During my recent visit to Turkey, I stayed in the Korumar Hotel De Luxe in the city of Kusadasi. Though not a huge city, with a population of approximately 50 000, however it is a busy port town and tourism centre. To get away from the crowds for a few hours and get a glimpse of the centres of livelihood in the countryside, we explored two small villages: Kirazli, population 900, a farming town, and Sirince, population 600, a wine village with a growing tourist presence. This post is about our visit to Kirazli, and I will shortly be uploading a second post about the Sirince.
We discovered the village of Kirazli online, and when we asked our hotel reception how to get there, they were a little confused as to why we wanted to go, and where it even was. Kirazli means cherry in Turkish, and is named for the cherry trees that are just about the only thing the village is known for. For a small sum, a taxi drove us to Kirazli and dropped us off in the main street, a dirt road with a tiny convenience store, a bakery manned by the old baker himself, and several streetside cafes, bustling with village men drinking their afternoon çay (tea) and smoking. Our driver promptly seated himself at a table in the nearest cafe and ordered his own çay, while we walked off to explore the village.
We walked past a fish vendor surrounded by customers on one side and at least 10 kittens on the other, both eager to get their hands on the morning's catch. Turning off the main street, we walked through the winding streets of run down houses, painted white on the bottom to keep insects away. No one we met spoke a word of English, but all assumed that we were lost, and tried to point us in the direction of one of the Kirazli's two boutique hotels, one with 5 rooms and one with 8. The afternoon prayer call sounded, and a dog howled wildly towards the minaret of the village mosque.
As we made our way up the hill through the streets, charmingly lined with plants growing in sunflower oil and feta cheese containers, we came to a neighbourhood with several houses that stood out from the rest, with small pools and fresh paint. At the very top of the hill, overlooking the village, we found one of the hotels, the charming Ephesus Boutique Hotel. We rang the bell in the front room, and asked if we could come in for a cup of coffee. We were led into a sunny, circular room with a few tables. At a table by a window sat Mustafa, the owner, in front of a laptop, under a string of drying chilli peppers hanging from the ceiling. He greeted us, and drank çay with us, while telling us in near-perfect English about how he had been a university economics professor in Istanbul, and owned a successful travel agency there, but how since he had retired he had found peace in managing his little hotel in this sleepy village, working in the garden and traveling to Istanbul to take care of his business once a week.
On our way back to the taxi to go home, we stopped in the bakery to a circular loaf of spiced flatbread, and at the convenience store for fresh Turkish delights from its impressive display. Our driver had, by this time, drank several glasses of çay and made at least 5 new friends, who had joined him at his table. As we pulled into the Kusadasi city centre and got out on a busy shopping street, we wondered at the extreme difference between lifestyles separated by a mere 10km stretch of road.
While planning my recent trip to Turkey in April, one of the places that I was most eager to discover was Ephesus, one of the best preserved ancient cities in the entire world. So, on arriving in Kusadasi, we immediately arranged a day trip to see Ephesus.
Our wonderful guide, Mehmet, picked us up at our hotel at 9AM, and drove us through the rolling hills and olive groves of the Selcuk region towards Ephesus . Along the way, he introduced us to the sites we were about to visit and we chatted about life in Turkey: ancient and modern alike.
Next, Mehmet took us to the main destination of our trip: Ephesus. As we walked along the 3000 year old roads of the Roman city, it wasn't difficult to imagine life in the city. Although things have undoubtedly changed, most notably the disappearance of toilet-seat warming slaves (yes, I'm serious!), the basic foundations of city life remain the same. Walking through Ephesus, we passed the parliament; two marketplaces; a theatre; a public toilet; a library; some residences. It is impossible not to notice the parallels with the modern city, and come to the realization that these ancient civilizations not only laid the foundations of their own cities, but also those of modern life as we know it.
One of the most fascinating things to see was the Romans' ingenuity in their heating and plumbing systems: that's right, the Romans were heating their houses in the 2nd century BC. They heated water using a furnace and ran the hot air through spaces under the floor and in the walls to heat up each room. WOW. They even created a natural pressure system to transport their water through the pipes: they would make pipes where the hole on one side was larger than that on the other, creating natural pressure that could push the water up and down and around the entire plumbing system.
Seven Roman houses have been incredibly preserved in a specially designed enclosed space: one has been preserved so well that all the original wall paintings are intact, and you can walk on a platform above the house and see all the rooms: bedrooms, a prayer room, a dining room and a courtyard, all decorated with different symbols on the walls: the Eros, the God of love, in the bedroom, birds in the kichen, etc.
The symbol of Ephesus is, of course, the stunning Library of Celsus, the facade of which is fully standing, In its time, this was the third largest and richest library in the world, housing more than 12 000 scrolls.
So, by this time I was thinking: wow, look how thought through this all was! Where did all the people go? Why didn't this city continue to prosper? Unfortunately, this site seems to have had it's share of bad luck. In ancient times, this city used to have its own port; gradually, the sea level dropped, and today Ephesus is almost 10 km away from the Aegean. Lack of access to sea trade routes and water supply took a toll on the city.
The citizens of Ephesus are gone, but the remnants of their lives remain in the form of stones and statues at sites like Ephesus: and what's incredible is that what I saw on my visit is only the beginning. 90% of the city is still underground, yet to be tirelessly excavated by the careful hands of generations of archaeologists: it is estimated that it will be another 400 years until the full city is uncovered.
What are your favourite ancient remains? Are you as fascinated by the idea of civilization in the 10th century BC? Do you like this type of travel diary style post? Tell me your thoughts and recommendations in the comments below.
My name is Emilie. I live between Bristol and Prague, travel, drink coffee and explore as much as I can.