Kusadasi was the port I was most looking forward to, mostly because I wanted to see the ancient city of Ephesus and some of the surrounding sites. I have to say, it was one of the most magnificent places I have ever visited. The ship offered many different excursions to Ephesus, with minimal walking, others longer, and yet others combining Ephesus with other sites including lunch.
Once again my friends and I contracted with a private driver and guide to show us as much as we could possibly see in 7 hours! We started with a trip to the Virgin Mary's House...it is believed that this is the house where she spent her final years. I like many found being there to be an emotional and moving experience.
Tip: If this site has religious significance for you, bring a small bottle from home so you may take some Holy Water from one or all of the three fountains. One was for health, one for wealth and one for fertility. There is also a prayer wall where visitors write a prayer on a white piece of paper and tie it to the wall, so remember paper or a tissue and a pen.
Then it was on to Ephesus which again has religious significance to Christians because St. John the Evangelist came here with the Virgin Mary in his care. It is said that this is where he wrote his gospel. For others, the city's significance is that it was the trade center of the ancient world and today, the best preserved ancient city. We saw the Library of Celsus, which was one of the 3 great libraries of ancient time, the Temple of Hadrian, Roman Baths, the Fountain of Trajan, the theater, and the Terrace Houses. These houses are well preserved and provide a vision of the lifestyle of the Ephesian elite. There are still archeologists working on site. If you have been to Pompeii and thought it incredible, you will want to see Ephesus, which by the way, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Tip: The Terrace Houses were spectacular and we saw them with a guide that studied archeology making the tour very informative. Not all tours to Ephesus include the Terrace Houses, as they restrict the amount of daily visitors. When booking your tour, ask if this will be part of it. They were a highlight of the site.
Our tour went to the Selcuk Museum, small and nicely done, that displayed many pieces found at the Ephesus site. You can see the entire museum at a leisurely pace in under an hour.
We drove to what's left of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, and St. John's Basilica for a picture stop. Then we had a traditional Turkish lunch on the lovely grounds of a rug weaving school. We watched a demonstration and were presented with rugs for sale, but NEVER did we feel pressured to buy! That being said, if I had brought along my living room dimensions and fabric samples of my upholstered pieces, I would have happily purchased one.
Our tour ended with time to shop near the port. Again, the vendors were not pushy and it was fun bargaining. Look for leather, spices, Turkish Delight, colorful hand painted dishes and of course, rugs. So that was our wonderful day! Of course the ship offered other options in Kusadasi if none of this is of interest to you.