Gümüşlük - Bodrum
Photos: WOW Turkey
by Doğan Şahin
The ecstasy of fairytale in Gümüslük re-invented If you say Bodrum's most distinctive landmark is the magnificent Castle of the Hospitalliers, than Gümüslük is the refuge for the art minded community in the peninsula. This is a recluse on which to forget the unreal world.
Everyone has a different Bodrum of his or her own. Once you go, you will fall in love not only with its natural beauty and historical sites but also with its mesmerizing ambiance. In search of aesthetic ecstasy and spiritual purification and the place to be in for the rest of my life, I have traveled many different parts of the earth. Now that I think of it, I was searching for a place that is bohemian, chic with culture, immersed in tranquility and nightlife, which encompasses a family life as well. I ended up in Gümüslük after 23 years of such intense search.
This is my village with its current culture of the rejection of middle-class
values. This is my place of enlightenment and rebirth.
My village is the perfect antidote for modern-day living.
An ancient fishing town, bursting with character and charm, Gümüslük has always attracted the art-minded crowd, bringing a certain aura to this sleepy seaside village. 23 kilometers close to the city of Bodrum, it is possibly the last refuge for searching spirits, "the 10th village for the seekers of truth" as they say in Turkish. An enchanting and quiet town in essence, the village is set amidst tangerine groves and foliage abundant on the surrounding hills and the valley itself. Gümüslük also became the site of Bodrum's first known 'meditation center' called "Kun", which sits on a hill in Karakaya village, overlooking the Aegean. Visitors to Kun practice self-discipline in a sparse environment. Eklisia and Gümüslük Academy had taken the lead in re-establishing Gümüslük into its perceived glorious days. Gümüslük Classical Music Academy is the latest showcase of how some of the inhabitants would like to perceive this small piece of heaven.
This is the land of black vine, the black grape of the antiquity; an antique Carian town established on Termerium Point opposite Scandaria Point of Greece. An isthmus geography prodding into the Aegean with its high southern tip in all its might. "Pelasg and Lelegian people, who inhabited the islands under the dominion of Mynos in 2000 BC, invaded the shores and expelled the inhabitants so as to establish their own might. Thus was Myndos became one of the 8 cities established by the Lelegian in the Carian lands," writes Strabon the historian. The Carian governor Mausolos expelled the inhabitants of six cities and forced them to settle in Halicarnassos in 4th century BC. However, Myndos (Gümüslük) was spared. It was relocated to few miles north, where we now live, closer to the sea. Myndos was a copy of Greek city planning and was surrounded by high city walls. The remnants we have left are of those built by Mausolos, additions by the Romans and what is left from the devastating earthquakes. I have to mention that there are people who claim that this is where an entrance to Atlantis exists and they wait for it to open its gates for guests!
As I walked down the curve about when the sun rise, approaching Gümüslük on a usual mid-summer day, just after crossing the Turgutreis and Gümüslük town borders, where the windmills graciously greet the visitor, a spectacular vista was suddenly spread before me; a valley of citrus gardens, eucalyptus, pine, poplar and oak trees. On the ground perspective, indigenous yellow and violet colored flora seemed to maintain their color even as they withered. The sun rose from behind the hills. It was destined to set behind the Greek Islands. Despite the burning sensation emitted by the first rays of the sun, it was a joy to behold indeed. Beyond, the blue sea was sprinkled with green islands. Blue, green and white were exuberantly mingled in the perfect panorama I observed. The scents rose to the day. Following the winding road after Karakaya Village roundabout, I passed by whitewashed houses erect side by side with "Satan's ears" corner stones on their flat roofs and perfectly proportioned windows, in green citrus groves of various tones. Garden walls facing narrow streets are decorated with flowers in a multitude of colors and of course, ever present Begonvilles. This scene is a good example for the Mediterranean life style, which is concentrated on out-door-living because of the climate. As I reached the seaside, the small bay embraced me with open arms. Mother nature readily welcomed me. I felt safe in this natural harbor, just like the fishing boats and yachts of all kinds anchored in these protected shores.
The history, which lay under clear waters, was visible just beneath the surface... I felt as if I had been caught in a time warp. This was a mirror reflecting the past. Past cautiously gazing at the present. I walked towards Rabbit Island through the shallow water concealing ancient walls and breakwaters. From the top of the island, I looked out to the sea, to the horizon, summer breeze blowing from the Northwest made me feel fresh and re-vitalized. Kalymnos, Yassiada, Kardak islands and Kos saluted me from the distance.
Rabbit Island stands guard over the village playing its role as the protective barrier between Gümüslük and the open sea. Life seems infinite. I sit on a rock and imagine the distant past. Myndos is where Brutus and his fellow conspirators made their plan to murder Julius Caesar and is the site Brutus fled to after the assassination. I sat at the point where Brutus had to have stood, directing his admirals to conquer Anatolia. The numerous restaurants and cafes strewn about the shore were just awakening to yet another day of peace. The fishermen were quietly picking their daily catch from their tired nets.
Then, I looked at the land. In the distant skies of Gümüslük town, I discerned
the joyous screams of children of ancient Myndos on a summer morning.
I am searching for my future amongst the rocks yonder in the hills. The island affords you such a viewpoint…
Waves beat rhythmically on the shore, careless of the passage of precious time. I decide to let dreams carry me away. Isn't life meant to be having fun, forgetting and remembering again?
Time seems to fade away as I idle my morning on the beach looking for shells
and colored volcanic pebbles. Cool wet sea and dry hot sand, this perfect combination
is enough to calm down any rebelling soul this is the most mesmerizing oxymoron.
