The next stop was Kusadasi, one of the most popular seaside resorts in Turkey and gateway to Ephesus, a world treasure, and a place I visited many years ago. I don’t remember seeing Kusadasi then but it is retail central, with an attractive harbor walk full of restaurants, jewelry and carpet shops. I gather, however, locals find it noisy and miss the far more humble fishing village it used to be.
We didn’t stay long. With a quite lovely and articulate guide to help us understand Ephesus we drove for about a half an hour to join the hordes at the ruins. Note to self: remember last time you were here? It was unbearably hot. New note to self: it was unbearably hot this time too. Pick new season next time.
Well, you might reasonably ask, if it was so ridiculously hot, and you’ve been there twice, why would you go again? The answer, oddly enough, is that even though we are talking about a city created by the ancient Romans, the place keeps changing.
Last time I was here I marveled at the white marble entrance and Arcadian Way, the two story library façade, the toilets (built with running water underneath them), and what is thought to have been a bordello. This time there was an entirely new excavation to bowl me over.
It was the restoration in 2000 of the house of an important religious and political official and it was the most impressive ancient Roman living space I have seen - or perhaps the world has seen. A whole house of multiple rooms with their original mosaic floors is in the process of being totally rehabilitated. You walk on modern stairs above the rooms with canvas shading the whole project and the view is remarkable. The home has almost modern touches - an indoor kitchen and bathroom, pictures on the wall, granite finishes, well designed air flow. I would have loved to have been a house guest of this family’s.
By the time, however, we reached the justly famed amphitheater (built to seat about one fifth of the population, or in this case, 24,000 people) we had sweated a river and gotten to that hot and prickly stage where only food and air conditioning are interesting. We got both at an inexpensive and unpretentious (but delicious) local place and after about an hour we had cooled down enough to feel human again. Still, the majority of our party dumped the rest of the tour (mostly revered church sites) and headed back to the boat.
My friend Janet and I decided to follow our guide’s suggestion and go see a rug factory and workshop demonstration of silk and wool rug making. We knew these demonstrations are designed to turn us into clients but we didn’t mind. We both enjoyed the manager’s explanation of how silk is gathered from the silkworm and we liked watching young women’s deft fingers create silk or wool patterns. Did we look at rugs? Maybe 50. Did I buy one? No! (I bought two…)
After that there were hugs all around with our guide — and we returned to the boat barely able to consider dinner — but rallying for the usual feast, this time in Aquafina, the other upscale restaurant on the boat. It was an excellent finish to a memorable day — but I would have to say that I’d put this excursion more on a must do list for intellectual growth than relationship romance. It was so hot that people’s personalities started to fray and I could imagine a couple with conflicting agendas (”time to go” versus” “we have to see it all”) could get into some nasty exchanges.
Better idea: regular evening concerts and performances are held in the amphitheater and some of the great talents of the world have performed by torchlight there. Now that would be romantic.