-era hidden cities. Tunnels lead to chapels adorned with Christian frescoes.
A few miles from those wonders, roads skirt 2,000-year-old aqueducts. Artisans in Avanos paint blue-on-white Ottoman motifs onto pottery evoking Greco/Roman influences in its remarkably intact amphitheater. Built circa-162 A.D., the 12,000-seat theater hosts each summer’s Aspendos International Opera & Ballet Festival.
Arrival in Antalya places travelers in a sizeable Mediterranean port that dates from 159 B.C., with Bronze Age artifacts and Roman walls visited on FLO’s tours. Jet-setters aim for Turkish Riviera discos, boutiques and yacht marinas. FLO USA treats clients to the designer-chic Marmara Antalya (www.johansens.com/mamaraantalya), an absolutely five-star property with two dozen poolside lofts in a revolving annex.
Ankara’s premiere visitor attraction, is the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations—displaying statues, figurines, massive sculpted reliefs and primitive tools that time-travel us to seven diverse cultures from prehistoric times onward.
Final stop en route back to Istanbul brings tour goers to Bursa, its central marketplace recalling 15th-century silk-trading prosperity. Four mosques stand in the immediate vicinity—where FLO USA prefers the upscale Almira Hotel (www.almira.com.tr) for overnight stays.
Turkish Airlines flies nonstop between New York JFK and Chicago ORD to Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport (THY). The carrier code-shares with American Airlines. Call 800-874-8875; www.thy.com
For information about FLO USA, call 888-435-6872; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.flo-usa.com. For more information, call the Turkish Tourist Office, 877-367-8875; www.tourismturkey.org