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Chris Sayer’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 07 May 2016

Location: Turkey

MapTraveling from Cannakale, and the ruins of Troy, to the port city of Kusadasi consumed most of the day. A two night stay here enabled a spot of laundry, and Jim Babaís familiarity with the town enabled us to forgo the expensive hotel laundry service to instead use a local family business. It was a nice to support the locals.

Kusadasi is well known to cruise ship exponents because it can accommodate large ocean-going vessels in the heart of the city, and these monsters disgorge huge numbers of tourists. The main attraction is the nearby Greek/Roman city of Ephesus, but Kusadasi also has a charm all to itself, with a beachside esplanade bustling with people, pubs and interesting sights.

Although this was our second visit, we explored Ephesus with the same fascination and astonishment as seven years ago. Considered the best-restored example of any Roman city on the Mediterranean, it covers a huge area and cannot possibly be seen in just a few hours. Whatís even more extraordinary is that only a quarter of the city has been excavated, the other 75% still lies buried.

I think one thing we were able to discern this time around was those parts that had been restored and those parts that were genuinely 2,000 years old. After all, they didnít have concrete in Roman days. Many of the buildings and archways had been reconstructed with a mixture of modern techniques and original stone blocks. Also Barish explained that many of the statues are replicas, the originals are in museums in Vienna and the British Museum Ė rewards for those countries paying for expensive excavations. However there is still so much work to be done, and we saw teams of workmen digging into the side of a hill, uncovering walls and floors as they worked. Apparently this recent spate of excavation is being paid for by some foreign private companies, as well as the Turkish government.

The grandest part of the city, for us, was the amphitheatre built into the side of a hill. Its steep, tiered, U-shaped seating had a capacity for 24,000 people, and indeed the acoustics are amazing even today. It was like walking into a time machine. Thereís no doubt about it, the Romans were master builders in stone.

A big difference for us this time around, was the small numbers of visitors to Ephesus. Last time there were tens of thousands, delivered by hundreds of coaches and buses, coming from several cruise ships moored in Kusadasi. This day there were maybe just a few hundred, and there were no cruise ships in town. This was good for us, but the local economy must be hurting. Many restaurants in Kusadasi had no clients sitting at their tables. Our hotel staff told us that they are usually heavily booked at this time of year, but we seem to have our huge hotel to ourselves. Itís a very sad situation.