Insignia, Nautica and Marina have all called at the Turkish port of Kusadasi this month. As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I’ve had the privilege of visiting this marvelous place twice, and I hope to have the chance to return soon to delve even deeper into its many wonders. It is not surprising that Kusadasi is one of the most popular ports of call for Oceania Cruises’ ships.
Kusadasi has become a haven for countless visitors over the past few decades and evolved into a rather cosmopolitan resort. Thousands seek sun, beaches, seafood, and extensive shopping opportunities. Of particular note are the “genuine fake watches” you can find advertised in shops throughout the area. The signs touting these popular souvenirs never fail to give me a chuckle.
Although modern Kusadasi has its charms, you will not want to miss the opportunity to visit nearby Ephesus, one of the most renowned and revered archaeological sites in the world, and learn of its engaging history.
• Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, once a major port and commercial city, that grew over time to inhabit upwards of 250,000 people.
• Ephesus began as a Greek settlement and changed hands over hundreds of years, from the Greeks to the Romans to the Ottomans to the Turks.
• Ephesus was once a port, but its harbor disappeared over time as years and years of silt from the Cayster River filled the bay and surrounding lowlands, thus removing direct access to the Aegean Sea.
• Ephesus is the center of many religious temples, artifacts, and historical occurences. It was home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Now Ephesus is home to a major working archaeological dig in addition to hosting thousands of visitors each year from around the world. The 30-minute journey from Kusadasi is well worth the opportunity to reach this must-see marvel.
The sea of visitors floods the main path of Ephesus which leads to the imposing Library of Celsus. A closer look at the facade reveals incredible detail and an impressive structure built to honor Tiberius Juluis Celsus Polemaeanus.
During my excursion to Ephesus, our guide shared that the noblemen would bolt up the steep, marble-covered pathway in their chariots. The trek is a bit challenging for a tourist taking in all the sites, let alone a chariot or a merchant with his wares trying to reach the market. But the streets themselves were actually a work of art. Many of the streets were covered with intricate, colorful ceramic tiles, the remains of which can still be seen today.
If you do need a moment to sit in order to catch your breath and reflect on the history surrounding you, pay close attention to the seat of your choice. Some choose to relax in the public toilets, which were historically a social place where men would often congregate to conduct business and discuss the events of the day. Further down the main street of Ephesus stands the Great Theatre. Carved into the side of a very large hill, the Great Theatre is said to have held up to 44,000 people, who would watch plays, gladiators, and political stump speeches. It was here that St. Paul preached to the Ephesians. In recent years, the Great Theatre has hosted the likes of Elton John, Sting, and the late Luciano Pavarotti. A concert series continues today on a smaller scale to limit any damage to the historic site.
As our tour came to the end, we were able to observe locals demonstrating what life would have been like had we actually visited in ancient times when Ephesus was a bustling and thriving city.
As I turned and looked down Harbor Street, I imagined Nautica anchored at the end of the pier where ships would’ve docked in ancient times when the waters of the Aegean lapped against the shores of this port town.
While perhaps being the most famous, Ephesus is far from the only fascinating sight in and around Kusadasi. Also of interest are the Isa Bey Mosque, the Basilica of St. John, the House of the Virgin Mary and the charming hillside village of Selcuk.
A visit to Kusadasi would also not be complete without selecting your fish from the local market and enjoying a delicious lunch of fresh seafood and other local specialties.
But our experiences with the local culture did not end ashore, as Oceania Cruises had a special surprise awaiting us upon our return to the ship. The KUFAD Folkloric Team of Kusadasi greeted us onboard with a performance by their traditional Turkish dance troupe.
Should your travels with Oceania Cruises take you to the port of Kusadasi, embrace the chance to experience this marvelous destination. Your adventures both onboard and ashore will most certainly create cherished memories.