By night, Gümüslük is festive and lively. On a tranquil evening, I met Eren Levendoglu in Gümüslük Club Café. The club; a refuge for inhabitants in those long winter nights and a place to relax for visitors in summer, is a great supporter of art in the area. They are one of the main sponsors of this years' events. Eren is the organizer of 3. Annual Gümüslük Classical Festival. The festival took off with an opening cocktail attended by some famous Turkish as well as foreign figures such as movie directors, business executives, media personalities, politicians and retired generals and the scarce layperson that came to savor this beautiful atmosphere. David Dolan, the world acclaimed pianist, the man whose technique was described as "bringing a new existence to classical music" by Yehudi Menuhin, played pieces from Mozart and Schubert. The dark blue of the sky, sprinkled with eternally shiny stars, and the Aegean along with classical tunes, were mixing to the delicious food and wonderful wine offered.
The silvery light emitted by the sea's phosphorescence was enough to mesmerize
me. This is the 10th day of the festival and Eren looks thoughtful. I learn
that a few of their sponsors pulled back at the last moment for no apparent
reason. "This has happened before" she shrugs her shoulders as if
nothing could stop her from carrying on with the festival. Her stubbornness
and creative imagination are concealed in this story. Not many people in the
thousands of years since the antiquity had the courage to create anything new
in Gümüslük. She and a few people formed the Gümüslük Classical Music Association
just to do that. They are based at Eklisia, the 450-year-old church. The location
of the church is slightly on the hill about 100 meters from the gravel beach
housing Gümüslük Club.
"It turned out better then I had expected" she said and continued, "Same as last year, we had some hiccups. We had 15 students this year for two courses, which is good for the students, for the workshops were not crowded. This is such a small venue with such limited resources. Eklisia has, over the last 17 years, produced activities of such caliber to leave the professionals in awe…Memorable events and personalities attended include Can Yucel, Ilhan Ersahin, Wax Poetic, Tuncel Kurtiz, people like Hüseyin Sermet and Hande Dalkılıç, Gulsin Onay, İdil Biret, personalities such as Erdal İnönüand Sevinç İnönü, retired brigadier general chief of staff Hüseyin Kıvrıkoğlu, Muğla CHP MP's Ali Arslan, and Fahrettin Üstün as well as Gülsün Bilgehan, a member of EU parliament, world acclaimed pianist Gulsin Onay, Deniz Gelenbe, the cellist Mehmet Oztop and many more respected personalities I could quote. All of these special people, the chosen people, surprise personalities encourage us to turn this festival into a tradition. This has been just perfect. Our audience is appreciative of the activities, please talk to the visitors and this year's performers" said Eren over a bottle of cool Efes beer…
Therefore, I talked to Nurten Yorgun, a violinist in Mersin State Opera and
Balet Company, the enchanting flutist, Oxford graduate Latin teacher, storyteller
and jack-of-all-trades! Rebecca Leek from the UK, 21 year old pianist Christopher
Stokes, Pianist Ilke Karagoz who was educated in Holland. All of these most
talented people had a common interpretation of what happens in the village "this
is the place I rediscovered my self. We are all from different backgrounds and
genres but one thing we were amazingly able to do was improvisation. We'll never
forget the event and will keep coming back to Gümüslük, this is a stunning place
What makes this place so special? Is it the quiet beaches? Is it the boat trips that is attractive or is it the cool breeze you always get? Is it the history?
I think it is partly the people. Those artists who settled here, the wise and sea loving villagers and children. They are warm, generous and happy people who seem at peace with themselves. A strong community spirit prevails. This last unblemished place and presumably the oldest settlement in the peninsula seem to be safe. It has modest restaurants and several pensions and motels, but it retains a small-scale atmosphere for the simple reason that most of the village is designated a first degree protected archaeological site. That means no landscape alterations or construction is allowed. While the '' historical value" status of the area forbids diving activities, snorklers will see more walls and a Roman built breakwater 'n the harbor than on land. Those visiting by boat will want to stay close to the island on the eastern side of the entrance in order not to crash into underwater structures.
What makes this place so highly addictive? Maybe what makes it charming and special is the space and time to dream your own dream. Gümüslük is one of the rare places that you will have the opportunity to fuel your imagination and nourish your soul. Gümüslük spell the newcomers at first sight. It offers the perfect balance between simple beaches amidst untainted nature and the opportunity to enjoy genuine hospitality. While staying at the clean pensions or hotels; be your pleasure swimming or observing underwater in calm waters, lying on the beach sipping drinks or exploring the surrounding hillsides and pine forests, your satisfaction is guaranteed. When it is time for the evening meal, the restaurants nestled beside the waters of the bay are famous for their range of mezes and seafood variety. The mezes are how they should be...
When the sun goes down, a natural light show begins. Even after the sun disappears
behind the islands in the west, the fantastic dance of crimson, purple, pink
and red goes on. At the twilight, the first of the stars of the evening shine
joyfully in the sky and on the still waters of the bay in harmony. Full moon
is definitely an ecstasy on top of this harmony.
Gümüslük wakes up late in the morning and stays late into the evening. Myndos' glory was eclipsed centuries ago but fascinating remnants of the past add poignancy to the coastline, combining the simple and sophisticated, protected waters, magnificent views and irresistibly relaxing atmosphere. Be prepared for striking friendships, laughs, ecstatic souls, and lots of hugs, meteor rains, sunrise and the memorable silhouette of Eklisia in the morning against the backdrop of sunrise and exquisite sunsets. When you are visiting, do not forget to bring a sun hat, a towel, a bottle of water, sunburn cream, your camera and swimsuit and a copy of B Magazine!
Gümüslük, a sleepy village with great beaches, small built stone houses, fisherman and artists of various media; you will feel that you want to spend the rest of your life here. Please do not miss...
The above article was published in August 2006 issue of BMagazine.