"" Writer's Wanderings: Port of Call - Kusadasi, Turkey

Monday, November 12, 2012

Port of Call - Kusadasi, Turkey

Our last port of call for our Black Sea cruise was Kusadasi, Turkey, actually at the eastern end of the Mediterranean on the Aegean Sea. This would be our second time to visit the port city whose major attraction is the ancient ruins of Ephesus. We opted not to do the excursion to Ephesus choosing instead to wander through the city a bit and take in the local atmosphere. We had a wonderful time!

The port area is full of shops so matter which way you turn. We started out going to our right and wandered a bit through what our map said was the Orient Bazaar. Back in front of the pier, we passed the large Hotel Caravanserail built by Okuz Mehmet Pasha in 1618. At first I thought it was some kind of fortress but actually a caravanserail is a large structure capable of accommodating a large number of travelers, their animals and goods. We peeked into the courtyard. It looked very sophisticated and sans any camels or mules.
On the other side of the hotel was a pedestrian area that led back into the depths of another bazaar area with lots of shops and restaurants. At each stop in Turkey, we had noticed men, mostly shopkeepers, passing through the street with a

silver tray suspended on three chains that attached to a handle. On the tray was always a small glass of Turkish tea and some small delicacy. Bob decided he wanted to try the Turkish tea so we stopped at a corner cafe and ordered a Turkish tea for him and an apple tea for me. They came in small glasses with a pinwheel cookie on the side that had melty chocolate in the middle. My tea was almost like warm apple cider and Bob's was more a stronger black tea but both were very enjoyable. I was tempted to ask for seconds on the apple tea.

Knowing we had a birthday celebration to attend immediately upon our return home, we went shopping for an appropriate gift. We were drawn to some ornately designed tea kettles that were copper with inlaid mosaics adding a decorative touch. In one of the shops, we interrupted the shopkeeper's breakfast with our entrance but he was happy to instruct us on how precious the copper was and how his were not fakes. We decided on a little covered jar as the kettles were out of our price range and he didn't appear to be bringing it anywhere near what we would agree to pay. We gave him the Turkish lira, two bills, and he immediately dropped them on the floor explaining that we were his first customers and this would bring him good luck for the day. The he picked them up and brushed his cheeks with the money and thanked us for the business adding, "You know we are not barbarians. . .well, except for when the Ottomans were."

We bid him a good day and went our way, a smile on our faces. Those are the encounters that make a trip memorable.

Our mission accomplished, we started back for the ship. In the small square before the pier and next to the big hotel, we paused to wonder at several birdhouses that were there for the pigeons of the city. We would learn later that they were a symbol of sorts for the city.

After lunch on the Lido deck, we decided to venture out again and visit Pigeon Island which sit out in the middle of the harbor to the west of the pier. There is a long walkway that has been built to it and it didn't look too terribly far to walk. Our information said it was a rookery for marine birds although we didn't notice many once we were there and walking around.

On Pigeon Island there is a large structure called the Pirate Castle which was used in it's day to fight against the pirates. It's past also included the use by the Ottomans for military defense. Further research revealed that the island actually lent its name to the city. Originally the island was called Kusadasi which means Bird Island. Once the city took the name, the island became Pigeon Island. I think that tidbit might explain why the pigeons were given housing in the port.

The island had trails that led through and around the castle and had lovely olive trees as well as what I would call prayer trees. We've seen this in places before--the home of St. Mary, a temple in Japan, and now here. I don't know why the trees in this certain area had bits of paper tied to them but I'm guessing it was some kind of prayer or wish attached to each one. In other places, we learned that when the paper finally eroded away, the wish/prayer would be granted.

Olive trees dotted the park area with their small lacy foliage giving shade to the paths. The trees are always fascinating to me perhaps because of their scriptural connections.

We took our time going back to the ship. The temperature had climbed and we didn't want to overheat. Four large cruise ships gleamed in the harbor. I thought of all those people crowding into Ephesus and decided I was glad we'd spent our time exploring on our own and getting to meet some of the people of Kusadasi.

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