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The St.-Tropez of Turkey
The St.-Tropez of Turkey - Bodrum Turkey. Bodrum information, pictures, attractions.

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The St.-Tropez of Turkey - Bodrum Turkey. Bodrum information, pictures, attractions.

LADIES and gentlemen, welcome back to St.-Tropez!” Cued up by a D.J. on an elevated white dais, a sound clip exploded through the warm July night, sending up cheers from the open-air dance floor of the all-white oceanfront nightclub.

As the stars glimmered overheard and illuminated white yachts drifted in the distance, waiters in white shirts bearing the words “Saint-Tropez” threaded among the Philippe Starck chairs and dancing V.I.P.’s, extending cocktails into outstretched arms adorned with designer watches and impeccable tans. Working the other side of the room, a roving photographer popped off a succession of flashbulb bursts as he captured mugging corporate tycoons and fashion models.

Viewed from the translucent orange stools at the long bar, it seemed as if another classic St.-Tropez session of all-night partying and celebrity glad-handing was kicking off with characteristic zeal and excess. There was just one hitch: the real St.-Tropez was well over 1,000 miles away. This was the tiny Turkish village of Turkbuku on the north side of the Bodrum Peninsula.

For the upper-crust Turkish crowd at the club, Bianca, the difference was merely academic. Sitting inside an on-site jewelry boutique doubling as an office, the club’s owner, Emre Ergani, stroked his handlebar moustache and boldly declared that the Champagne-drenched, celebrity-draped French Riviera hotspot was a kindred spirit of Turkbuku, a fishing town whose traditional draws have included red mullet and sea bream.

“St.-Tropez is a place for people of A-plus quality, and so is Turkbuku,” he said, explaining that the town had lately rocketed from picturesque beachfront backwater to second-home haven and party playground for Turkish celebrities. As a glass case holding $7,000 Champagne flutes sparkled behind him, he added that international stars were now getting wind of Turkbuku, too.

“People I know from St.-Tropez are buying houses here,” Mr. Ergani said. “Turkbuku is taking over St.-Tropez.”

On the face of it, this seems an outrageous claim for this hamlet hidden on the Aegean, the body of water that Homer called “the wine-dark sea.” Even the most desperate addicts of checkout-aisle literature and live red-carpet reports probably wouldn’t recognize the name, which sounds halfway to Timbuktu and might reasonably conjure images of a Turkish answer to Mötley Crüe.

Unlike the storied Côte d’Azur resort, Turkbuku’s unusual name isn’t a fixture of Page Six and has yet to roll from the tongues of the bikini-clad hosts of “Wild On.” Matisse never painted there, Pink Floyd hasn’t named a song for it, Sean Combs hasn’t rapped about it, and Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock chose the real St.-Tropez for their wedding last month. You won’t find the getaways of Brigitte Bardot or Joan Collins hidden in the olive and lemon groves around the bay’s green-brown hills. There is no Turkbuku brand of tanning lotion or alcoholic drink.

In other words, by many barometers of jet-set status, Turkbuku (sometimes called Golturkbuku) is still a good distance down the scale from St.-Tropez. But that distance could be closing fast.

Ask Mr. Ergani to enumerate the boldface names that have visited Bianca in recent years and he produces a list that sounds much more redolent of the south of France than the southern Aegean: Ivana Trump. Paris Hilton. Michael Douglas. Prince Charles. The Japanese fashion mogul Kenzo Takada, he will tell you, “practically lives here.”

Nor are these the only luminaries to drop into Turkbuku’s increasingly glittery environs, which nestle a showy spread of music-blasting beach clubs, boutique hotels and moored megayachts. In the never-ending search for new sun-soaked havens beyond the well-trammeled Mediterranean shores, a host of global stars of the boardroom and box office have begun to stake out this nook of the Turkish coast. Some, like the billionaire Jeffrey Steiner, the chief executive of the Fairchild Corporation and a fixture of the St.-Tropez social scene, have bought palatial spreads in the hills. Others, like Tom Hanks, have cruised in during sailing trips.

“It feels like a nightclub on the ocean,” said André Balazs, owner of the Chateau Marmont hotel in Los Angeles and other luxury properties. Mr. Balazs, who is also a longtime regular in St.-Tropez, discovered Turkbuku last summer on vacation with Uma Thurman. He called the town “very popular, very busy, very social.”

In a sense, this attractively rugged region of the Turkish coast — the peninsula is a landscape of hills, mesas, craggy coves and windswept beaches — has been producing or seducing celebrities since antiquity.

The St.-Tropez of Turkey - Bodrum



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