In between our stops in Kusadasi and Mykonos on our Royal Caribbean cruise last summer, we paid a visit to Bodrum, Turkey. Our day began with the Castle of St. Peter and its intriguing Museum of Underwater Archeology and finished with lunch at the seafood restaurant Berk Balik.
The Castle of St. Peter is a sprawling complex of ramps and levels and buildings and towers all contained within the massive walls of a 15-century fortress. It was originally built by the Knights Hospitaller, one of the most famous medieval Western Christian military orders. Since there were knights of many different ethnicities within the Hospitallers, the Castle has towers built to accommodate their various cultures. We visited the English Tower, for example, which is quite striking with its hanging banners and armor and large dining table, looking like a feast might break out at any moment.
The Castle is also home to the Museum of Underwater Archeology, one of the most notable museums of its kind in the world. Several buildings are dedicated to housing parts of the museum and its unique collections. For example, a 15th century chapel which became a mosque after the Ottoman conquest now houses a replica of a late Roman ship.
Our favorite part of the museum was the Glass Hall, which is filled with glassware recovered from sunken ships. The room is kept dark – there is even a drape over the door of the small building to keep out all light – while beneath each goblet and bottle is a light illuminating the greens and blues and yellows of the glass. Goblets, bottles and flasks of ancient design were delightful, but perhaps most fascinating were the ingots of glass from 1400 B.C.
At the uppermost level of the Castle were the aforementioned towers as well as many other turrets and ramparts running in every direction. After we had explored much of this and gotten myriad views of Bodrum, we felt ready to take a break. So we headed back a couple levels to the Castle’s café and had some cold beverages in the shade, all while being entertained by the café’s denizens, a large rooster and a proud peacock.
We explored the Castle a bit more once we felt refreshed, making sure we saw all we wished to see, and then it was time for lunch. Berk Balik came with high recommendations, so after getting some directions, we struck out toward the restaurant. Little did I know that it was such a long walk from the Castle, though! I felt bad making my mother-in-law walk that far, but God bless her, she was a good sport about it.
Once we got there, Berk Balik wasn’t half bad. The owner, an older man with a big gut wearing just a pair of speedos – a real character – got us started on our lunch. He brought us menus, and we pointed at things, and he brought us drinks.
Then a younger guy took over and we saw the owner go riding off on a bicycle, still just wearing speedos and flipflops. Unreal. Both the owner and the other waiter looked at the piece of paper describing my dairy allergy in Turkish and seemed to understand it, but they didn’t have any recommendations. It’s possible that many of the dishes on the menu were dairy free, but there was no way for us to have a detailed conversation about it. So I stuck with something pretty basic: grilled Calamari. Meanwhile, my wife and her mom also stayed with basics, and ordered shrimp.
Berk Balik’s meager fare filled us up for the time being, and we headed back to our cruise ship, knowing that, if lunch had been something less than sumptuous, dinner on the cruise ship would more than make up for it.