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Published: August 8th 2008
I think my remarkably low expectations for Kuşadası actually allowed me to enjoy it more once we got there. Sure, the seaside is cluttered with mammoth cruise ships. Sure, restaurants list their prices in Euros on their all-English menus. Sure, the sand on the beach has been almost completely obscured by the densest possible coating of towels, umbrellas, and flesh. Sure, the souvenir shops stretch on as far as the eye can see selling cheap Chinese-made trinkets guaranteed to preserve - at best - warped memories of what Turkey is all about. Sure, miniskirts outnumber head scarves... well, I suppose that last part isn't the end of the world. You get the idea though - it's one MTV Beach Party away from being Cocoa Beach, Florida.
It is the type of place that typically I would actively avoid while traveling. However, my buddy Emrah is working there for the time being and he deserved a visit. Kuşadası also makes for a convenient jumping off point for Efesus and other sightseeing that we had planned to do. Furthermore, Mishal and Alyaa, our new Saudi friends, were due to be around as well, so there was really no choice but to slop
It's another day of hard work on the beach for Emrah...
on some sunscreen, brush up on our Russian, and head for the inflatable, neon chaos of it all.
Don't get me wrong, I still wouldn't actually recommend Kuşadası. But, after dunking myself in the warm, crystal clear Aegean Sea, after filling my belly with one great meal after another, and after wandering around the charming little fortress-decorated Güvercin Adasi (Pigeon Island), I am forced to swallow my pride and admit that
it wasn't awful...
In the morning, we met up with the Saudis for a long and superb day of touring around. We had a private car, driven by our excellent guide. Our first stop was Efesus, and the mid-morning sun was already quite hot. The structure and technology of the ancient city is fascinating when properly explained, which I won't attempt to do here. (if you wanna know more, use the internet, read the bible, or go see it for yourselves, people).
We had about two hours at the site, competing with the hordes of other visitors for camera shots, shade, and at times even space to walk down the grand, stone-paved roads. My mother was utterly dazzled. Indeed, imagining what the city was like thousands
Library of Celsus
The library façade is the prize of Efesus and likely one of the most well-recognized images in all of Turkey. Its handsome pillars and platforms grace the back of the 20 Lira banknote. It is indeed a brilliant work of art. Tourists are still allowed to get as close to it as they could possibly want to get and examine it from all angles.
of years ago inspires intense feelings when you are surrounded by the handsome ruins.
After Efesus, we made a few quick stops before heading to Meryemana, where the Virgin Mary is said to have lived out her final days. Her small, modest house is a functioning chapel and a pilgrimage site for Christians and Muslims alike. Mary is important to Muslims because she gave birth to İsa Peygamber (the Prophet Jesus). The visit was one of my mother's favorite parts of her entire visit in Turkey.
The day concluded with a damaging visit (to Alyaa's credit card, that is) to a pottery factory/display building. Impressive would be an understatement for the elegant collection we viewed there. After that, it was a quick tea in Selçuk, watching the storks that have set up house on the city's architectural treasures, indifferent to the human activity at street level.
After dinner, we climbed onto a bus headed for Yalova, as there was no option heading directly to İzmit. One of our bags contained breakable items at this point so I made sure it had a special, secure place in the cavernous storage bowels of the bus. The next thing I
knew, I was being shaken awake and nearly thrown out of the bus somewhere along the highway. A "we'll be in Yalova in two minutes" wake up call would've been helpful, but our flight attendant did not bother with that.
Groggy is putting it lightly, but some emergency coherency mechanism allowed me to remember where our breakables bag was stored. While giving me directions that proved to be blatantly wrong, our attendant retrieved the bag and disappeared back into the bus, which had already started to roll back down the road...
This is when I looked down at my regular backpack for first time to see that it had changed color, oh, wait!, no!! WRONG BAG!!!!!! AGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!
I'm not the rosiest person before six in the morning to begin with. Before breakfast, you might not want to interact with me very much. Being left along the side of the highway only magnifies my already sour mood under such conditions. Add to this the weight of a mysterious backpack, a backpack not containing the only copy of all of the photographs taken during my mother's visit to Turkey and a few irreplaceable books, and, well, I become livid.
Walking down the highway with bad directions, I knew that we had unquestionably reached the low point of the trip. I also knew that I would never see my backpack again.
Shit. (we'll leave it at that...)
After taking no fewer than three minibuses, we arrived in İzmit, as planned. We made our way to Sercan's mother's house and the day instantly got about a billion times better. We were put up in Sercan's blue and yellow, floor-to-ceiling Fenerbahçe-decorated room, which now has two guest beds. The delicious home-cooked food that she managed to keep coming in endless supplies and varieties started shortly after our arrival. The presence of my biological mother did not seem to interfere with Sercan's mother acting like she's my mother too, which she's been doing for four years now.
We walked by the waterfront and my two moms quickly got to work on becoming new best friends. I think they both learned a lot about just how much communication can take place without the luxury of a common language. It turned into an absolutely lovely day.
The next afternoon we headed back to İstanbul. My mother seems to have fallen in
love with the city as much as I have. Her final days here were filled with great food, sightseeing, and a lot of shopping. I'm sure that she's brought you back something nice.
Oh, and I got my bag back - hooray!!!
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