The Crusader knights have been inspiration for countless stories, and there are few locations more romantic than the Bodrum Castle of the Knights Hospitaller. Here, the multinational Christian knights built the castle to protect their main base on Rhodes against the advancing Seljuks. Its reinvention as a museum in the 1950s was thanks to American journalist Peter Throckmorton and İzmir Museum director Hakkı Gültekin. As the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology, it won a special commendation in the European Museum of the Year Awards, and it is an unmissable stop.
But don’t worry about scuba gear – this is a museum of archaeological finds from underwater. The museum itself is entirely on land. As a meeting point between the castle and the scattered remains of the sea, the museum offers a unique view on Eastern Mediterranean history. Children especially will enjoy scaling the stone stairs and ramparts, believing themselves to be Crusader knights or Seljuk warriors. For adults, it might be the only place where you can see shipwrecks and their contents, dating from the 14th century BC to the 16th century AD, in their local environment.
The connected towers occupied by different nationalities of Hospitallers – English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish – each have coats of arms carved into the stonework, showing the knights’ allegiance to Grand Master Phillbert de Naillac, King Henry IV of England, and other noble houses. Inside the towers are collections of amphorae, coins, glassware, jewelry, and reconstructed shipwrecks. And as a reminder of the dark side of Medieval life, don’t forget to visit the castle dungeon, where Hayreddin Barbarossa’s brother Oruç Reis was held for an entire year.
The castle is partly open due to the renovation, which will be finished in 2020.