Kusadasi

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Named for the pigeons that make their home in the town’s 14th-century Genoese castle, Kusadasıi(“Bird Island”) could hardly have escaped the intense tourism it has received. These days, Kusadasi is an unabashed tourist town, catering to foreign travelers of all stripes. Its picturesque setting on sea-sloping hills, excellent, sand beaches, and proximity to the magnincent archeological wonders at Ephesus, Priene, Miletus, and Didyma ensured its transformation a few decades ago from a quiet town to a grand resort. Kusadasi’s broad tourist apparatus accommodates every group. Backpackers arrive by ferry from Samos and by bus from the north, and wealthy American and European tourists flood the carpet shops whenever their luxury cruise liners dock in the small harbor, dwarfing other ships and from a distance the town itself. Excellent budget hotels and towering, four-star luxury palaces are surrounded by myriad high-end jewelry and carpet shops. As many as 100 pubs dot the city.

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TRANSPORTATION

  • Buses: The garaj is on Kahramanlar Sok., about 2km. from the center of town. Most hotels will either provide or pay for transportation from the garaj. You can get to the garaj from the downtown harbor area by boarding a dolmuş coming from Lady’s Beach. Several bus companies serve Kusadasi, including Pamukkale ( 612 09 38). To: Ankara (9hr., 4 per day 8:30am-10:45pm, $13); Antalya (7hr.; 9:30am, 11pm; $10.50); Bodrum (2V2hr.; 8:30, 9:30am, 6:30pm; $5.60); Denizli (3hr., 5 per day 6:30am-9:30pm, $5.60); Fethiye (5$hr.; 9:45am, noon; $10.50); İstanbul (9hr., 9 per day 9:30am- 11:45pm, $13.25); İzmir (1hr., every 30min. 6am-9pm, $2.50); Marmaris (4hr.; 10am, 12:30pm; $7.25); Pamukkale (3V6hr.; 9am, return 5pm; $6.50). Pamukkale can also be reached by dolmuş via Denizli. Take the İzmir bus to get to the Izmir Airport. Call ahead for bus tickets on weekends.
  • Dolmuş: City dolmuş run between the dolmuş stop on Adnan Menderes Bul. and the lot adjacent to the garaj, and also between the harbor area and the garaj ($.30). Intercity dolmuş head to Selçuk (30min., every 20min, 7:30am-midnight, $.90) via Ephesus (ask to be let off) and Söke (30min., every 30min. 7am-llpm, $.90).
  • Ferries: Ekol Travel beats the official rate. 15% Let’s Go discount. To Samos (1hr.; daily 8:30am, 4:30pm; in winter 2 per week; $30 including port tax).

The duty-free shop, the tourist office, and the customs office are all in the port area. Ferry travelers are advised to pay the port tax ($10) in US dollars. The garaj is about 2km south of town on Kahramanlar Sok. Dolmuş depart from a separate dolmuş stop on Adnan Menderes Bul., a few meters southeast of the intersection of Adnan Menderes Bul. and İnönü Bul. Liman Cad. runs inland from the tourist office, passing an ancient kervansaray and a covered bazaar. On the other side of the kervansaray, the broad, pedestrian only Barbaros Hayrettin Paşa Bul. is home to the PTT, travel agencies, and several banks. Farther east on Atatürk Bul., which runs along the coast, is a medieval watchtower turned modern day police station.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION        

