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Wednesday, 10 March 2010


Just like any other part of Bodrum peninsula, Farilya, meaning “Sun Rise” is known by its modern name “Gundogan”. Farilya has the marks of many civilizations that have once lived here. This seaside town of the most tempting city of the Aegean is just as beautiful as the other parts of the peninsula; beaches, pure oxygen and the sunshine predominate. The town has all three attractive attributes of the nature and still contributes to the making of history. Those native villagers and those who settled here are absolutely in love with the town.

Every other person we met praises the tranquility and the natural beauties in the region. It looks as if everyone is at peace with themselves. In the narrow streets, we saw not one soul who was not smiling.

Built between 353. and 375. Century BC by the Romans in an enclave the sea and called Vara, the settlement was relocated to its current place following the famous pirate attacks about 900 years ago. Gündoğan has been a home to Lelegian, Mycenaean, Persians, Carians, Meds, Egyptians, Syrians, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines, the Turkic Menteşe Clans and the Ottomans as of the year 1522. It is known that the native villagers are the descendants of Central Asian Turcoman who migrated here at the time of the Ottomans. The Greek name Farilya was changed to Gundogan in 1961. Once completely natural, Gundogan is changing fast because of the construction activities. Small, boxlike white Bodrum houses are mushrooming over the bald hills. There are a few old houses left and the most important feature of these houses are that what is used for cementing the stones is a mixture of calcareous and sand from the beach. These traditional houses usually consist of two rooms and have a small camellia and a fireplace in the garden. The houses always face the sea.

Strewn around, the numerous Lelegian rock tombs, easily accessible calcolitic age “Cheese flower cave” are just some of the antiquities that may be seen. The calcolitic age cave, which is named after the pink colored local wild flower growing only around this cave, is just as interesting as its namesake is. Flowering from March until the beginning of April, the droplets from these flowers smell of cheese and was used to ferment cheese by the villagers approximately a hundred years ago.

Tens of curious people come to see the flowers about the flowering time.

This 100 meter deep, “flat cave “was excavated by Bodrum Underwater Archaeology Museum in 1993 upon directives by the Ministry of Culture.

Just like many people I know, caves are natural wonders that always attract my attention. When I first entered the Cheese Flower cave, I thought it was smaller than what I envisaged. However, this was nothing when I realized it was really cool inside when the scorching heat outside made it difficult even to breathe.

The cave is made of calcareous rock and the first thing that attracts ones attention is the colony of bats living in here. Another interesting thing was the presence of porcupine bones around the cave floor. The shades and colors inside the cave causes one to imagine shadows of humans dancing on the cave walls. It is much like hallucinating.

Our second stop was at the “Fifty Two Steps Monastery”, another impressive spot in Gundogan. I must admit that it is not every one’s cup of tea to climb up to the monastery, especially in the heat of the summer, built on a hilltop by the side of Cumhuriyet Road.

It is though exciting to wonder around these ruins. The monastery was built on top of rocks, much like an eagles nest.

Apostol Island (Little Rabbit Island) is another must see spots in Gundogan region. The island is only 15 minutes close to the mainland and there is evidence of a settlement dating back to 2. Century A.D. The strangely shaped rock formations, the surprisingly erect Early Eastern Roman (Byzantium) church built on a hilltop at 35 minutes walking distance from the shore are magnificent structures and the ancient church is adorned with frescoes. The Water cistern makes the Picture complete as to the presence of people on the island hundreds of years ago.

If you were ever in Gundogan I would advise you to see the Ottoman Tower and the windmills also and I guarantee that it will be an unforgettable visit.



Consisting of three suburbs, Yukarı Mahalle, Aşağı Mahalle and Küçükbük Mahallesi, majority of those who have settled in Gundogan are those who don’t think of the countries political state anymore. Those of whom I spoke to unanimously agree that since they are away from the Metropolitan cities, they are not worried at all about what happens in the country. Away from the hustle and bustle, people are relaxed and care free. They like to laze about all day.

