Thursday, April 03, 2014

Wandering Through 3,000 Years of History at Bodrum Castle

Where to even start with Bodrum Castle?  It has the most convoluted, Da Vinci Code-style history.

Today, the castle is a historical museum as well as the Museum of Underwater Archaeology. It sits right in the middle of Bodrum's harbors with an amazing view of the Aegean Sea that will have even the most seasick ready to join up with pirates.
The castle was built in the 15th century from the stones of the ruined Mausoleum at Halicarnassus - one of the original seven wonders of the world. Which explains where those stones went! The Christian military order, Knights Hospitaller, built the castle along with a couple other fortifications in Rhodes and Kos. They even had the Pope guarantee entry to heaven for all the workers during construction.

Each of the countries involved with the Knights got their own section of the castle. There are German, French and Italian towers. The British tower looks like it was flown straight in from England, complete with big fireplaces, suits of armor and cozy nooks.
Eventually the Knights lost the castle to the Ottoman Empire and it was turned into a Mosque. A Turkish Bath was added later. It was briefly a prison and then the Italian military had it for a hot second. In the 1950's, it was empty and being used to temporarily store relics found by underwater archeologists.
So, back to the present day - where Texas A&M of all places plays a big role. The current Museum of Underwater Archaeology in the castle gives a vivid look at history from the point of view of shipwrecks found in the Aegean. Many of those displays were created by the Texas A&M department of Nautical Archeology. These clay jars were used for transporting wine, olive oil, tar, beads and milk around the Mediterranean.
The oldest shipwreck they found dates all the way back to the Bronze Age. There's also an incredible collection of glass from the 3rd century BC.
The museum is does an excellent job of storytelling beyond just descriptions of the artifacts. The have full-scale models of the ships that you can walk through. The value of ancient coins is shown in terms of how many sheep they could buy. Gold beads are sown back on to white silk gowns so you understand the fashions back then.
In addition to being a beautiful place to explore in Bodrum, the castle is also packed with history and a bit of mystique.

No comments: