Kusadasi, Turkey, is a picturesque, mostly resort town on the Aegean Sea. The population of 65,000 swells to over half a million people during the tourist season. It has been known by a variety of names throughout the ages, taking on the current name 'Kusadasi' only in the beginning of the 20th century. The majority of first-time tourists flock here to visit the nearby ruins of Ephesus, while those who have been before tend to spend time in Kusadasi, a hub of activity with its countless cafes and shops, and to try their skills at bartering with the local shopkeepers who are awaiting to sell everything from handmade carpets to jewellery to 'genuine fake watches'.

Kusadasi - Turkey

Having experienced the bargaining firsthand, I feel that it was very entertaining to say the very least. Of course, just like we found in Istanbul, the shopkeeper offered us a cup of Turkish tea which tastes very much like apple cider. And then the negotiating began. A word to the wise – these people are professionals at haggling and, for the most part, have had many years and thousands of potential customers to practice on. If you are good at saying no, then I encourage you to try bargaining; however, be forewarned….you may leave the shop with a treasure that you had no plan on buying. Nevertheless, this treasure will forever become a topic of conversation in your home. (I now own a very pretty bracelet).

Like most modern tourist destinations, this Turkish town also has a theme park that looked like it was taken from the 1001 Arabian Nights. Call me naïve, but the last thing I expected to see along the road to historical Ephesus was a Disney-style story book castle complete with a waterpark. Be that as it may, along our short drive, we were more than assured that this town is very much a part of the twentieth century as we passed countless villas and gated communities of vacation homes.

Approximately a fifteen minute drive away from the busyness of Kusadasi lies the ancient city of Ephesus. These days, it is more of a reconstruction of the ruins that have seen over two thousand years of history and cradled civilization as we know it.

At its prime, it was one of the most important commercial centres. Most of us know it because of its importance in the Christian era as the society that Paul the Apostle exhorted in his Epistle to the Ephesians. But this is a city that has a history dating back to 3000 B.C. and saw many kings and rulers over the ages including Alexander the Great. With eager anticipation of visiting Ephesus and seeing firsthand one of the historical landmarks that were a reality only in my history books as a young girl, I was about to embark on a whole new level of understanding for the way the individuals that formed this society lived, worked, and played. This was a city that had cold and hot running water, flushing toilets, and central heating centuries before electricity even sparked the imagination of humankind.
Ephasus - Turkey

I would strongly recommend for anyone visiting the ruins for the first time, to take a guided tour in order to have a quick overview of the area, its layout in respect to its purpose of the time, as well as its historical importance. The guides are very knowledgeable and many will add in their own understanding of the Ephesian history and bring to your attention points of interest that you may not find in self-directed tours. If timing is not an issue, first join a tour and then go back through the ruins at your leisure. Take your time and you will see things you may have missed through the tour. If you are visiting during a cruise, as we were, it is almost impossible for you to see everything in the few short hours that you are escorted through Ephesus.

IMPORTANT: When taking a guided tour, stay close to your tour guide. Everyone in the group is provided with an audio receiver and these work best if you are within 30 feet of your guide. Should you get sidetracked and/or stray from your group, you will lose signal, or at the very best, the sound will be severely affected and you will not be able to hear/decipher the information. Unfortunately I learned this the hard way. I tend to stray a lot because I find so many of the sights fascinating and I want to embed them not only on my SD card but also in my memory.

Ephesus - Turkey
As a side note I was surprised to see so many cats roaming freely through the ruins. Apparently the archeologists befriend them and feed them so these cats are quite used to thousands of people petting them every day.

They certainly do not lack affection and make themselves quite visible and at home on the marble pillars everywhere you look. One can almost imagine that these cats are descendants of those felines which roamed the streets of Ephesus and the courtyards of Alexander the Great.

While Ephesus is a far cry from being an accessible historical site, I have seen several people venturing out in their wheelchairs over the rough terrain which is, for the most part, made up of large slabs of marble but which is not necessarily even. Some parts of the paths are boardwalks while still others are small crushed stone. For the disabled individual who wants to experience Ephesus firsthand, this is a doable excursion; however, make sure you have someone to help out in case your mode of transportation (whether it is a scooter or a wheelchair) gets stuck in a crevice. There are several ramps which provide an easier transition from one level to the next. For example, a wheelchair user can get into the courtyard of the Library of Celsius thanks to the foresight of the Austrian Archeological Society (which is undertaking the reconstruction and excavation of the rest of Ephesus) or the Turkish government who have installed an easy access ramp at this location. From this point on, the pathway is very accessible. It will lead you right past the Great Theatre where gladiators once fought. Although the theatre is, at this time an inaccessible area for those who are unable to walk, there is still the opportunity for great Kodak moments with the amphitheatre in the background. As the amphitheatre is very close to the exit gate, there is a long path along which various archeological finds have been laid out in preparation to be resurrected in their original locations. And, if you are lucky enough to visit at the right time of day, you will be entertained as a guest of the emperor himself at a mock gladiator fight.

Ephesus - Turkey Ephesus - Turkey Ephesus - Turkey
An average guided tour of Ephesus lasts approximately four hours. If you have arrived by cruiseship, this still allows ample time to return to Kusadasi and one final chance to bargain for another treasure before boarding the ship. Stroll through town one more time to see how Turkish carpets are made and if you choose to enjoy a cup of Turkish tea, remember that it is a gesture of friendliness and not a commitment to buy an area rug.

kusadasi - Turkey

Barb Salivar
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