Whitemagic

Australian Gourmet Traveller, December 1998

Text and Photography by Maggy Oehlbeck

Poolside Bodrum, the ancient City of Halicarnassos (120OBC), is a glittering prize on Turkey's Aegean coast. Despite its being a popular watering hole for royalty and celebrities in many guises, who usually visit its gorgeous harbour on sleek cruisers or yachts, it has still managed to retain its allure as a picturesque sea-port town. Whitewashed dwellings cascade down rocky slopes, all vying for the best possible view of Bodrum's centrepiece the imposing medieval Castle of St Peter, which appears to float on an azure sea. When spotlit at night, the castle takes on an enchanted aura. Dungeons and dragons aside, its fairytale contours are better than any Disney fantasy.

You can treat yourself to this brilliant spectacle without straying from your own private garden terrace at Bodrum's Antik Tiyatro (Antique Theatre) Hotel - recently nominated by The New York Times as "best small hotel in Turkey".

No-one would argue the point. To describe it as a work of art is not to place too fine a point on it. The hotel has been carved into a cliff side below an ancient theatre - a comparatively recent find which surfaced when a new highway was being built. The hotel is stark white - in keeping with all the other buildings in Bodrum. Vivid bougainvillea and plumbago sprawl over balustrades and stone steps leading down to a spectacular pool, which appears to extend into the sea. Carefully placed amphorae and other archeological embellishments grace the hotel, which has been a labour of love for owners Selmin and Zafer Basak.

The hotel is furnished with a harmonious blend of traditional antique furniture and Turkish handicrafts. Guest rooms are simple - a marble shower cubicle, handmade bedspreads, an antique chair, a kilim rug and an original etching.

The food is best described as contemporary European with lashings of Turkish spice. Dining is either poolside on balmy summer evenings, or indoors in the clubby atmosphere of the restaurant.

Breakfast is a veritable banquet of olives, cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, cherry jam, walnuts, pistachios, the ubiquitous Turkish yoghurt and freshly-baked traditional breads.

Antik Tiyatro Hotel, Kibris Sehideri Caddesi 169,
Bodrum 48400, Turkey.
Phone (+90) 252 316 6053, fax (+90) 252 316 0825.