  1. Tourist Office: 13 Liman Cad. (614 11 03; fax 614 62 95), on the corner of Liman Cad. and Güvercin Ada Sok. Open daily 8am-5:30pm; Oct.-Apr. M-F 8am-noon and l:30-5:30pm.
  2. Travel Agencies: Ekol Travel with WorldSpan, Kıbrıs Cad., 9/1 Buyral Sok. (614 55 91; fax 614 26 44). Cheap flights, ferry tickets, luggage storage, room search, message board, car rentals, and emergency help finding English-speaking doctors. 15% Let’s Go discount on ferry tickets, Open May-Nov. daily 8:30am-10pm; Dec.-Apr. 9am-6pm.
  3. Banks: Several dot the waterfront area. Türkiye İş Bankası, on the corner of Atatürk Bul. and Liman Cad., offers 24hr. Cirrus/MC/V ATM. Open M-F 9am-12:30pm and 1:30- 5pm. T.C. Ziraat Bankas, on Barbaros Hayrettin Paşa Bul., changes cash and traveler’s checks without a fee. Open 9am-12:30pm and l:30-5:30pm.
  4. English-Language Bookstores: Kuydaş Kitabevi, 8/B İnönü Bui. (614 18 28), sells newspapers, magazines, guidebooks, novels, CDs, and cassettes. Patio in back and modern Turkish art exhibits on the 2nd fl. Staff speaks little English. Open daily 9am- midnight. For cheaper stuff, including a used book collection (half the cover price) and a huge selection of postcards, try Art Kitabevi, 57 Sağlık Cad. (614 64 54), near the intersection of Sağlık Cad. and Barbaros Cad. Open daily 8:30am-12:30am.
  5. Hamam: Kaleiçi Hamamı (614 12 92). Follow signs behind the PTT. Bath and mas¬sage $13.60; çay or coffee included. Both sexes bathe together. Open daily 8am-9pm.
  6. Police: Headquarters, 6 Atatürk Bui. (614 13 82), and Tourist Police (614 10 22) are in the same building, past the kervansaray walking with the sea on your left.
  7. Hospitals: Kusadasi Devlet Hastanesi, 30 Atatürk Bul. (614 10 26 or 614 16 14), on the waterfront, past the police station, with the sea on the left. Little English spoken, The Kusadasi private hospital (Kusadasi Özel Hastane), Türkman Mah. Ant Cad. (613 16 16), is a better bet for foreigners.
  8. PTT: (614 33 11 or 614 15 79), across from the kervansaray, on Barbaras Hayrettin Paşa Bul. Open daily 8am-midnight; in winter 8am-7pm. Phones available 24hr. Cur¬rency and traveler’s check exchange.

Postal Code: 09400.

ACCOMMODATIONS & CAMPING         

Most budget accommodations are located along Kibns Cad. and near Yıldırım Cad. Re.ci various arc a good idea in July and August.

Liman Otel, Kibris Cad. Buyral Sok., No. 4 (614 77 70; fax 614 69 13), on the waterfront, past the tourist office, with the sea on your right. Entrance in rear. A slightly more fashionable hotel that still man-ages to enter to backpackers and budget travelers. Friendly owner Hasan (“Mr. Happy”), a backpacker himself, provides inexpensive interior rooms with no view for those travelers who are willing to sacrifice scenery for savings, and beautiful seaside rooms for vacationers who want it all. Terrific location. Rooftop terrace. All except interior rooms have A/C. 10% discount on any bus ticket. Free transport to and from bus station and Ephesus. Internet $1.50 per hr. Laundry $2 per kg, Breakfast on rooftop $1.50. Dorm $5; interior rooms $7; rear rooms $10; harbor-side rooms $20.

ES Golden Bed Pension, 4 Aslanlar Cad. (614 87 08; fax 612 66 67), off Yıldırım Cad. Turn right onto Uğurlu Sok, as you walk up the hill away from the harbor. Owned by a Turhish Australian couple, this newly renovated pension offers marvelous views of Kusadasi harbor from the balconies and rooftop terrace. Free transportation to and from Ephesus; taxi from garaj paid. Gay-friendly. Laundry $2.50 per kg. Hamam 25% off. Internet $2 per hr. Nightly chicken and fish BBQs $5. Breakfast $1.60. Dorms $5; $7 per person; doubles with balcony $18.

