Cruising the Mediterranean - A Day in Kusadasi, Turkey

During our cruising of the Greek Islands our ship made a stop on Turkey’s western Aegean coast. Kusadasi, where our ship docked, is a popular resort town and a major stop for the cruise ships.

Because we docked a little later than usual I was out on our balcony to watch as the ship pulled into Kusadasi harbour. The waterfront forms somewhat of a horseshoe, the city behind it sprawling up the hillside. Once again, we were lucky to have a fantastic view from our balcony.

This particular stop caused much discussion between my husband and I. One of the main excursions from Kusadasi is taking a guided tour to Ephesus. Built in 10thcentury BC, this ancient city was prominent during the classical Greek era and prospered further under the Roman Empire. Apparently, what remains of Ephesus today stands as the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean. Quite something.

So the dilemma was this – should we sign up for the tour? We chose not to after much toing and froing. The thing about holidays is that sometimes you can try and do too much. When that happens the fun starts to leach out of it.

We’d already had a busy time in London and Italy before departing on the cruise and we’d had two fantastic but busy days in Mykonos and Rhodes. After leaving Turkey we had Santorini and Athens to look forward to. The fear was that by the time we got to Athens we might be feeling a bit over it. Considering Athens was one of the places I was most looking forward to we decided that a sacrifice was in order.

The decision was perhaps made easier for me because I was a little disappointed in any case that our stop in Turkey was Kusadasi and not Istanbul (not that we were anywhere near that area of Turkey). If it had been Istanbul I would have headed straight for the Spice Bazaar – somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. Another time.

So our day in Kusadasi was going to be a breather, a chance to get in a bit of relaxation and charge our batteries for the remainder of the cruise. Besides, my husband was keen to get in a bit of pool time at the top of the ship (he’s English, what can I say?)

But not wanting to miss out entirely, we decided to disembark and have a wander around Kusadasi. It was actually great fun. As the day before in Rhodes, the shops and markets were lively and colourful. In front of practically every shop and restaurant there was someone working extremely hard to entice us inside – and they don’t give up easily! My husband began to get irritated by it but I thought it was all part of the fun. And I admired their tenacity. We were in Turkey and that’s how they do things. If we didn’t want to experience that we should have stayed on the ship! When in Rome and all that.

We also took a walk around the Caravanserai, an impressive landmark in the city’s centre. This castle dates back to the seventeenth century and during the Ottoman rule it was used as a trading house. Today the Caravanserai is a hotel, with an open-air café in the large central courtyard.

As for the local cuisine, there is plenty on offer. I love Turkish spices and flavours – and the way they charcoal grill their meat. In Kusadasi the restaurants were a mix. Some were charming and traditional looking while others had a more modern look and feel. Something for everyone.

After leaving the shopping area we headed for the waterfront. It’s a spectacular stretch and hard to resist taking a walk. We were lucky to have another warm and cloudless day.

Yet again, we were flooded with offers to stop at one of the cafes for refreshments. In the end we did decide to stop. Not that it takes much convincing for us to make a refreshment stop in any case but the young lady in front of the café we chose was so charming we couldn’t resist. She was also boasting free Wi-Fi and my husband had an urgent email to get away so that cinched the deal. (You can catch a glimpse of our ship in the lower photo.)

Although we were taking a break from sightseeing for the day an interesting place to visit if you do want to learn more about the history of Kusadasi is Pigeon Island. It’s a peninsular that juts out from the mainland, not far from the harbour. The peninsular is famous for its fortress and Byzantine castle that was used for military purposes during the Ottoman rule. It was also effective in defending the area from pirates.

That evening it was later than usual when our ship sailed from Kusadasi. My husband and I were up on the sunset deck for pre-dinner drinks at the time and the views we had over the city as our ship purred out of the harbour were spectacular, as was the evening itself.

Getting back to Ephesus briefly, although we didn’t make if there a friend of mine did visit Ephesus back in 2001 and she has graciously gifted me a few of her photos. Take a look . . .

The first photo shows the main street of Ephesus with the ancient library at the end of the street. The second photo shows the amphitheatre and the third photo shows the library. Impressive. A big thank you to my friend Nic for the photos.

So – do I have any regrets? Yes and no. It would have been amazing to see Ephesus but our day in Athens (coming in a later blog!) more than made up for it.

As for those fantastic Turkish flavours and spices of course I had to make my own Turkish-inspired food once I was back in my own kitchen. Here is a link to a recipe for my delicious spiced lamb flatbreads.


Published by Tracey O'Brien


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