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A Frenchman, a Mercedes and a Morceau of Limburger
I had an encounter with the southern Dutch province of Limburg, long before my visit to its capital, Maastricht, last month. It was a close encounter of the rind kind—with Limburger cheese—in France.
As a teenager, I spent a couple of summers with a French family in Hossegor, a beach town located on the Basque Coast. Albert Barrieu, husband to Marie-Josee and father of seven, was a man of taste, especially for old things. For starters he had a collection of pre-Colombian and African artifacts, amassed in Peru and Africa after World War II and coveted by museum curators all over the world. At the family’s main residence in Pouillon, also a small town in the Basque Country, the commode in one of the bathrooms was encased in a heavily carved, dark-wood chair. Albert told everyone it was “the throne of the queen of Cameroon.”
Most of Albert’s antiques were displayed in the 18th-century stone house in Pouillon. The stucco villa in Hossegor (which he named Chasquitambo, after a town in northern Peru) was a museum under construction. During the summers I spent there, Albert filled it with antiques, mostly purchased from dealers in southwestern France. He could sniff out antiques like pig sniffing out a black Perigord truffle.
Albert was a regional sales manager for Gaston Jaunet, a women’s ready to wear firm. His oldest child, Dominique, and I accompanied him on some of his summer sales trips.
It was on one of those trips that I encountered Albert’s passion for old cheese—old Limburger cheese, to be precise.
One morning as I was finishing my breakfast at the long, pine table in Chasquitambo’s dining room, and was ready to hit the plage sauvage (a favorite with surfers), Albert asked Dominique and I to accompany him to St. Jean de Luz, a fishing port not far from the Spanish border.
I was thrilled to have a chance to see more of France’s Basque region. But Dominique, normally a dutiful daughter, refused to go.
Was it because Albert would be driving the black Mercedes sedan, and one of us would be peering at the scenery from the back seat, through the clothing samples? No, that was not why she refused to go.
Was it because her father threw a fit in just about every restaurant he took us to? Once, in Hendaye, he advised me that the best French food is served in restaurants with the shabbiest exteriors. He found a run-down restaurant, ordered poulet basquaise for lunch, took one mouthful and pronounced it to be “as filthy as the restaurant floor.” As we left the restaurant, Albert told me that very occasionally there were exceptions to his French restaurant rule.
No, Dominique did not care about her father’s restaurant rows. The reason she did not want to go with him was because of the Limburger cheese that he kept in the glove compartment of the Mercedes and ate as he drove the French national roads at Le Mans speed.
I volunteered to sit next to Albert. But Dominique insisted that even if she sat behind the clothing samples, they would not be a strong enough barrier to the smell of the cheese. “Deglas,” she said, which is a stronger word than “disgusting.”
Marie-Josee came to her daughter’s rescue, telling Albert that Dominque had to help the other children with their summer homework. Alas, she made no excuse for me.
Albert put on his misshapen Panama hat, stuffed more clothing samples onto the rack over the Mercedes’ back seat, and off we went to St. Jean de Luz.
Not 20 miles into the trip, Albert said he was hungry. I knew what that meant: time for the terrible, smelly cheese. He popped open the glove compartment, and I held my breath. He pulled out a crumpled piece of white paper, and I kept holding my breath. A small piece of cheese fell out of it onto the floor.
William Shakespeare had it right, when he wrote in “The Merry Wives of Windsor” that Limburger was “the rankest compound of villainous smell that ever offended a nostril.”
I stuck my head out the window and took a deep breath as Albert reached for the cheese on the floor and popped it into his mouth.
The boutique owner we were going to see in St. Jean de Luz was one of Albert’s best clients. She was as impossibly chic as she was frank.
As we pulled the samples out of the car, she implored, “Albert, please keep the cheese in the glove compartment. You are selling Gaston Jaunet, not the Limburger line.”
In Maastricht, where I attended the Association of European Journalists’ annual meeting in November, I learned two things about Limburger cheese: first, it is mostly made in Germany now; and second, there is a great benefit to its much-mocked odor. A 2006 study, which showed that the malaria mosquito is attracted equally to the smell of Limburger and to the smell of human feet, earned a Nobel Prize in the area of biology. Limburger has now been placed in strategic locations in Africa to combat the epidemic of mosquito-borne malaria.
A French Musketeer in Maastricht
In another French connection, Maastricht is where the captain of musketeers, Charles Ogier de Batz de Castelmore, also known as Compte d’Artagnan, fell in battle in 1673. He is the person upon whom Alexandre Dumas based d’Artagnan, the hero of “The Three Musketeers” and other novels.
