Kuşadası, Turkey (27 Sept 2015)
Ephesus and Turkish Bath
Most people usually associate Turkey with Istanbul so I received many blank stares when I explained that Peace Boat had docked at Kuşadası for a day. Located in the Aydin Province of Central Aegean Turkey, Kuşadası is a busy port town along the Aegean coast.
The name Kuşadası comes from “kuş” (bird) and “ada” (island) as the island resembles the shape of a bird’s head. It is also known as “Ephesus Neopolis“ in Greek (Ἔφεσος Νεόπολις) and famous for being a gateway to Ephesus.
One of the major and best-preserved Greco-Roman sites in Turkey, the ancient city of Ephesus is very popular with tourists. We decided to visit Ephesus early in the morning to avoid the crowds. Once we disembarked Peace Boat, a group of us quickly jumped into a cab and reached Ephesus in about 30 minutes. It was more cost effective and convenient for us to share the cost of hiring a private driver who would drop us back in Kuşadası than rely on public bus.
The entrance fee to the UNESCO World Heritage site is quite steep at 40 Turkish Lira (about 13 Euros) but I could understand why once I saw the ruins. The almost 5000-year-old site is massive and we took a few hours to explore the remnants of history. Excavations started over a century ago and only ten percent of the ancient city of Ephesus has been unearthed.
Celsus Library (Celcius Library)
The Celsus library is one of the most striking structures in Ephesus. Built in 117 A.D, it was a monumental tomb for Gaius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus. When I was fooling around and taking photos and videos in the surviving façade of library, I did not realize that the grave of Celsus was just beneath the ground floor and the status of Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom. My deep apologies, Mr Celsus!
The Odeon is exactly what I imagined a Greek theatre to look like. The word “odeon” comes from ancient Greek word “Ōideion” (ᾨδεῖον) which means “building for musical performances”. After analyzing so many Greek tragedies during my days as a Literature major, I was so excited to finally be able to visit an Odeon and I ran up and down the steps of this atmospheric theatre which could fit 1500 spectators.
I would love to spend more time wandering through the ancient city but we had to meet our driver. Most private drivers offer to bring tourists to other attractions around Ephesus like House of Virgin Mary and Basilica of St.John. W skipped most of the attractions and only visited 1 more place which is one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world!
Temple of Artemis
The Temple of Artemis is also called the Temple of Diana. This temple is devoted to Artemis who is the daughter of Zeus and twin sister of Apollo. The oldest remaining structures found date back to the 6th century BC. It was initially surrounded by 36 huge columns, later enlarged upon the orders of the Lydia King, Kreisos. A newer temple was rebuilt in the 2nd century BC and it had 127 columns of each 17.5 meters high. Most of the excavated sections of the building are exhibited at London’s British Museum. Unfortunately, the current site only has a pillar and some shattered ruins so visitors have to depend on the power of their imagination.
After a morning with historical ruins, we headed back to downtown Kuşadası. We had a relaxing afternoon enjoying Turkish cuisine, drinking Turkish tea and taking Turkish bath!
My first Turkish bath (or hammam) experience was definitely memorable (maybe for the wrong reasons). Wrapped in only flimsy towels, we were sent to a small sauna-like room. Then a huge man summoned us into another room which has a marble table. Once I was on the table, the strange bath session started. The man covered me in foam and flipped and scrubbed me like a piece of fish. Let’s just say that the ladies bonded very well over the intimate session. We should have read a guide like this to be more prepared for our first Turkish bath. Later I found out that we probably had a “tourist” version of the traditional Turkish bath. I will find a real hammam and try a more authentic Turkish bath (to replace some of the Kuşadası’s bath memories) when I visit Turkey in the future!