Driving through Ancient Ruins with Narrow Streets

Trip Start Mar 23, 2009
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Trip End Apr 21, 2009


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Flag of Turkey  , Turkish Aegean Coast,
Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Greetings,

Sunday began with a delicious Turkish breakfast at our Pension in Bodrum. With some directions in broken English from the guy at the Pension, we began our road trip up the Aegean coast.

Our first stop was in Didyma to see the Ancient Temple of Apollo. Luckily for us, the weather was gorgeous and there were no other tourists at the temple so we were able to enjoy it's beauty alone. Next, we continued on, to the ancient city of Miletus, which is definitely one of the highlights of our trip so far. There are several structures from the ancient city which remain, the largest one being a massive theater We walked up to the top of the theater and were astounded with what we saw.....we had a view of several other remnants of the ancient city, including a bathhouse, a temple, a mosque and several other buildings, parts of which were submerged in water in a little lake. We decided to further explore, and ended up walking around the lake and exploring each of the structures in more detail. Once again, there weren't any other tourists there (except for a group of really old Germans who basically just looked at everything from afar) so we were totally free to climb around and explore. I can't really put the beauty of this site into words, but it was incredible, you'll just have to take my word for it!

After grabbing a quick lunch at Miletus, we headed on to Priene, another ancient city. Compared to Miletus, several of it's structures were a bit more intact, and it was a much more massive city. The large mountain in the background provided a beautiful backdrop, and we enjoyed wandering about and exploring those ruins as well. After Priene, we had seen our fill of ruins for the day, and headed to Kusadasi, which will be our home base for the next 3 days or so.

We got to Kusadasi, and after unsuccessfully attempting to locate our pension, I called to ask for help. Youssif, the Turkish owner of the pension came to meet us on his vespa, and guided us back to the pension. Getting there required driving through a "pedestrian only" zone as well as up a few extremely narrow and steep alleys. Good thing Michael was doing the driving and not me....we managed to make it fairly unscathed, although he did manage to wack his side mirror into oncoming traffic. Luckily it was just the mirror....a few more inches and it would have been bad news!

The place we are staying is a very cute little pension called "Anzac - Golden Bed Pension", which is run by an Australian woman, Sandra, and her Turkish husband, Youssif. Sandra immediately invited us up to the roof terrace, which has a wonderful view of the sea, and offered us Turkish tea and sweets. She was super friendly and helpful, and we enjoyed sitting and talking with her for quite some time, before we headed off to Ferah Balik restaurant for a delicious fish dinner.

On another note, Sunday was election day.....which means the campaigning craziness we've been dealing with for the past several days was finally over, and everyone was headed to the polls! Apparently it is illegal to sell any alcohol before 5 pm on election day in Turkey, so we saw roped off liquor isles in several stores we passed...interesting!

On Monday morning we enjoyed our first breakfast at Anzac Pension, which was a delicious Turkish breakfast (including simit!) served on the terrace. We then headed off to Ephesus with Nazmi, our driver for the day. Once we got to Ephesus we decided it would be worthwhile to have a tour guide, so we found a lovely Turkish man named Mustafa to guide us through the ruins. Ephesus is the best preserved ancient city in the eastern part of the Mediterranean, spread out over a large area, and includes well preserved roads, baths, homes, large and small theaters and an the ancient Library of Celsus. The ruins were restored by the Austrian Archaeological Society. If I do say so myself they did quite an impressive job of it! If I had ruins, I would want them restored by Austria too. Even Michael agrees.

Ok back to being serious...the site was very impressive, especially the ancient library and the homes, many of which still had beautiful mosaics on the floors and walls. Mustafa even pointed out many spots were backgammon boards were carved into the stones; even chariot marks were still visible on the main street! Overall we enjoyed Miletus more due to the beautiful serene setting, but Ephesus was definitely more intact and complex. It was a bit harder to enjoy since there were hundreds of tourists all around us but it is one of the places that is a must see for anyone traveling to Turkey.

After we completed our tour of Ephesus, we thanked Mustafa and were on our way. Nazmi picked us up and took us to a great traditional family run Turkish gozleme restaurant. Gozleme are basically large crepe filled with all kinds of deliciousness. In our case, we had one with spinach, cheese and mushrooms, and another with tahini and walnuts. We sat in a traditional room on couches lined with Kilim carpets, it was fantastic!

Nazmi then took us back to Seljuk, where we were able to see the beautiful Hotel Bella, which he owns. We were also given a seminar on carpets since he also owns a beautiful carpet store, Divan Carpets.. Nazmi explained to us that he grew up in a small village on the Mediterranean which was one of many villages in the region famous for making carpets. The carpets are made by the women to be used in their own homes and for dowry, and are never made with the intention of selling. Each carpet takes months to complete and are essentially priceless to the maker. However, when in need of money, villagers will sell the carpets to raise capital. Much of Nazmi's family still lives in the mountains, and he visits his village as well as several other nearby villages annually to purchase any carpets they are willing to part with. Many of them are quite old by the time they make it into the stores. He showed us many of the carpets and they are absolutely beautiful so we decided to take the plunge since he seemed like a very trustworthy guy with authentic carpets. We figured since we will both be moving into new apartments within the next few months they would be well worth it. We are getting the carpets sent home and are looking forward to enjoying them for a long time!

Nazmi then drove us back to our hotel in Kusadasi. On the ride, we were amazed with his ability to navigate the narrow streets filled with pedestrians and mopeds while talking on his cell phone in a large manual transmission van. Michael took notes, and hopefully he will now be equipped to get out of Kusadasi without hitting his mirror on anything.

When we came home we had a nice chat with our Australian host about living in Turkey and had dinner at a nice little kebab place owned by a Turkish/English couple (who helped to teach us some basic Turkish!). After a nice stroll along the Aegean we headed back to Anzac Golden Bed for some rest.

We woke up Tuesday looking forward to our much needed day of rest and relaxation. We decided against doing anything major as we had been more or less going non-stop since we arrived. After another delicious breakfast on the terrace we headed uphill to the local twice-weekly market. It was much larger than we thought it would be and we were able to sample some nuts, cheeses and honey. We ended up getting some delicious fresh Strawberries and headed down towards the waterfront where we made our way over to the fortress that juts out into the bay. We aren't really sure if it's used for anything other than a park but we are currently sitting in the shade overlooking the harbor, enjoying our Strawberries!

Tomorrow we are off to the Cappadocia region to enjoy central Anatolia and some outdoor fun.

Until next time...
~ Bianca and Michael


PS - through the magic of the Internet I was able to watch the entire MSU/Louisville game. Go State!
PPS - there are a lot of pictures with this one so we hope you enjoy
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