Our second Turkish port, Kusasdsi, turned out to be the dark horse port of our entire trip. I had never even heard of this area before booking the cruise and all I really knew was that the main attraction of this region is Ephesus, the ruins of an ancient city. I was excited to see it but a bit leery as we had already seen so many ruins already in Rome.
Our tour guide and driver pick us up from the dock and we began our day with the 30-40 minute drive out to Ephesus. Our guide took this time to review Turkey’s amazing history with us. The Turks are passionate and very proud of their country, which came through loud and clear in our discussion. He did such a great job that I even made a note to find out more once I returned home.
We, like most of the other tours, started our tour of the area with Ephesus so it was quite packed in places. My first impression of the site was kind of blah but then we turned a corner and voila – the place was huge. It is similar to Pompeii in layout but only about 10% of Ephesus is open to the public. It was fascinating to see the layout of the city complete with roads and squares. With only a little imagination, you can easily picture people bustling around, and going about their daily chores and activities.
I found the terrace houses particular interesting. This was an area of the site what was covered for its protection while the archaeologists worked to uncover and piece together the housing structures and mosaics. It is very cool to see the ancient plumbing systems where the kitchen and bathrooms were located. This section requires another ticket but is definitely worth the added expense.
Some of the other key features of Ephesus were:
Library of Celsius:
Carving of Nike, where the tour guide claims the current Nike brand swoosh comes from.
Open air stadium – It was huge…hard to see the sheer size in the picture.
After leaving Ephesus we headed up into the hills to visit the House of the Virgin Mary. This building is considered a Catholic and Muslim shrine located on Mt. Koressos.
Apparently, the house was discovered in the 19th century by following descriptions from visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich, a Roman Catholic Nun. The Catholic Church has never officially declared the site but a number of pope’s including Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have visited and blessed the house.
Below the house is a wishing wall where you can write down and leave a prayer.
By this time, we were all feel a bit peckish and stopped at a lovely restaurant on our way down the mountain. This was a bit on an unusual restaurant as I think it mainly serves tour groups. Regardless, the food was definitely as homemade as you can get. You could clearly see what looked like the grandmother cooking in the attached kitchen the entire time we were there. The food was buffet style and although I had no clue what I was eating, it was all pretty darn good. Overall, I would say that I am a fan of Turkish food and wish there were more restaurants around to try even more…or at least understand what I had eaten.
After lunch, we drove to Şirince, a Greek village not far from Ephesus. It is a bit of a tourist trap but a pretty spot to walk around and try a number of their local fruit wines. We wandered around for about an hour, long enough for me to drawn into yet another scarf store. The store owner and his family evidently have been the scarf business for 50+ years and all his scarves were handmade by his family members just kilometers from his shop. I have my doubts that this is true but it was a good story and I ended up with 2 more scarves added to my growing collection. To my defense, these were neck scarves rather than the wraps I picked up in Istanbul.
Next, we headed to the Temple of Artemis, one of the 7 wonders of the Ancient world. Sadly, only a lone pillar remains of the once massive temple. Below is a re-creation of what it originally may have looked like. This stop was a bit disappointing, definitely should have done a bit more research. It was interesting to see but is a 5 minute stop.
While perusing the many, many websites planning for our trip, I came across a suggestion to visit one of the many leather outlets in the area. We asked the guide to recommend an outlet on our way back to the port. The leather jackets were gorgeous and there were tons of them, however, they were also hugely expensive. When we entered the outlet, a salesman came over to tell us to ignore the prices as we should just make an offer and he guaranteed we could find something that worked. However, when the prices start in the thousands of dollars, it would have taken extreme bargaining and I was all bargained out.
We arrived back at Kusasdsi with some time to wander the many shops surrounding the port. I picked up a Fez (Fezzes are Cool) and mom picked up a few key chains and a pair of Birkenstocks.
It was the end to another great day and we were really looking forward to a more relaxed pace at our next stop, Mykonos!