You are probably familiar with the crowds that pour into the seaside towns of the Mediterranean in the summer months; when different colours and languages mingle, and people enjoy the exhilarating sense of release from daily cares, savouring the pleasures of sun and sea. The streets, beaches, tea gardens and bars are filled with colourful clothes, tanned skin and laughter night and day. Then as autumn draws into winter, silence falls, bringing with it a melancholy sense of abandonment. One of the places where this change is felt most profoundly is Bodrum. Yet here the winter months of short days and long nights have their own evocative beauty, and in the local markets the lively scene is far from melancholy. At this time of year these markets are one of the greatest pleasures, with their bright colours and delicious mingled scents. Every day of the week there are markets either in Bodrum itself or in one or other of the surrounding villages.
Bodrum’s Tuesday textile market is famous, with local fabrics from all over the region on sale.
The riot of colours and patterns appealing to all tastes gives the marketplace a fairground atmosphere. As well as fabrics, there are kilims, carpets, kitchen ware, and clothing of all description. Part of the fun is listening to the witty exchanges between neighbouring stall holders, as they compete for the attention of customers. Then once the goods are selected buyers and sellers set about bargaining. On fine days when the sun shines palely in the blue winter sky, stall holders and customers alike are in good spirits. Until four or five years ago the Bodrum market was held in the town’s streets, and when the new marketplace opened everyone objected at first.
Now, however, they appear to have become accustomed to it. Thursdays and Fridays are reserved for the food market, and it would be difficult to find such an extraordinary variety of fruit and vegetables anywhere else. Even the humble carrot comes in three or four varieties.
Mandarin oranges and lemons from the orchards which cover most of the peninsula form glowing heaps of every tone of yellow and orange. Then there are the wild herbs so popular in local Aegean cuisine, such as mustard, nettles, and theligonium. Following rain edible fungi appear in abundance, and since they are rich in protein are eaten instead of meat. Most popular of the local varieties is the çintar mushroom, whose shapeless appearance belies its fine flavour. Grilled or fried in local olive oil it is a wonderful delicacy. Who said that Turkey has few varieties of cheese? Believe me when I say we could compete with France where cheeses are concerned. On the market stalls are arrayed cheeses of all shape, size, colour and flavour. Fresh curd cheese, numerous types of Tulum cheese, cottage cheeses, goat’s milk cheeses, fresh and mature Ka?ar cheeses, various types of white cheese, and many more present a difficult choice. Olives, their partner on the breakfast table, are here in equal diversity: black olives, pinkish coloured cherry olives, dark green olives, light green olives, çizik (slashed) olives, and kyrma (crushed) olives. If you arrive at the market early you can make a satisfying breakfast on the olives and slices of cheese which the vendors offer you to taste! Then the colour and variety of the spices is bewitching, conjuring up images of the distant lands where many of them come from. Strings of dried vegetables - aubergines, peppers, tomatoes and okra - are a mouthwatering sight. The gigantic okra unique to this region are unexpectedly tender and flavoursome. And of course there is the honey in every tone of amber, in jars or in the comb. Pine honey, flower honeys and wild Karakovan honey are all to be found here. Then there are the village eggs, fresh and perhaps even still warm, with their rich yellow yolks so different from town eggs. Village women bring in delicious homemade bazlama, a kind of wheel shaped griddle bread made of whole wheat or sometimes maize flour, either plain or flavoured with herbs and olives.
The traders of all ages are at least as colourful and diverse as the goods they sell. Everyone can sell something, and none are averse to a bit of bargaining! On Mondays it is market day at Güvercinlik 20 km north of Bodrum. The market of this small village is on a modest scale compared to other local markets, but is worth visiting for its picturesque setting right on the seafront. On the one hand are the stalls, and on the other fishermen hauling in their nets. There are a couple of tiny fish restaurants, and it makes an enjoyable day out. This market sells both food and clothing, and few but local villagers shop here. The market traders have their favourite places, so each market has its own distinctive character. Most of those at Yalykavak, for instance, do not go to the Bodrum market. Nor do the Milas fabric sellers who go to Turgutreis market have stalls at Bodrum’s Tuesday market, because the famous Milas market is held on the same day. On Wednesdays, there are small markets at Ortakent and Gümü?lük, which also attract quite a few people.
After shopping at the market on the Kadykale road out of Gümü?lük, you can go down to the sea to enjoy a meal of fish in one of the seafront restaurants. The Turgutreis market on Saturdays is one of the most popular of all. This is a large market with plenty of variety, and as many fabric stalls as in Bodrum. Kilim and carpet sellers from Milas also have stalls here. Foods including wild herbs, olive oil and cheese offer abundant variety. For lunch, Turgutreis has many cheap traditional restaurants serving a range of delicious vegetable dishes and pilaf. The last day of the week, Sunday, brings Mumcular market, where the old airport is located. This is another small local market, quiet and adequate for ordinary kitchen provisions. As the sun gradually sinks down, it is time for the market traders to put their stock away. The bales of fabric and clothing are packed in boxes, the fruits and vegetables into crates, and herbs and spices into their sacks. Everyone is in a hurry. Within a couple of hours the stalls are empty and the traders have gone home. Only the dogs and cats wander around foraging for leftovers. As evening sets in silence falls, and it is hard to believe that just a short time before the air rang with the shouts of traders, advertising their wares and bargaining with customers. But in the morning the colourful, noisy scene will begin again at the next day’s market, so if you missed this one, not to worry.