The Other Side of the Aegean
[Kusadasi, Turkey, May 21, 2019]
After 5 days in Greece, it was time for us to hop over to Turkey! I had not been since my first visit in 2012/2013, and I was excited to return. Although Istanbul is the most popular destination in the country, we first headed to Anatolia – the peninsula on the westernmost part of Asia, which also makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey.
B, having studied classics in college, was enamored with ancient civilizations, many of which started here in Anatolia long before even the Athenian culture reached its peak. The Minoans and Mycanaeans, which we learned about when we visited the National Archaeology Museum in Athens, also inhabited the region. The ancient city of Ephesus was one of the most powerful at the time, and its ruins attract millions of visitors annually. B didn’t think we’d be able to visit due to the fact that it’s nowhere near Istanbul. However, when I looked at the map, I recognized the famous Turkish resort Kusadasi, which was only 20 minutes away from Ephesus. The closest major airport was about an hour north in the city of Izmir, which is also the third-largest city in Turkey after Istanbul and the capital, Ankara.
Rental cars were plentiful at the Izmir airport (though we still made a reservation online), and so after a couple of short flights (Athens to Istanbul, then to Izmir), we were on our way to Kusadasi. B was so excited to be here, especially for the smaller ancient city of Miletus, which was also nearby.
Our layover in Istanbul was about two hours, but it was stressful for us as Aegean airlines had made us check our bags again, just like they had done when we were traveling to Santorini. This meant that we had to go to baggage claim in Istanbul, wait for the bags, then go through security again to get to our gate to Izmir. The Greek gate agent was nice enough to put priority stickers on our bags so they were the first ones from our flight to hit the carousel, but it still cost us valuable time. We had little opportunity to appreciate the brand new – less than one month old – Istanbul airport, which had just opened in April. The one thing B noticed was that the baggage belt seemed to be equipped with a sensor, so it did not put a new bag out onto the belt until there was an empty slot. Alas, we made our flight at arrived in Kusadasi on time.
The resort town of Kusadasi is home to only 64,000 year-round residents, but in the summer the population can swell to over half a million due to tourism. When we arrived, the weather was already warm – close to 90F/30C, but it was obvious high season had not started yet. Prices are quite affordable, so we splurged on a sea-view room in the Ilayda Avantgarde hotel.
We were tired from all the travel, so we didn’t even have proper dinner – we just took a short walk along the main street and had a couple of drinks at a place near our hotel. We planned on an early start tomorrow to beat the heat and crowds. Not long after sunset it was time to hit the sack.