Kusadasi, Turkey is hands down, one of the best stops in the Mediterranean. You don't like to see sites, just shop? Well, you won't find it cheaper or more fun than here. You like Biblical sites? Got those too: Paul likely wrote 1 Corinthians here, Ephesians was written about here, John was buried here and Mary lived here. How about ancient sites and one of the original 7 wonders of the world? Yep. Good food? Check! Nice people? Absolutely! Seriously, there was nothing about today that I didn't enjoy.
We had hired a private tour which, after doing I never want to go back. Our guide was Orcun, co-owner of Barel Travel, a travel agency and tour company. He picked us up at the port with our names on a sign and a Mercedes minivan, and we were off to Ephesus. He provided information about his country, people, history, and details of everything we saw along the way. Ephesus is only about 13 percent excavated, and while it does have some signs, a guide really helps this place come alive. One section of the site which costs a little extra, but was absolutely great was the Terrace Houses which are pretty well preserved Roman houses of the rich. You walk on plexiglass walkways above mosaics, by ancient bedrooms, kitchens and courtyards. Having recently watched the HBO show, Rome, it was easy to imagine real Romans lounging around these houses.
At the temple site, only one column stands: a replica built with original stones. But, it is enough to imagine the grandeur of this place when 128 matching columns made up the base of the building. Like Olympia, imagining all the people who must have come to see this place is overwhelming. Paul, John, Mary, Alexander the Great, Plato, and millions of other people have been to this place. And on the hill, high above, are the ruins of another pilgrimage site: this one for Christians.
If you think that is all we had time to see, you would be wrong. Orcun also wanted us to get a feel for some of the handicrafts of his people, so we visited a pottery shop and a Turkish rug guild. We weren't pressured to buy, but did get considerable information about the crafts, and I even got to try my hand at rug making. Oh, and we got Turkish coffee and tea as well. (Very strong!) A great lunch at a local place was squeezed somewhere in the middle: fried zucchini, dolma, green beans and broccoli, with lamb kebabs and spicy meatballs.