Hotel Sammy’s Palace, 14 Kıbrıs Cad. (612 25 88; mobile (532) 274 21 29; fax 612 99 91). Ideal for fun-loving, gregarious backpackers always up for a rip-roaring late night complete with drinking games and belly dancing in the hotel common room/bar/dance hall (free nightly in summer), 32 well-furnished, carpeted, peaceful rooms, all with bath and most with balcony, make recuperating from the festivities enjoyable as well. Satellite TV and free movie showings in common room. Cab fares from garaj paid by Sammy. Internet access $2 per hr. Laundry $2 per kg. hamam discount. Dinner and breakfast on rooftop $6. Breakfast alone $2. Roof $2; dorms $5; singles $11; doubles $16.10% student discount.  Hotel Sezgin, 15 Kahramlar Cad., Zafer Sok. (614 42 25; fax 614 64 89; sezgin@ispro.net.tr; www.travelturkey.com). Hotel Sezgin heartily aims to please travelers, especially backpackers, with free transportation to and from the bus station, the Samos ferry, and Ephesus. Organizes a day trip to Priene, Miletus, Didyma, and Altinkum beach. 10% off tickets to Samos. Great water pressure. Satellite TV. Internet access $1.60 per hr. Laundry $3 per kg. Lounge and bar. Nightly fish, chicken, and beef BBQ ($3.20), with occasional belly dancing. Breakfast included. $5 per person. Let’s Go readers stay 3 nights and get the 4th free.

Önder Camping (618 15 90 or 618 1518), 15min. walk north of town on Atatürk Bul., with the sea on your left. Swimming pool. Well kept facilities. Laundry $4. Space for tents $1.60, plus $3.20 per person. Caravans $3.20. Electricity $1.60. 10% Let’s Go discount. 10% discount at on-site restaurant. No tents provided.

Yatch Camping (618 15 16). See directions to Önder. Swimming pool. Game room. Laundry $1.20. Space for tents ($1 plus $2 per person). Caravans $1.60. Electricity $.80. 10% discount at on-site restaurant. No tents provided.

FOOD                  

Avlu Restaurant, 15 Cephane Sok. (614 79 95), first left off Barbaros Hayrettin Paşa Bul. as you walk away from the sea. A standard lokanta with no menu, just a display of dishes to choose from. Simple decor, fresh food, and low prices. Meat dishes $ 1.25- 1.60. Vegetarian dishes $.80. Tatlı (dessert) $.40. Open daily 8am-llpm.

Öz Urfa Restaurant, 9 Cephane Sok. (614 60 70). A larger, slightly pricier restaurant with an English menu, filled with Turkish favorites. Döner kebap $2. Veggie kebap plate $2.80. Mixed meze plate $2.80. Open daily 8:30am-lam.

Adi Meyhane, 18 Kaleici Bahar Sok. (614 34 96), behind the PTT. A romantic night time spot, including open-air courtyard with lamp-lighting, fireplaces, and attractive stone walls. Live traditional Turkish music every night (9pm-2am). The most popular dish is Brain Salad ($1.60), but there are plenty of more standard options. Mixed grill $3.20. Beer $1.60. Open daily 9pm-3am.

Ferah Restaurant, 10 Liman Cad. (614 12 81). This seafood restaurant is a bit of a splurge, but offers excellent fish and a harbor view of Pidgeon Island. Cold salads $.80- 1.20. Shrimp $3.20. Fish kebaps $5.60. Open daily 1 lam-midnight.

SIGHTS 

Kusadasi’s best-known sights are its shopping areas and its numerous sparkling beaches. While the Grand Bazaar and Barbaros Hayrettin Paşa Bul. are, contrary to the claims of shop owners, expensive places to shop, it doesn’t cost anything to browse the carpet and jewelry stores.

