The Turkish south Aegean city of Kusadasi isn’t really my kind of place, especially at night – flashing neon lights, loud karaoke bars, tattoo parlours and tacky jewellery stores don’t really strike me as an authentic Turkish experience. However, the seafront is pleasant, there are quiet streets hidden away behind the many mosques, the call to prayer resounds dramatically through the crumbling old town walls, and I’ve made some great friends. There is a solid reason for staying here, too – it is close to the ancient Greco-Roman city of Ephesus, whose remains are among the best preserved in the western world.
Getting there was half the fun, involving two rides on a dolmus (dol-moosh, a shared taxi or minibus running a set route), and a taxi to the far end of the site. I went with my roommate, and we had no trouble finding our way owing to the extreme helpfulness of the Turks at every turn.
The main drawback to Ephesus is the price: It costs 25 lira (€11) to get in, and another 15 if you want an audio guide, and yet another 15 to access a sealed-off region covered with a canopy. We stuck to the basic fee.
Walking through the site, you are given the impression of immense age; some of these buildings are approaching 2000 years old! The city must have been overwhelmingly grand in its day, the size and complexity of these structures showing the immense wealth and power of the ancient Greek empire. Although excavation and reconstruction are ongoing, only an estimated 15% of the city has been uncovered.
One of the most impressive sites is the monolithic Library of Celsus, built in 135 AD to honour a Roman senator. I couldn’t help thinking that the whole city can’t be this grand; there must have been ramshackle houses and poor districts that didn’t survive the ages.