In June 1673, as part of the Franco-Dutch War of 1672-78, the French laid siege to Maastricht. As Compte d’Artagnan, commander of King Louis XIV’s First Musketeers Company, prepared to attack the city’s Tongerese Gate on the night of June 25, he was killed by a single musket shot. The night attack was portrayed in “The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later,” the third and last of Dumas’s D’Artagnan Romances.
Maastricht surrendered to French troops on June 30, 1673. The French occupied the city until 1678. It was subsequently restored to Dutch rule. The French again took the city in 1748, during the War of Austrian Succession, but it was restored to the Dutch that year.
The French would return once more in 1794, annexing Maastricht to what would become the First French Empire. The following year, it became the capital of a French province (departement de la Meuse-Inferieure).
In Maastricht’s city park (Stadspark) there is a cast-iron statue of d’Artagnan drawing his sword. Dumas wrote, “A person who doubts himself is like a man who would enlist in the ranks of his enemies and bear arms against himself. He makes his failure certain by himself being the first person to be convinced of it.”
That is what the statue of d’Artagnan looks like he is thinking. Or is he thinking, as Dumas also wrote, “I prefer rogues to imbeciles because they sometimes take a rest.”
Once a decade a world horticultural exposition, Floriade, is held in the Netherlands. The sixth Floriade, themed “Living Nature,” will be held from mid-April until mid-October 2012 in Venlo.
“In addition to the most exquisite and exceptional flowers, plants, trees, fruit and vegetables, each day at the expo features a cultural program of music, dance, literature, theater and visual art from all over the world,” Sven Stimac, director of projects for Floriade 2012, told the Association of European Journalists.
Floriade 2012 aims to get visitors to use “all their senses, so they can experience the influence horticulture has on the quality of their daily lives; be part of the theater in nature, get closer to the quality of life,” according to its organizers.
Venlo, the site of the world expo, is located in the province of Limburg, close to the borders of Belgium and Germany. “More than 30 million people live within a two-hour distance by car,” Stimac said, adding, “The Greenport Venlo agrologistics area and the Lower Rhine Agrobusiness region together form the largest area of horticultural production in Europe.”
Besides the horticultural highlights, there is another reason to visit Floriade 2012: the green buildings and landscaping.
Exhibitions of this nature often leave a legacy in the form of spectacular buildings, such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Atomium in Brussels and, after Floriade 1960, the Euromast in Rotterdam, Stimac said.
“This Floriade will also have a number of imposing structures. The buildings and landscapes will leave a legacy by becoming the site of GreenPark Venlo: an innovative, sustainably developed business park where economy, ecology and knowledge transfer go hand in hand,” the organizers said.
Floriade 2012’s organizers anticipate more than 2 million visitors, and 35,000 peak-day visitors.
Press Freedom and ‘Jeans’ in Ukraine
There was much revelry at the Association of European Journalists’ meeting in Maastricht, notably at the dinner hosted by the Provincial Council of Limburg in the building where the Maastricht Treaty was signed on Feb. 7, 1992, and at the APG Group-hosted dinner among the ruins of an ancient Roman temple and forum.
But there was also much to dampen the spirits of the journalists, especially the presentations on media freedom in Europe and two former Soviet republics, Belarus and Ukraine.
In their report on freedom of speech in Ukraine, where the media benefited from the Orange Revolution, Arthur Rudzitsky, Diana Dutsyk and Mykhailyua Skoryk wrote that journalists are often pressured by media company owners. “Most owners of the media in Ukraine have political interests and partially implement them through the media,” they wrote.
Media companies are so cash-strapped that they mostly depend on “donations” for their operating capital. “The number of such media is increasing because of the advertising market’s fall by 40 percent for the first half of 2009, compared to the same period in 2008,” they wrote, adding, “The main donors for the media are Ukrainian businessmen and state and local budgets. This grant nature of media has led to mass layoffs in the media … and the closure of many television projects and programs.”
While the Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice opened access to the state register of print media and news agencies last December, “this information is still not enough to make a complete picture of the owners of Ukrainian media companies. In particular, owners of leading Ukrainian TV channels, according to the documents, are offshore companies; so it is difficult to determine who actually owns them,” they wrote.
