Kusadasi, Turkey sits in a curvaceous turquoise bay whose coastal road is crammed with condominiums, hotels and restaurants and decorated with hulking cruise ships snuggled up to its docks. It is punctuated with rug merchants and kitschy tourist shops. Near the very end of the hubbub sits the Caravanaserail Hotel, a big square turreted affair built in 1648 by an Ottoman Sultan to serve passing pashas and their entourages. We received near-royal treatment there for a three-night visit.
Huge ships show up daily and disgorge their cargoes, who are herded into buses and ferried a few miles inland to Ephesus. They tromp around the ancient ruins, furiously snap photos of each other declaiming in the ancient theatre or perched triumphantly atop long-empty sarcophagi. We, of course, did exactly the same things minus the tour bus and umbrella-wielding guide.
It is a stunning ancient site, but it was a difficult to become emotionally engaged when there were thousands of elbows and shoulders poking us and too many bodies blocking the views.
We fled to the sultan’s sanctuary for cool drinks on our veranda when two gents from Australia came up the staircase behind the porters horsing their bags. We were soon swapping stories and making plans to share a table for the next evening’s gala tourist event at the hotel. Whirling dervishes, belly dancers, authentic Ottoman fare and Turkish wine were being offered for the delectation of tourists after a long day of reviewing 4000 years of human history and we wanted to share it with some entertaining people.
After we refreshed ourselves we went out to explore the markets nearby, which were a much milder version of the ones in Istanbul, but much more carpet-intensive. The vendors are wildly aggressive, but their fundamentally happy nature makes them hilarious. One fellow said to Tim, “Oh, come on, just give me your money!”
We spent a jolly evening with Hugh and Mike dining and watching the show after dinner from our carpet-laden perch over the courtyard. The event was topped off by a huge full moon which lit up the balustrades of the hotel and made us ponder the hundreds of people who had preceded us as guests in that romantic old building in a harbor people have inhabited for many thousands of years. In spite of its twenty-first century masses of tourists, Turkey still encourages grandiose historical musings, at least by romantics like me. Tim, not so much.