Ancient City of Ephesus, Kusadasi, Turkey

Trip Start Dec 25, 2005
Trip End Apr 28, 2006

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Sunday, April 9, 2006

Next stop, Kusadasi, Turkey

Kusadasi was the replacement port of call for Tripoli, Lybia. While negotiations continued for quite some time to allow us into Tripoli, our understanding is that the government refused to allow a "blanket visa," which is standard procedure for all ships entering countries where visas are required. We have heard that the few ships that had called on Tripoli over the past several months were not allowing U.S. citizens to disembark although non-U.S. citizens were allowed ashore. Obviously, this was unacceptable and Tripoli was scrapped.

Since we had been to Kusadasi and the ancient city of Ephesus 10 years ago and loved it, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to see it again. We were surprised and pleased to see that Kusadasi has been transformed into a beautiful port city. If it weren't for the ever-present carpet stores enticing you inside with Turkish coffee and sweets, you would never guess that you were in Turkey. The city has a very cosmopolitan feel and there are many high-end designer stores. When we last visited, there was nothing here to speak of except the local bazaar. At that time, it felt very foreign to us. The only downside to this development is that the art of bargaining for goods has pretty much become a thing of the past.

The ancient Roman port city of Ephesus (Efes) was first settled in approximately 1000 B.C. It is described as "one of the best-preserved ancient cities on the Mediterranean." Over the centuries, the river has silted over separating this once wealthy port from the sea by 3-4 miles. Excavation is still ongoing. We were told by our guide that only 15% of the site has been excavated. This is difficult to fathom because, in our opinion, this archeological site is the one where you can visualize with clarity the way life was thousands of years ago. You can see by Lou's pictures of the public toilets and the street sign showing the way to the local brothel that this was a very developed society. The marble streets still show the grooves of the chariots, and the theatre, which held 25,000 spectators, still is the venue for concerts today. Elton John recently performed here. The Library of Celsus is remarkably preserved. The ship arranged to have a string duet playing for us at the stairs of the Library as we walked the streets. It was a nice touch.

In addition to visiting Ephesus, we also visited the Ephesus Museum said to house one of the best collections of Roman and Greek artifacts to be found in Turkey. Sadly, thousands of beautiful treasures have been taken over the years by foreigners and now can be found in museums elsewhere in the world.

This area of the world is also very rich in Christian history. We knew from our last visit to Ephesus that the Apostles St. John and St. Paul traveled here to spread Christianity after Jesus' death. In addition, the Bible says that St. John was entrusted with the care of Mary, the Mother of Jesus and she, too, spent her last years in Ephesus and later in the surrounding mountains. It seemed fitting that we were here on Palm Sunday and were able to visit the Basilica of St. John, where his tomb lies, and also the House of the Virgin Mary, high in the Aladag Mountains. Virgin Mary's House is a very popular pilgrimage spot. Pope Paul VI visited and prayed here in 1967. It was a very moving experience.

After experiencing all of this very rich history, we were ready for lunch. We were treated to a lovely Turkish meal in a large garden of olive trees, grapevines and beautiful flowers. It felt a little like Napa Valley, except the Turkish wine was not quite as good.

We think that Kusadasi is a must-do for anyone interested in history, good food, beaches and shopping. Most cruise ships call on Kusadasi and Istanbul on their Greek Islands itineraries giving you an opportunity to get your feet wet in a culture that is continually becoming more and more westernized.
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