In 2009, there was a spike in the number cases of violence against journalists. These appalling cases include:
- On Feb. 16, someone blew up a car owned by Valery Vorotnyk, owner of the Antenna media group, headquartered in Cherkasy.
- On March 16, unknown assailants beat up Anatoly Ulayanov, journalist, art critic and editor of the Kiev-based Prosa Web site, who has criticized the National Expert Committee on the Protection of Public Morals.
- On June 24, Kiev Pharmacy guards used tear gas against a TV crew attempting to film a stand-up in front of the company.
The saddest statement in their report was “most journalists rarely come to court in cases when the violation of their rights takes place because they do not believe in justice and do not consider it worth their time; and the rest of the journalists simply do not know how to do it. The cases that reach the court are not always resolved in favor of journalists.”
Not stated in their report was the corruption of journalists.
“ ‘Dschinza’, which means ‘jeans,’ is the name commonly used for the system of paid contributions, as the money vanishes immediately into the jeans pocket of the journalists. That this practice forms part of everyday journalistic life is an open secret among those working in the media in Ukraine,” journalists Cristoph Kersting and Dorthe Ziemer wrote in the latest edition of Kontakt, the newsletter of the social and cultural arm of the Erste Bank Group in Central and Eastern Europe.
“Volodymyr Mostovoj, editor in chief of the critical political weekly newspaper Zerkalo Nedeli, also complains about the dubious work methods of many of his colleagues. He believes that one reason for the attitude of many journalists to professional ethics lies in their poor training. ‘When I studied journalism, in what was still the Soviet Union, there were three faculties in the entire Ukraine where I could study. Today there are, believe it or not, 41 – of questionable quality,’ ” wrote Kersting and Ziemer, whose report has been picked up by Deutsche Welle and other media outlets.
Apple Park Hotel’s Polished Service
The Association of European Journalists’ meeting was held at the Golden Tulip Apple Park Hotel, located in a sports park area not far from Maastricht’s historical center.
The hotel’s Big Apple theme had a few sour notes, like the dark halls with shadow boxes filled with New York mementos hanging outside the guest rooms. The one outside my room contained pictures from the rowdy American television comedy of the 1960s, “The Three Stooges,” and Grand Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. As a child, I could not stomach the three knuckleheads. It was even harder to do so as a hungover adult entering a hotel room.
The hotel service was sweet and polished, especially at the front desk and in the Dreamz restaurant.
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BRUSSELS, Belgium–”L’Angleterre est une nation de boutiquiers,” Napoleon Bonaparte was supposed to have said disparagingly of the preparedness of England to fight France. If the emperor were alive today, perhaps he would dismiss the pre-Christmas collapse of the government by saying that Belgium is a nation of waffle merchants.”Belgique est une nation de marchands de gaufres.”
“Oh, yes. They sell a lot of waffles here. And they waffle a lot,” a Pakistani immigrant, who owns a convenience store near the city’s Grand Place, said of Belgian politicians.
He said he much preferred the political waffling in Washington, where he drove a taxi for 12 years, to that of Brussels. “In Washington, it is Democrats and Republicans. So simple. Here, the political situation is so complicated.”
On Dec. 30, King Albert named Flemish Christian Democrat Herman Van Rompuy as prime minister to head a revived five-party coalition in a nation facing a bank crisis, as well as impending recession and a continuing ethnic rift. Two days later, Van Rompuy received the backing of parliament in a vote of confidence.
Van Rompuy, replaces his party colleague Yves Leterme, who resigned amid allegations of political meddling in the bailout of Fortis bank.
“It’s the same coalition with the same five parties,” Pascal Delwit, president of the Center for Political Studies at the Universite Libre de Bruxelles, told Reuters. “But Van Rompuy is a little bit more subtle than Yves Leterme.” Belgium’s coalition comprises the Flemish Christian Democrat Party, Flemish Liberal Party, Francophone Liberal Party, Francophone Christian Democrats and Francophone Socialist Party.
Delwit said Van Rompuy could be more successful in the job than Leterme because he was more attuned to the linguistic and political divisions between the poorer, French-speaking south and the richer, Flemish, Dutch-speaking north.
“I think he knows better the French-speaking people, the French-speaking politicians, and in this way, he is more engaged in compromise. I think perhaps he will do better,” Delwit said.
Van Rompuy will need all his old-pol skills of compromise to keep this new government-the third in 12 months–together beyond regional elections due later this year. That is when the acrimonious divisions between Belgium’s Flemish and the French-speaking Walloons will come to the fore, according to the BBC’s Olana Lungescu in Brussels.
