As a part of our voyage to the Northern Cyclades, the Star Clipper was scheduled to arrive in Kusadasi -- a popular resort town at the west coast of Turkey, in the Aegean Sea. This part of the world is one of the cradles of the ancient civilizations and has an abundance of archaeological sites, including Ephesus (a UNESCO site located about 30 min drive from the port). Being interested in ancient history, for me the opportunity to visit this cultural treasure was like a dream come true.
As one of the most recognized archaeological sites in Turkey, Ephesus has a long history dating back to the 10th century, BC. The city's strategic geographic position led for its recognition as one of the largest trade centers in antiquity. However, the main draw to Ephesus was the Temple of the Goddess Artemis, known as one of the "Seven Wonders" of the ancient world. According to ancient historians, the edifice was four times larger than the Parthenon in Athens. Its splendor attracted many worshipers and pilgrims, strengthening the cult of Artemis and facilitating the flourishing or the trade. Over the centuries, the temple was destroyed and rebuilt few times. One of the legends that grew up about a great fire in 356 BC was that the night that the temple burned, was the very same night when Alexander the Great was born. Plutarch remarked that the goddess Artemis was so preoccupied in ensuring the safe birth of Alexander, that she neglected her own temple.
In a sunny summer morning, our ship docked right in the heart of the bustling town of Kusadasi, pedestrian distance from merchant shops, restaurants and cafes with tasty baklava and complimentary Wi-Fi.
I had arranged for an excursion to Ephesus through "Shore Excursions Group", a company offering excursions for cruise guests, but in smaller groups, and at lower rates compared to the ones offered through the cruise line. The representative of the company and our local Turkish guide Emre met us right outside of the port security point, holding a sign with our names on it. To our great surprise, it turned out to be a private tour because nobody else had reserved excursion at this time.
We spent over three hours at this magnificent archaeological site, having enough time for Turkish coffee and figs, courtesy of our knowledgeable guide, and immersing ourselves in these unique and memorable surroundings.
Travel Tip: If you happen to visit Ephesus as a part of cruise itinerary and you are history buff , I highly recommend to reserve a private tour/guide ahead of time.
A jewel to highlight of this ancient city, the Library of Celsus took our breath away with its intricate details, followed by the imposing Great Theater, the largest in Anatolia, once with capacity of 25,000 seats. We ended our tour, walking on the road which once welcomed the most famous couple in the Antiquity -- The Roman general Mark Antony and Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt.
On our way back to Kusadasi, we visited a local carpet producing center. We were little hesitant but end up to be very positive and educational experience, and we learned about traditional hand-woven silk carpet techniques.
We spent the rest of the day savoring local flavors, shopping for souvenirs and enjoying a local belly dancing show on board Star Clipper.
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