We were supposed to visit Santorini, and I will make it back there some day, but guests have to go ashore via ship’s tenders in Santorini, and with 9 foot seas and high winds, it was not possible for us to visit there. Instead our ship headed to the next port for an evening arrival a day early and a chance to get out and enjoy the evening in Kusadasi, Turkey.
Our visit there speaks to the power of travel to change minds about pre-conceived notions about places to visit. My perceptions of Turkey, because I had never visited, were pretty much set by Hollywood movies like Taken 2 and James bond movies. Those types of movies gave me the impression that Turkey was dirty and dangerous. Nothing could have been further from the truth in the seaside resort town of Kusadasi. I would say the Kusadasi is probably as different from Istanbul as Myrtle Beach North Carolina would be from New York city. The resort town was filled with tourists from all over the world, families out playing in the seafront park, and even was home to an Irish Pub! And the day was the Turkish Independence Day with celebrations ongoing.
Our arrival was at the beautiful sunset hour and we took some beautiful pictures as we were arriving.
We joined two of our friends who are also CruiseOne/Dream Vacations franchise owners. The four of us walked along the promenade looking for an inviting place to have dinner. We ended up at a place called Rokka Balik where we were treated to some fantastic Turkish Food and Hospitality. The three of us ladies ordered three different fresh seafood entrées to share, Calimari, Lobster and Prawns. Steve ordered the meat platter. We enjoyed three different types of local Turkish wines, and the staff kept bringing us different courses along the way. They included bread with olives, and for dessert, a huger assortment of fresh fruit to accompany our baklava and wine. They even brought us complementary mint liquor shots. The most remarkable aspect was the price for all this food, three bottles of wine, multiple courses, we split the bill 4 ways and including tip it was only $78 pp. We started the night outside but moved indoors as it got a little cooler.
Our next day, we took a full day tour to the ancient city of Ephesus, as in “St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians.” This was a remarkable tour, about 35 minutes from town and excavation has really just begun on this ancient ruined city during the 20th Century. For Christians, this is an important city because we know that St. Paul evangelized there and the Gospel of John was written there. It is also considered the last home of Mary the Mother of Christ as Jesus entrusted his mother to John on the cross. In ancient times this was an important port city and pagan temple, but it went into decline when the progress of the nearby river silted up the bay and moved the shoreline miles away from the city. Only during the late 1800’s was it rediscovered and the excavation is a continuing project.
I recommend the most sturdy and slip proof shoes that you have and even trekking poles if you are at all unsteady. The streets are paved with very slippery marble and I learned to step on the cracks for traction. Our tour guide told us the story of a woman that was on one of his tours who slipped and broke her leg, and urged us to be ever so cautious walking here. They actually have ambulances at the bottom of the hill ready to administer first aid to any guest who injures them selves. Our tour guide also gave us some warning about bargaining with shop keepers, that you always bargain, never accept the first price offered. Also he took us to a recommended shop where he said he knew the owners were trustworthy before we began our tour. Probably he has a standing relationship with the shop owners and gets a commission for the folks he bring in there. But they did have some nice scarves and other Turkish items for sale. I bought an overlay book with pictures of the ruins with an artist’s overlay of what it looked like in ancient times.
A visit to the ruins gave us a feel of what it must have been like to live in those ancient times and how magnificent this city must have been.
We started our tour near the top of the hill on which the city was built. Here we saw the entrance to the city and the smaller theater which they believe was used for town hall type political meetings.
Next, we walked by the Fountain of Trajan, which is one of better reconstructions on the site. I intentionally included some of the pictures with the crowds of people, so that you could get a good idea of what the crowds are like at the site. We also saw a well preserved mosaic floor from ancient times and even the latrine which was guarded over by a local cat.
However, the finest building, probably both now, as a reconstruction, and in ancient times, was the impressive library.
They had a professional photographer follow our group through the ruin and at the end of the tour they had the photos to be purchased on a placard in front of our bus. The cost wasn’t exorbitant, so I got the whole pack. Those pics are below.
The final site to see was the impressive large amphitheater. This was used starting in the Hellenistic period and restoration was done during the Roman Empire. The actors in the 24,000 seat capacity theater, the largest in Asia Minor, would have been all male and wearing masks to depict their characters. We also passed by what at first appear to be a graveyard, but it was the “parts lot” for the pieces of the puzzle that they try to use for reconstruction.
Our tour did include a Rug Making Demonstration and Leather Good Fashion Show, but knowing that these were just sales pitches and that we were in the market for neither, we skipped that bit of the tour and headed back to the ship. In town we met some lovely other tourist from Europe including a German couple who had us take their pictures and an man from Ireland that reminded me of my son when he talks in an Irish accent to be funny. Back aboard the ship we had a lovely sail away from this beautiful port. This will be high on my recommendation list from now on.My Cruise History