BEACHES

Unfortunately, Kusadasi’s clean and sandy beaches are overcrowded. Kadınlar Plajı (Ladies’ Beach), just 3km from the city, is easily accessible by dolmuş from Adnan Menderes Bul., the otogar, or along the harbor, just in front of Türkiye Iş Bankası. (10min., in summer eveiy 3min. 7am-midnight, $.40). Expect to pay to enjoy the sun (Beach chair $1.60), and even more to enjoy the shade (umbrella $1.60 extra).

DILEK NATIONAL PARK

A nature reserve just 26km from Kusadasi, this is the best place for swimming, walking, and picnicking. It encompasses four beaches and houses over 30 animal species, including the Anatolian leopard. While overnight camping is not permitted in the park, Dilek offers daytime canyon hiking (6km from entrance gate), sandy beaches (İçmeler beach, 1km from the gate, the “first beach”), and sand-and-pebble shores (Aydınlık beach, 5km from the gate, the “second beach” and Karvaki beach, 7km from the gate, the “third beach”). Don’t leave without seeing Zeus Mağarası (Zeus’s Cave), opposite the sea, 100m outside the park entrance. Once rumored to be the site of hidden treasure, the cave is full of water bubbling up from the ground. (Park open daily 8am-7:30pm; extended hours in July-Aug.; off-season 8am-6:30pm. $.80 per person; $1 per motorcycle; $2.80 per car. Dolmuş run from Adnan Menderes and the otogar every 15min. beginning 7:30am, $1.15.)

PIGEON ISLAND

A trip to Kusadasi would be incomplete without a visit to Güvercinada (Pigeon Island), the jutting peninsula that is home to Kusadasi’s name sake. Explore the 14th-century Genoese castle, which was converted into a military outpost by the Ottomans in the 19th century, and enjoy a glass of çay at any of the various tea houses. (A 10min. walk from the tourist office with the sea on your right.)

NIGHTLIFE         

The nighttime music and madness of the appropriately named Barlar Sok. (“bar street”) spills out into streets so brightly lit, it might as well be daytime. The side streets behind the PTT are home to a host of roofless bars featuring live European and Turkish rock. The combination of dozens of discos and no weekday cover charge makes for easy club-hopping.

Heaven, 13 Sakarya Sok. (613 24 56), behind the PTT. One of the largest, most popular music clubs. Decorated in mock-Roman style with vines, columns, and a few authentic artifacts, Heaven blasts live Turkish pop in its open-air courtyard every night from 1-4am. Beer $2.80; cocktails $5.60. Cover $6.40 F-Sa, includes 1 domestic drink. Open May-Sept. daily midnight-4am.

Hoppa Club, 15 Tuna Sok. (614 98 74), behind the PTT. Another Roman-style bar with columns and statues. Live nightly music (l-4am) in a more intimate setting. Beer $3.20; cocktails $4.80. Cover $8 F-Sa. Open daily 10pm-4am.

Ecstasy, 8 Sakarya Sok. (612 81 90), across from Heaven. A disco with sleek decor and plenty of polished steel. “Underground” music along with videos on a large screen. Beer $2.40; rakı $3.20; mixed drinks $5.60. Cover $6 F-Sa, includes 1 domestic drink. Open daily 10pm-4am.

Another Bar, 10 Tuna Sok., behind the PTT. A crowded disco with tables amid trees in a roofless courtyard. Live groups perforin nightly llpm-lam, followed by DJ spins until 4am. Beer $2.40; cocktails $4.80. Cover F-Sa $8. Open May-Sept. 10pm-4am. Jimmy’s Irish Bar (s612 13 18). The first bar on the right on Barlar Sok. The best of several Irish bars in town, Jimmy’s fills even in the afternoon when the competition is dead quiet. Wait until lam for partiers to dance on the tables. “Sheep Brain” (Archers, Grenadine, and Baileys), “Sperm of Barmen” (Archers, Baileys, and Vodka), and other mixed drinks $4; cider $2.80; Large Efes $2.40. Open daily 8pm-4am.

