Two Week Vacation: Stop #3 - Kusadasi, Turkey

Trip Start Mar 29, 2007
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Trip End Sep 30, 2009


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Flag of Turkey  , Turkish Aegean Coast,
Sunday, June 1, 2008

So in order to get to Turkey from Greece via boat, you've got to stop over at the Greek island of Samos.  It's sort of a scam as the ferry which takes you to Samos arrives after the last ferry to Turkey has left so you're forced to spend one night in the town...it's like a forced vacation.  Trust me...Samos doesn't have much going on for it with the exception that it's less than 2 miles from the coast of Turkey at the narrowest point.  Problem number 2 is that you cannot purchase your ferry tickets to Turkey until you actually get to Samos....so you run the risk of the boat being sold out...thereby extending the time you have to spend in Samos.  We arrived around 9PM into the city and went immediately to the ticket office to purchased ferry seats for the next mornings boat to Kusadasi, Turkey.  The lady tells us that the morning ferry is sold out....damn.  But there's a 5:30PM ferry that we can get on that same day...sold.  We start walking to our hotel which was way, way too far to walk...but eventually get there and get checked in, cleaned up and head out to explore Samos.  We find a good casual restaurant and have a good meal and great conversation with our waitress who used to live in the United States.  She gave us a recommendation for a pub to check out so off we went and eventually found it right on edge of the local port next to the water.  Unfortunately it was a local's bar and we were the only two obvious tourists...so it was a bit difficult to meet people.  They had Corona on the menu so I had a couple ten dollar Coronas and we decided that this bar sucked and took off and called it a night.
The next day we had to kill basically the entire day waiting for our 5:30PM ferry...so we hung out at the hotel pool.  We get hungry and head out with our baggage to find a place for lunch before our ferry got there.  We were both expecting a large ferry and didn't see anything so we sort of lazed around and ordered a late lunch and relaxed.  I noticed a small boat loading passengers at the port and said "you know...that small boat could be there ferry dude...and it's scheduled to leave in 5 minutes!".  We changed our sit down meal to a to-go meal and I sent Step running to hold the boat....I came about 3 minutes later...30 seconds before they pulled away and was told I had to go through Greece immigration first...crap!  Can't believe we didn't assume the ferry would be a small boat.  Anyway...Greece immigration was a joke...took 10 seconds and I climb aboard the small ferry boat for our 1.5 hour journey to Turkey.  The boat was flying the Turkish and Greece flags and at one point halfway in the journey they took the Greece flag down and replaced it with a yellow flag.  I asked the dude who did it what it represented and he said "hospital"...huh?  I looked it up on the internet and it means "Quarantine Flag".  The "Q" flags to be flown where it can be easily seen to indicate that the vessel desires to be boarded by customs and other governmental authorities for clearance in to the country.  Anyway...we get to Kusadasi, went through immigration, bought a bottle of Bacardi at duty free and were ushered through a shopping mall just to get through to the exit.  Caught a taxi to our hotel....Hotel Sezgin.  The hotel was in a great location...literally one block from the city center....and the room was nice and newly renovated....not bad for 50 Euro's/night.  The owners helped us book an all day tour the next day to Ephesus which was one of the must-see's while down in this part of Turkey.  The nightlife in Kusadasi is weak to say the least.  There is one main strip called "Bar street" (real inventive) where everyone ends up and it doesn't really get going until after midnight..  It's the cheesiest version of a "bar street" that I've ever seen...even cheesier than Koh Sahn Road in Bangkok.  For example...there are literally 8 Irish pubs IN A ROW on this street....silly.  Anyway we made a few laps up and down bar street...had a few bars invite us in for a free drink and finally settled on one bar called "Kitty O'Shea Irish Bar".  We only picked this one has it had the best ratio of girls to guys...which still sucked as there were 3 guys to every girl.  Important point about Kusadasi....the Turkish boys here love Western Girls and they have developed a level of "game" (read: pick up skills) that would put any guy from the States to shame.  Nearly every single Western girl had at least three local boys flirting with them...and many were doing more than just flirting (wink wink nudge nudge).  I've got a girlfriend (I think I do at least) so I could have cared less...but it was killing Step to see these average Turkish guys pulling down some pretty serious tail.  Anyway...entertaining to watch for one night....but as we're going to be here for 3 nights I'm not feeling that the nightlife here is going to be worth a damn.
Up early on day 2 in turkey as we've got a tour bus coming to get us at 8:30 to take us to Ephesus.  This was definitely a highlight of Turkey as the ancient city of Ephesus is truly a must-see in Turkey (and it's only a 30 minute drive from Kusadasi).  After making a few more stops on the bus to other hotels, we had a full load of primarily American's and were off to Kusadasi.  The tour guide was great and she informed us that it's Turkish law that all organized tours must include at least two stops to "authorized" goods stores...in other words we had to stop twice to be peddled some Turkish goods.  Our stops would include a fashion show at a leather store and a carpet store....yipee...not.  Anyway...first stop was Ephesus (click here to read about it on Wikipedia).  It's an amazing ancient ( city in ruins that was once the capital of Asia Minor in 27BC.  It's history predates that by several centuries and it's full of amazing sites including the Temple of Artemis (Diana), the Library of Celsus and its huge theater,which was capable of holding 25,000 spectators.  This open-air theater was used initially for plays but when the Romans controlled Ephesus, gladiatorial combats were also held on its stage, with the first archaeological evidence of a gladiator graveyard found in May of last year.  There were also several major bath complexes, built at various points while the city was under Roman rule.  And the city had one of the most advanced aqueduct systems in the ancient world, with multiple aqueducts of various sizes to supply different areas of the city, including 4 major aqueducts....the city and the temple of Artemis were destroyed by the Goths in 263.  