Van Rompuy had long resisted taking the premiership, but is seen as a steady pair of hands, after successfully cracking down on public debt as budget minister in the 1990s, Lungescu said. He has promised to start out by taking over his predecessor’s plan to battle the economic crisis.
“Nothing is simple in our country, but what is important is that we have a government to lead with seriousness, stability and serenity,” Elio di Rupo, leader of the Francophone Socialist Party, told Reuters.
“Belgium’s economic and political mood is as dark as its chocolate.” The headline topped the Jan. 5 “European Diary” by Irish Times writer Jamie Smyth.
Over the holidays, British tourists in Brussels bought chocolates-dark, milk and white–as though they were on a campaign to lift the nation’s gloomy mood. Piece of cake for the Brits, who eat the most chocolate per capita (22 lbs a year) of anyone in the world, according to Datamonitor.
As soon as the high-speed Eurostar trains from London arrived in Brussels, the Brits marched to the chocolate shops all over the city. From the artisanal (Pierre Marcolini and Frederic Blondeel) to the ancien regime (Corne de la Toison d’Or, Mary, Neuhaus and Wittamer) to the nouveau arrivee (Chinese chocolatiers who sell lower-quality boxed chocolates piled haphazardly on counters), the British choc-troops demonstrated an impressive use of their credit power and came away with the spoils. Arms laden with bespoke and assorted ballotin boxes filled with pralines (the Belgian name for filled chocolates), their victory was sweet.
At Christmastime, the area between the Bourse (stock exchange) and the Place St. Catherine becomes a chalet city. Hundreds of small wooden chalets surround the great, gray Bourse building, guarded by two stone lions, sprawl across the broad Avenue Anspach and fill Place St. Catherine, the site of the old fish market.
Vendors come from all over Europe, and even North and South America, to sell their wares in the festive chalets, from French foie gras and olive oil soap to Flemish gluhwein (mulled wine) and gumdrops to Argentine alfajores (caramel sandwich cookies) and Andean chullos (knitted caps with flaps and long ties).
No question, these folk-patterned caps were the hit of the 2008 Christmas market. At the Place St. Catherine, you saw them on the heads of skaters whizzing around the ice rink, on parents watching their children ride the fantastic merry-go-rounds, on red-cheeked babies in prams, on lovers sharing a milk chocolate-filled crepe geante, on groups of teenagers waiting to ride the big Ferris wheel.
Curiously, you saw the caps pulled tightly over the headscarves on the heads of teenage Muslim girls. I watched three teens trying them on at one of the chalets. After some discussion about whether they should remove their headscarves before trying on the caps, one unruly-haired teen asserted in French: “I think it would be correct, and chic, to wear the hat over the hijab.”
And lo, at a Christmas market chalet, an Islamic fashion trend was born in Brussels.
Photos: Dorcas Shurberg
Here are a few restaurants to try in Brussels:
Aux Armes de Bruxelles (classic Belgian dishes like mussels and fries; and waterzooi, chicken or fish in a creamy soup with vegetables), near the Grand Place.
Taverne du Passage (classic Belgian dishes), in the Galerie de la Reine near the Grand Place.
L’Entree des Artistes (classic Belgian, with a few hearty Italian dishes, like a single sheet of homemade cannelloni, filled with spinach and ricotta, topped with a tomato and smoked salmon cream sauce) in the Grand Sablon.
La Belle Maraichere (seafood) in the Place St. Catherine.
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BODRUM, Turkey — Gulet is pronounced the way it is written. This seems to bother visitors who come to cruise the Aegean coast on these traditional Turkish motorsailers. Actually, one of the nice things about Turkey is that most words are pronounced as they are written–like Bodrum, the southeastern harbor town which is a center for “Blue Voyage” gulet cruising.
Gulets trace their ancestry to Turkish fishing and sponge-diving boats. But today’s ships owe more to the 1940s and the introduction of diesel engines or, you might argue, more to the 1980s and the introduction of large numbers of European tourists to the Turkish coast.
Yet gulets remain extremely distinctive. They are hand-built entirely of wood. While other materials could be substituted for wood, wood craftsmanship is still highly prized in Turkey.
Gulets vary in size from 50 feet to over 100 feet in length, with broad, rounded sterns and heavy wooden keels to facilitate sailing. But mostly, they ply the coast under power–their crews hoist the sails only when breezes are stiff, which is seldom in the summer months.