DAYTRIPS FROM KUSADASI

Priene, Miletus, and Didyma, arranged in a line along the coast toward Bodrum, make an excellent daytrip from either Selçuk or Kusadasi. Although the 3 sites are grouped as one entity, each has something unique to offer. Priene, set amid beautiful forested slopes, outdoes the other two for its environs, which impart an eerie sense of what the ancient city must have been at its peak. Miletus, in the center of a vast plain, boasts the most ruins of the three, including an impressive 15,000-person theater. Though Didyma’s ruins include only one temple, now in the midst of town, it was one of the largest and grandest in the ancient world. While organized guided tours often seem like a canned experience, taking one will ensure that you can visit all three sites in one day, a difficult feat for the independent traveler.

PRIENE (GÜLLÜBAHÇE)

Open daily 8am-8pm; in winter 8am-5pm. $1.20, students $.40. Take the Kamil-Koç bus from Selçuk (9hr., 9:15am, $16). From Söke (see p. 249)-easily reached from Kusadasi or Selçuk by dolmuş or on any Bodrum-bound bus-take a dolmuş to Priene (20min., every 15min. 7:30am-7pm, $.40).

Priene is the most physically demanding of the three sights. Expect a steep uphill climb. Though it was a leading member of the Panionic League, which controlled the Aegean coast after the decline of the Hittite empire, Priene lingered in the shadow of its neighboring economic rival, Miletus. The city’s population never exceeded 5000. While its neighbors excelled in commerce, Priene devoted its resources to religion and sports. The city’s ruins, on a plateau before the walls of Mt. Mycale, overlook the wanderings of the River Meander. Uphill from the dolmuş stop, ancient walls encircle the ruined city. From the main entrance, the path leads to what was once the main avenue of ancient Priene. Ahead and on the left is the prytaneum, the vaulted hearth of the city’s sacred flame. Brought from Athens by the first settlers, the flame was extinguished only when the city was invaded. It was here that diplomats were received, heroes and athletes rewarded, and city administrative matters discussed. Beyond the prytaneum is the unmistakable bouleterion, or Senate House, a well-preserved, elegant auditorium. Sacrifices were offered on the inner chamber’s huge marble altar to mark the opening and closing of Senate sessions. Only the foundation of the altar remains.

The large building on the right of the path is the upper gymnasium, the older of Priene’s two educational and physical training facilities. Follow the path to the right in front of the gymnasium and the Sanctuaiy of the Egyptian Gods will be on the right. It was here that Egyptians who arrived in Priene to trade worshiped the gods Isis, Serapis, and Anubis.

Make a left and walk uphill to the 5000-person theater. In the front row are five thrones of honor with dignified bases carved to look like lions’ paws. In front of the theater, beside lire upper gymnasium, stands a Byzantine Church, built in the 6th century AD with the stones of previous structures. Climb up the hill behind the church to reach the Temple of Athena, an edifice that reflects the height of Hellenistic architecture. Alexander the Great financed the project, and Pytheos, the archiled whose chef d’oeuvre was the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, designed it. The temple retains largely intact front steps, interior floors, and five complete columns. The path along the side of the temple takes you to the remains of the private houses of Priene, unusually well-preserved examples of pre-Roman domestic architecture.

Exit the Athena Temple from the front, turn right on the stone path, and you’ll approach the Alexandreion, where Alexander the Great is believed to have resided while liberating Miletus. Later, the house became a sanctuary devoted to him. Beyond is the Temple of Cybele, where mostly poor residents worshiped.

Walk back past the Temple of Athena, and the spacious agora will be on your right. Women were allowed here only if accompanied by men, either their husbands or slaves. At the center, a public temple once hosted official ceremonies and sacrifices. Beyond the agora is the 3rd-century BC Temple of Olympic Zeus. From below the temple, you can gaze down on the stadium and lower gymnasium, with the names of young athletes inscribed on their walls. On either side of the main hall are small rooms once used for bathing and exercise.

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