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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Ephesus, Turkey

Hi all,

So the second part of my first week in Turkey was spent near Ephesus, on the Mediterranean coast. I actually stayed in Kudadasi, which I recommend in the off-season.

I flew from Kayseri in the Cappadocia region into Izmir’s airport (on Pegasus Airlines). From there I had planned to go to a hotel/hostel I’d found on couch surfing .com . This was going to be my first experience with couchsurfing and I admit I was nervous about it. I’d originally planned to try it in Cappadocia but things didn’t work out. So I’d asked the host to arrange a shuttle and he’d said it was taken care of. But it didn’t show up. I was able to ask a very, very nice security guard to help me call the number and found that they were apparently coming but were running late. I waited another hour (this was around 10pm) then called back. They said they had come and no one was there so they’d left. Frustrated at this point, the security guard who had been helping me said that he could take me to where the shuttles into the towns were located. Once there I explained the situation to two very nice women also waiting for the shuttles to depart. They convinced me to not stay at the couchsurfer’s but instead let them take me to a nicer town and a hotel they both had used when family had come into town. Feeling the support of the shuttle group I agreed and one of the women took me to the hotel and got me set up. She also made sure we exchanged contact information so that if I needed something more we could talk. Overall it restored my trust in people and turned out to be much better than I expect the couchsurfing would have been.

The hotel was nice and right on the beach. Luckily I had the money to make up the unexpected cost. The following day I was still feeling stressed so I walked down to the fancy Double Tree Hilton and got a massage. (Tip: You often don’t have to be staying at the fancy hotel to take advantage of their services! Of course you have to pay, but they aren’t “guests-only”, which is great.) It was a wonderfully wonderful Turkish massage with a facial and a classic massage afterward. The Turkish massage (at least what I got) involved getting all soapy while laying on a hot stone table and having warm water poured over you. Then you get scrubbed really well. Very detoxing. I highly recommend going there for this service, best massage experience I’ve had a in a while. The cost was worth it. 

I had 4 days in this area of Turkey and my main objective was to see Ephesus. Pamukkale was also interesting to me but I knew it was farther away. I asked the hotel desk attendant about these sites and he arranged for me to take 2 day tours (which turned out to be with the same guide). Since the tours only went on certain days (being the off-season) I would go to Pamukkale first and then Ephesus the next day. 

The next morning started with the tour shuttle picking everyone up. The guide was an older Turkish woman who was from the Cappadocia region. She knew A LOT about Turkey and its culture. Most of the 3 hour ride to Pamukkale she told us about the different regions and it was interesting, but it was also like a lecture. Most people feel asleep. 

The site was really cool. We first went to Hieropolis and on the walk around I made a friend with this other single traveler girl. We talked about the site and took photos for each other, held each other’s stuff, etc. The group stopped at Cleopatra’s Pool, a healing site, and got to touch and taste the water (We didn’t swim, since it cost and we had limited time). Then we got out to Pamukkale which is just the ledge that Hieropolis overlooks. Seeing the calcium carbonate pools in real life was really interesting. Unlike the pinterest photos though, they weren’t full of people. You were allowed to swim in them but since it was still cold in the air most people were just wading. The water itself is warm though, unless it is sitting too long in a pool. Many tourists had their shoes off, pants rolled up, and were walking along the white edges of the pools, occasionally stepping into the blue water for a photo opportunity. 

My friend and I definitely misjudged the distance and time it would take us to walk all the way down to the bottom of the ledge. It was a fun walk but we had only about 15 minutes to get back up to the meeting spot with our group. Our first attempt was to climb up the steep path off to the side, but we were told it was closed. Next we tried to find a taxi. After about 10 minutes of waiting and having the site guards call one to help us, a taxi pulled up and basically race up the hill. We got to the meeting spot in time, but just barely and having to pay for the rollercoaster-esque taxi ride we could have avoided with better time management.    

Leaving the site we drove back to Kudadasi. Again the tour guide droned about Turkish history and I wish I’d been able to pay attention. A train heading to Izmir was the most interesting thing I saw out the windows and the green countryside rushed by. 

The next day the tour shuttle came around again, this time taking me to Ephesus and some nearby sites. We stopped first at the House of the Virgin Mary, which was quite a popular tourist site. Our guide told us there were 3 fountains by the house and whichever one you choose told something about your future. When we returned to the bus she told us the meaning behind the right, left, and center one (go find out for yourself!). That lead into a discussion of Turkish marriage customs and traditions. 

We got to Ephesus around midday and our guide tried to keep us together though everything was wandering around taking photos. It was a pretty nice day, just considerably windy. Most people in the group were good with helping each other take photos (see photos below). As we neared the library I couldn’t help but think that it looked very similar to the Treasury at Petra. Those Romans were all over the place, and you can read it and understand it, but until you see their architecture everywhere in the ancient world you don’t have that impressive realisation of the size and scope of Roman influence.   

The amphitheater at Ephesus was probably the most impressive and my favorite. From near the top you could see the valley that had been a manmade port, bringing the sea closer to the city for trade purposes. The whole site was very impressive and worth a visit. Shops were all along the exit and their owners weren’t afraid to try to convince tourists that a “I (heart) Ephesus” shirt was worth their money.  

My last day in Ephesus was calm. I just walked also the shoreline of the town. It was clear that during high season cruise ships would dock here and the place would become a buzzing shopping area with exciting nightlife. But for now it was just a seaside town with a nice view of the Mediterranean. Rain brought the night to an early close and I packed up for the next leg of my Turkish trip - Istanbul. 

Where I stayed: ─░layda Hotel 

Tour company:  __________________

Total time there: 4 days

Recommendations: Get a Turkish bath, facial, and massage at the DoubleTree Hilton. It is so worth the cost. 

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