There are two ways to charter a gulet. You either book a gulet for a week, fill it with your friends and select your route through the Turkish and Greek isles, or you book a cabin–a “cabin charter”–and the crew selects the itinerary. The latter has many advantages, not the least of which is that the crew tend to head to coves close to their villages and one member, or more, will set off to visit his family, leaving the passengers to swim in the extraordinarily clear Aegean waters or lounge on the divans in the ship’s stern.
While the tourist destinations on Turkey’s Aegean coast are rapidly being developed, the rest of the shoreline remains as unpopulated it was in the time of Herodotus, the 5th-century Greek historian who was born in Bodrum. Pristine mountains slide deep into the sea, allowing the gulets to anchor very close to shore, and passengers to swim quite easily to the spotty beaches. (A warning: Most Bodrum Peninsula beaches are slivers of sand, strewn with stones and infested with sea urchins. So when you swim from ship to shore, it is a good idea to wear or carry some kind of foot protection.)
Gulets sail from Bodrum, but also from Marmaris in the Eastern Mediterranean, and a few other coastal locations. American tourists are few and Europeans are plentiful on Turkey’s Aegean coast. The close German-Turkish connection has made the coast a prime destination for German tourists, and even for corporate retreats. We learned on our cruise that DaimlerChrysler had hired a fleet of gulets for customers and staff.
We had been hoping to take a gulet cruise for several years and finally hooked up–via the Internet–with a tour operator that offered us a seven-day cabin charter, including food, for $730. It was so inexpensive we feared that we might be sailing on an untidy ship with brigands for crew. In fact, although we were on the low end of the luxury scale, we wanted for nothing and were served by an indefatigable three-man crew
Our cabin was comfortable with three windows, not portholes, and a bathroom with a shower, sink and toilet. Hot water was plentiful when the captain had the generator turning–and he happily fired it up whenever we wished. We were asked not to put paper in the toilets which, not to put too fine a point on it, is because the gulets discharge directly into the sea. It was up to us to keep our small cabins tidy, and we were provided with one set of linens and towels for the duration of the cruise.
We were 10 passengers, one of whom, Deniz Ugur, a Turkish-speaking German who books gulet cruises and has taken 30 of them, said our gulet would only rate a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10. But he added that he preferred the gulets at the low end of the market because they were more authentic than the luxurious ones.
If your idea of cruising is perpetual attendance at the buffet line, then the gulet experience is not for you. At three set times a day, we ate traditional Turkish meals, dominated by eggplant, tomato and string bean salads; bulgur, rice and orzo; yogurt; black and green olives; sheep-milk cheese; small servings of meat and fish; fresh fruit; and an occasional cake. All our meals were accompanied by fresh Turkish bread, purchased in the villages and towns that dot the peninsula. These oval-shaped loaves owe something to French bread, and are as common in Turkish villages and towns as baguettes are in Paris. One crew member did almost all of the cooking, in addition to his many other duties. And a French couple aboard our gulet, the Skorpio, who operate a restaurant in Lyon, had nothing but praise for the food.
Turkey is proud of its wine-making, which dates back to 3000 B.C. We found the red wines–especially those of Villa Doluca–to be extremely good, and the white and rose wines to be less memorable. Over the years, the price of Turkish wines has shot up, and on the Skorpio, a bottle was going for about $25–neither a bargain nor too punitive. Raki, an aniseed-flavored grape brandy, similar to Greek ouzo, was very popular with the guests and the crew alike.
Which brings us to the issue of Islam. You are little aware that Turkey is a Muslim country, except for the calls to prayer in the towns. The coastal tourist destinations are cosmopolitan and secular–few Muslim women wear headscarves and European women go topless on the beaches. However, as you travel east in Turkey, you are much more aware of the influence of Islam.
Turkey remains one of the safest tourist destinations in the Middle East. Driving on Turkish roads is more of a threat to one’s personal safety than terrorism.
While cruising the Aegean can be inexpensive and quite joyous, getting there is something else. If you are traveling from the United States, you have to fly to Istanbul and transfer to a local carrier to your coastal destination. We flew on Turkish Airlines from Istanbul to Bodrum. It was short flight and a short ride to the harbor. Our fellow French cruisers, who had not been well advised, flew to Izmir and then drove two-and-a-half hours to Bodrum.
The gulet operator offered us a few shore excursions, which included a visit to a white-sand beach on Cleopatra’s Island, in the Gulf of Golkova. Legend had it that the Mark Antony had the sand brought to the island’s cove from Eqypt for his lover, Cleopatra. We had the tiny beach to ourselves in late May. But during the summer months, it is overrun with excursion-boat passengers.