We visit a Gundogan dweller’s home. We wondered how these people spend their time. Walking down to Kizil Burun shores and listening to Ali Kaptan’s stories is the most enjoyable pastime fort he neighbors. Sipping wine on his balcony at a humble dinner table prepared by his wife Isik Hanim and constant chatter and giggles are some examples of the factors that drew people to Gundogan. Those who have had the chance to draw the ‘Ace’ from the deck are all here. It is no joke; almost everyone knows Ali Kaptan. He is like an Honorary Ambassador of Gundogan. Apparently, Kaptan moved to Gundogan following his retirement in 1999. “Since we are sailors, we calculate everything we do. We evaluated the wind. The wind was sufficient for my liking. The fish was abundant” he explains his reasons for migrating to Gundogan. The bay, he says, is abundant with sea bass, bream, red sea bream and even needlefish may be found.

Another couple we met at Kaptan’s humble dinner table is Barbaros and Filiz Dogan. They also moved to Gundogan after a lifetime of city life. They are celebrating the purchase of their new home. When we ask them why they chose Gundogan, they reply” We lived on a luggage for many years, traveling from and to different places on business trips. We now enjoy staying put, taking life as it comes. We do not have to carry ID cards or mobile telephones anymore. We traveled all over Turkey. We even visited every little bay on Bodrum peninsula. We not only had the chance to purchase a lovely home but eventually we met Ali Kaptan and we got to find out what a great neighbor he was.” Filiz hanim pointed out that her life as well as her philosophy on life has changed “I had brought all my old clothes to give out to the cleaner lady but now I continue to wear them. I learned not to consume unnecessarily.” Ali Kaptan added” I do not remember when the last time I had purchased slippers was. We even visit the mayor in our daily clothes. We go to the barber in the same clothes and we go to weddings in the same clothes. Bodrum is the only place where you cannot differentiate between the rich and the poor by looking at their attire. We also realized that people did not smile in big cities. Here in this beautiful land we felt like we had to make new friends and enjoy what life offers more.”

I had the feeling that everyone here had sympathetic personalities. A kind of warmth engulfed me. The shopkeepers we spoke were also very friendly. Although 2006 World Cup in Germany affected business, Gundogan shop owners and beach cafes are more positive about the season. They look so calm and unaffected. They are grateful for what few customers they have had so far.

Leyla and Ergul, the owners of Cheese Flower Beach Cafe & Pension is another smiling couple we met. I can insist that those who come to Gundogan in this charming little pension or at least pay a visit to the beach cafe. The only complaint they have is the increasing amount of construction activities and the increasing numbers of sea gulls.

Contrary to the deserted beaches, the dock of “Baia”, the only 5 star hotel in the region is more crowded. One of my favorite places is the bungalow-covered dock of the Begonville Hotel. As far as I am concerned, the hotel is fit for the royalty. Another favorite of mine is the boat turned hotel Derinbey Boat. It is an old 32-meter boat and has 8 rooms and 16 beds. This boat hotel charges 100 YTL per person per night, full pension. Do not forget to have fish or their special, stuffed marrow flowers in Boncuk Restaurant whilst in Gundogan.

Horse lovers may chose to go on a safari in Kivanc Bey’s ranch. The ranch is established in the forest and one can spend 1-2 hours riding in the magnificent pine scented forest and visit the Dagbelen Mountain Village. You do not necessarily have to be a Professional rider either; Kivanc Bey’s horses are well trained and friendly. There are 35-trained horses in the ranch. The most experienced and famous of the lot is an old horse named Hafiz.

This ancient fishing village is 20 km to Bodrum and 8 km to and has the most pleasing climate on the peninsula. The village is built on the shores of one of the most attractive bays in the Aegean and so tranquil that you get different sensations from happiness to melancholy throughout the day. One gets melancholy when thinking of those unlucky people who has never been in this heavenly place but at the same time, though it sounds selfish, one feels happy that the place is still not much developed as is the case in many other part of the peninsula.

I say, do not even waste your time breathing in this village if

You did not swim in the bluest of the bays,

Didn’t go to Apostol Island,

Didn’t pay a visit to Cheese Flower cave,

Didn’t climb up to Fifty Two Monastery

Didn’t go on horse back safari,

Haven’t eaten fish and stuffed marrow flowers,

In addition, observe the village from atop a nearby hill.

(Translation Published in Bmagazine)

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