Mediterranean Cruise: Kusadasi, Turkey

We arrived in Kusadasi at 6am. We were out on our balcony when we heard the call to prayer echo over the water. It was so cool. It was the first time I have visited a country where the majority of people are Muslim. We booked a tour to visit Ephesus and the Terrace Houses. I was a little disappointed that our excursion would not allow us any time to visit the city of Kusadasi, because the ship was leaving at noon, but I think the trip to Ephesus was well worth it.

Our excursion left at 7:30 and we arrived in Ephesus about an hour later. It was a chilly morning. Our guide stopped first at this smaller theatre. As we were standing there, listening to her speak about the history, a cat came around and literally jumped up onto one of our group members. She was not paying attention to him/her, so the cat jumped up and grabbed her bag. I found it hysterical and therefore missed half of the explanation of the start of the city. Ephesus was the second UNESCO World Heritage Center that we visited (Olympia was the other) and both places were also on the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. Sadly, the Temple of Artemis, which was the named wonder, was nothing but ruins.

As with other ruins, I thought about the people who wandered these streets so many years ago. Our group walked down the Main Street and learned about the temples, baths, stores, library, and terraced houses.

You can see the library at the end of the street in the first picture. In the second (it is not black and white, it’s the light of early morning) you can see how the streets are lined with columns and podiums that are now empty. The statues that were once there are now in museums. The next few pictures are examples of temples.

This picture is of shops. The stores all had beautiful mosaic work at the entrances. You can also see the roof of the terraced houses to the right in the back. The mosaic may indicate that these stores were for the richer people in the city. The other interesting thing we saw were the baths. These were public bath houses. The people who lived in the terraced houses had their own private baths.

This was my favorite temple. I love the detail of the stones and carvings that are still standing in that perfect arch. The terraced houses require a separate admission, but it is worth it. They are still working on excavating these houses. There are two sections that have been excavated: the Western and Eastern housing complexes. The weird thing about the location is that it was once used as a graveyard in the 4 or 5 BC. In 200 BC they started using the stone walls of the graveyard to build the terraced houses. The walls of the houses have graffiti that give insight into their daily lives including grocery lists. They also have intricate mosaic floors and beautiful marble walls. It was a peak into the lives of the wealthy in a time that you rarely get to see.

This mosaic floor was the most interesting to me: one is Poseidon and the other is Medusa. The walls were once filled with paintings of the family members. The next few pictures show more of the mosaic floors, which is incredible to see so many years later.

The only issue with the terraced houses is that there are over 100 steps that you need to climb. You do a little at a time, so it is manageable. The problem is when you exit the houses. The steps outside are steep and uneven so you if have any issues with mobility it would be an issue or it would take a significant time to get down. Our next stop was the library. It is one of the only remaining examples of Roman libraries that you can visit and it was the third largest of its time. They estimate that it held over 12, 000 scrolls.

The other impressive structure in Ephesus is the theatre. It has 25, 000 seats and therefore historians estimate that the city had 250,000 people living there. The theatre is intact and holds concerts every year. Famous singers such as Pavarotti, Sting, Elton John, Julio Iglesias, and Diana Ross have all sung at the theatre in Ephesus. The seats would be super uncomfortable, but listening to a concert there would be quite an experience.

It was difficult to take a good picture of the theatre because the sun was shining right on it! The last picture is the closest I could get to view the whole thing. The other pictures depict different sections of seating and the stage area. As I mentioned before there were cats all over the ruins, which I have seen before, but Ephesus also had dogs and they were all microchipped and were being fed when we arrived. As you leave the ruins there is line of shops that you can go into and purchase souvenirs. We did not look at any although our guide recommended one of them for white shirts.

Before heading back to the ship, they took us to an optional tour of a carpet store. They brought us into a small room and demonstrated how they pull silk from pods in order to use for the rugs. They also had a woman who worked on a carpet so we could see how difficult it was to follow the design and pull all the knots together with the correct colors. The most intricate rugs can take over a year to make. Then they take everyone into a giant room to show you examples of the carpets. They first asked everyone what they wanted to drink. We could have two choices: apple tea, Turkish tea, beer, red or white wine, or a Turkish liquor, Raki, that is similar to the Greek liquor Ouzo. We tried the teas and they were excellent. Raki was very strong. They also gave us some pastries. After they showed us the carpets and had us walk on them in our stocking feet, they ask who is interested in seeing more and they take you into a private room. Our employee did not speak English well, but he showed us quite a few lovely carpets. Of course, the one I liked was made of silk and therefore very expensive. Another man comes in to see how to get the deal done. They really wanted to sell since the store closed for the season in a few days. ( I’m sure that really want to sell all year.) In any case, we managed to get the carpet I loved for less than half of the asking price. As far as we can tell, we got a good deal. Now we wait for it to be sent to us.

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