On a day trip to Dalyan, we took a short boat ride through the reed beds of the Dalyan River to Iztuzu Beach (called “Turtle Beach” by local operators). The beach is one of the last nesting sites in the Mediterranean of the loggerhead turtle. We did not see any loggerheads on the beach, just lager-head tourists.
Also on the riverboat ride, we saw the splendid facades of Lycian rock tombs at Kaunos, an ancient city near Dalyan, which suffered from endemic malaria.
We went to the hot mud baths near Dalyan. Give them a pass, unless you have children in tow. But do not pass up a visit to a Turkish hamam, or bathhouse. A Turkish hamam is a hot marble room, ringed with hot- and cold-water faucets, wooden buckets, sponges and soap. You can either scrub and rinse yourself, or let one of the attendants do it for you. Traditional hamams have sexually segregated baths. At the modern Bodrum Hamam, which we visited on our return to Bodrum, men and women wore swimsuits and bathed together.
Delightful as the shore visits can be, it is the gulet that makes the trip. The sea’s 60-foot depth keeps the water cool and the most popular activity is jumping or diving off the gulet into the extraordinarily clear water and swimming to shore. While the bigger gulets carry all sorts of water toys, the Skorpio was humbly equipped with a motorized dinghy to ferry us to shore, should we need it.
Even if you are a bit jaded by fancy cruises, taking a slow wooden boat to nowhere on the Aegean Sea is very memorable. We probably did not go more than 50 miles from Bodrum, but we traveled thousands of years down history’s ladder to places where, for the most part, nothing has changed.
Travelers usually fly to Bodrum through Istanbul and will need a single-entry visa. Travelers can obtain a visa at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport, but to avoid delay at the airport, get a visa before leaving the United States.
We booked our gulet cabin charter through Bodrum-based Aegean Tour Travel (aegeantourtravel.com, 90-252-313-0722, 3 Cafer Pasa Caddessi). Their charters run from May to September, departing every Sunday from Bodrum, and every Saturday from Marmaris.
The Greek poet Homer described Bodrum, known in ancient times as Halicarnassus, as “the land of eternal blue.” The city’s history goes back 5,000 years. During the reign of the Carian king Mausolos (c 376-353 BC) the city flourished. Mausolos’s white marble tomb, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, dominated the city’s skyline for nearly 19 centuries. By the early 15th century, the tomb lay in ruins. The Knights Hospitaller, based on Rhodes, used some of the stones to build the imposing Castle of St. Peter. In 1522, Bodrum came under the rule of the Ottoman Sultan Sulayman the Magnificant.
These days, Bodrum is known as the land of eternal play. There is a vibrant cruise and club culture in city and the nearby towns of Turgutreis and Ortakent.
Bodrum’s cafe scene, especially around the harbor front, is also vibrant. Before boarding our gulet, we lunched very well at the Tranca Bar and Restaurant (Cumhuriyet Caddesi, No. 36), which specializes in fresh fish. We shared a simple swordfish kebab and an Ottoman court dish of shrimp on a bed of smoked, pureed eggplant and melted cheese. And we had a splendid view of the Aegean and the Crusader castle from our terrace table. On our return to Bodrum, we headed to Kortan Restaurant (Cumhuriyet Caddesi, No. 32) for dinner. The restaurant is located in an old stone house. We both ordered the grilled catch of the day (sea bass), a bottle of Kavaklidere red wine, and watched the sun set from our sea-facing table. While Tranca and Kortan were pricey, Bodrum abounds with inexpensive cafes that serve everything from full English breakfast, to fast-food (kebabs, hamburgers and pizzas), to ice cream sundaes and Turkish coffee and pastries. We enjoyed Ali Baba and Panorama, two cheap-and-cheerful cafes facing the harbor.
Bodrum’s old bazaar is a manageable size. Two shops to try: Cercim, which specializes in copies of Carian and Ottoman jewelry, and Ali Guven, a sandal-maker known for his traditional designs with a modern twist.
We stayed a night at the Azka Otel, a big, modern hotel not from the city center. Azka’s rooms were clean but not cozy. The hotel had a nice beach and pool, where the mostly European guests parked all day. Water taxis–really converted fishing boats–left every 20 minutes for Bodrum harbor from a dock that was a short beach walk from the Azka.
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