Wow, what a day! We woke early – I went for my walk, and Alan headed to the gym. Breakfast, and then off the ship to meet with the others for our full day tour of Ephesus. I didn’t really know what to expect from this port, but when I looked out our stateroom window to see Kusadasi, the vibe was good. I irrationally judge whether I like cities by ‘feel’ and even before we had docked, I felt good about Kusadasi. We headed off the ship at about 8.50am and found out guide – Ali – from Hello Ephesus, and waited for Jinda and her family and Marty and Ellen to arrive. Once we were all together, we headed off to the bus and we were on our way.
First stop, Mary’s House, which was disappointing. Having been raised as a Catholic, I understood the spiritual significance of this site, but it was overwhelmed by buses and tourists. Now we are contributing to this experience, but the site itself was managed to the nth degree, so much so it reminded me of walking past Mao Tse Tung’s tomb in Tianamen Square 25 years ago. You waited in a queue for about 10 minutes, then entered the very small and bare house. You were not allowed to stop, as the people working there ushered you through and approached you to hurry you along if you stopped. Outside – 30 seconds later – you walk down a path where you can get some spring water and post a wish on the wish wall, and then back to souvenir sellers. All strangely unsettling. The camera battery I’d bought in Singapore as a back up wasn’t working, so I bought a disposable camera just in case from one of the stores. As I was paying, the assistant asked if I’d like a book on Ephesus. No I said, and the next question was whether I’d like a postcard. No, I said, and left the shop – my first experience of the Turkish sales process. Turkish Delight was the big push here – we were approached by three people trying to sell us boxes.
Next stop was Ephesus, and this was as wonderful as Alan had suggested it would be. Amazingly intact, and the two story Library building was spectacular. Also spectacular were the Terrace Houses, where people were opting not to go in, maybe because of the fee, but heavens, what they missed!! These houses that they are still excavating have wonderful mosaics and wall murals, and rooms that clearly demonstrate how the rich people lived all those years ago. You enter on street level and progress through a series of steps and stairways to the top of the hill where the excavations are occurring – all under cover which was a blessing on the hot day. As we were walking back to where we would be picked up, a bit of street theatre happened on the road to the old waterfront – people dressed up and trumpets, processions – I’m not sure whether it was a bit of fun or an example of bad historical re-enactment. More souvenir stalls awaited us and back on the bus.
We had lunch at a local restaurant – salads, kofta, kebabs, all very good. We then had what I found out was the mandatory carpet making demonstration, but ours was quite low key compared to what others had on the Celebrity tours. We did in fact end up buying a couple of carpets for beside our bed – natural wool on cotton – for a good price, shipped to Australia free of charge – we hope! This was a school for women to learn the weaving process and run by the Department of Education, so I think that made us feel a bit better.
Next stop was the Selcuk Museum, a small museum with the relics from Ephesus – very interesting and well presented – a worthwhile stop. Then a Ceramics factory which was again low key – buy if you want to, no pressure. I bought some small gifts for my sisters and mother so that was good.
St John’s Basilica was next, and this was quite interesting. On the top of a hill, the remains of the church and temple included a walk in a pagan-walk out a Christian bapistry, and some great views over Selcuk, including its mosque, and a fort higher up on the hill above the Basilica.
Final stop was the Temple of Artemis – all one column of it. We were very tired by this time, so since we had seen it from above at the Basilica, didn’t get out to wander. I appreciated Ali’s comment that the picture we could take from this spot demonstrated the cradle of civilisation – from ancient times, to medieval times, to the modern day. Back to the ship, after a stop at an ATM to get some money for pay Ali. After we were dropped off, we got some Turkish ice cream and the server put on quite a show flipping the cones and making it seem like the ice cream was going to drop. The ice cream was quite chewy – very different texture to what we are used to, but hey, it’s ice cream, so you get used to it.
While waiting for Alan to get ready for dinner, I was looking at the Celebrity Channel on TV, and the Cruise Director was saying that Kusadasi is the port that most surprises people, and I think that’s my reaction too. I was surprised how much I like Turkey – it actually seems in some ways more Western than Greece, even though it is Islamic. We met the Cruise Director on the stairs on the way to dinner, and had a chat about Turkey – nice guy, and married to the Cruise Sales Director we found out.
After dinner tonight, we headed back to the Ensemble Lounge to listen to the String Quartet again and the waitress, Ivona, was there again. She recommended a cocktail which I had – quite good – and we had a chat with her. She has been nine cruises in that bar, and really likes it. The staff are great on this ship, but they have been great on all Celebrity ships.A very orange sunset tonight, the end of the highlight of the cruise so far.
See also my travel writing post on Ephesus.