We spent about 3 hours at Ephesus following our guide and exploring on our own...it was great.  Next stop was the Temple of Artemis....sort of a disappointment because there's not much left to see.  It used to be one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world before it was destroyed....take a look at the single mis-matched column in my photo and try to imagine a  temple over 300 feet in length and 150 feet wide with more than one hundred stone columns supported a massive roof.  Believe it or not Step actually ran into some girl who knew him from D.C....small world.  Despite the fact that we were all famished and ready for our free (included) lunch, we had to make a stop at one of our mandatory Turkish goods stores.  We stopped at a Turkish leather store where we were entertained with a fashion show and then forced to look at ridiculously priced leather coats and other goods (at one point I tried on a leather jacket that was priced at $500...by the time I walked out the door they guy was screaming $150).  Anyway...lunch was at an all you can eat buffet that obviously caters to tourists groups...it was good, nothing to write home about.  The next two attractions were in the town of Selcuk....1) the Isa Bey Mosque and 2) the Ephesus Museum.  The Mosque was ok...but the museum was very cool as we got a couple hours to walk around at our own pace and actually learn/see more about the site of Ephesus we just saw in person a few hours earlier.  Highlight was the gladiator room which includes some bone fragments from the gladiator graveyard where pathologists were able to determine how this particular gladiator died and by what instrument.  The bone fragments were housed in a case with a replica instrument of death and a drawing of how this poor guy met his demise....pretty cool.  The final stop was a carpet store where once again we were peddled to...no one bought anything and we were soon on our way back to Kusadasi.  As the bus was making a stop at the main bus terminal in Kusadasi...step and I got out there to purchase our bus tickets to Istanbul.  Good thing we did...we got the last two seats on the bus.  Nightlife tonight consisted of another lame night on Bar Street....it really does suck.
Another early the next day to catch yet another bus for yet another site in Western Turkey.  This time we have a 3-4 hour drive to the site of Pamukkale and the ancient city of Hieraplois...both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  As they are located at the same spot...this should have meant a nice drive through the Turkish country side followed by several hours exploring the sites.  What actually happened is the following:  At our first rest break about 2 hours into the drive in the middle of nowhere, a middle aged Australian woman slips off the last step of the bus.  She swears she heard something snap so we all wait for the ambulance to come.  Our tour guide is a nice elder Turkish woman who used to be a High School English teach.  Well when this Aussie woman slipped...our tour guide went into a panic mode and wouldn't let the Aussie lady out of her sight.  So...20 minute delay for the ambulance...20 minute drive to the local hospital...60 minute delay while they checked this Aussie woman out.  After 1.5 hours...the rest of the tour group was getting a bit antsy...so I was nominated to go inside the hospital figure out what's going on.  The tour guide was still in a panic and said she'd be out soon....with the Aussie woman?  Huh?  Pretty soon we see them all come out...Aussie lady in a wheel chair, somebody runs out with what was basically an ACE elastic bandage and the bus driver (the effin' bus driver) wraps the womans ankle up, she stands up and they all get back on the bus (guide, driver, woman, her husband).  She apologizes and we all say no problem and wish her well...but in the back of my mind I'm wondering how this woman can walk on a broken ankle with an ACE bandage on it.  Whatever...we're finally on our way.  We reach Pamukkale and head immediately to lunch.  After lunch we dump our injured passenger off at a tourist office while the rest of us enter the site.  First impression of Pamukkale...lot's of Russians here....tons of 'em...cute ones...in bikinis.  Pamukkale is a natural site attraction consisting of pure white layers of limestone and travertine cascading down a mountain slope resembling a frozen waterfall.  Every second 250 liters of hot water arises from a spring inside the mountain, precipitating 2.20 grams of chalk per liter of water or 0.55 kilograms of chalk every second creating this "Cotton Castle" (Pamukkale in Turkish literally means "cotton castle").  I splashed around the in crystal blue pools for a bit until security came and kicked us out.  The ancient city of Hierapolis is built on top of the cotton castle and was founded as a thermal spa early in the second century BC and given by the Romans in 190 BC.  I didn't feel like trouncing around more ruins...especially ruins that weren't as nice as Ephesus, so instead I went to the Antique Pool at the top of the hill.  The Antique Pool is a strange name for a cool place...it's basically a large pool filled with ruins from the ruins of Hierapolis and supplied with water from the natural hot springs.  It's a great place to lounge the day away and feel the alleged benefits of the healing waters....and stare at Russian girls in bikinis....not a bad day to spend a Saturday afternoon.  Even with the broken ankle debacle, we still had 3 hours to spend at Pamukkale which was plenty of time.  Around 5PM we all met back on the bus with our neurotic guide for the 3 hours journey back to Kusadasi.  Our last night in Kusadasi was slightly better than the other two as we met some nice Irish lads and lasses at Jimmy's Irish Bar.  But still....Kusadasi was nothing more than a huge cruise ship tourist trap...better not to spend your time here...rather visit the sites of Ephesus and Pamukkale and then continue on to other sites in Turkey.
Last day in Kusadasi!  Slept in late to pack and check out then walked a bit around the town and then caught a bus to the largest beach called "Ladies Beach".  We met a cool Aussie and had a few beers with him while wasting the day away until 9PM when our overnight bus departs for Istanbul.  Got to the bus station around 8:40 and boarded our bus...which was uncomfortable and sucked.  Compared to the buses I took across Argentina, these buses were very basic.  I popped an Ambien, put on my eye shades and plugged in my Ipod and was out...next stop...Istanbul..
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