Kusadasi, Turkey

Steeped in history, Eastern Mediterranean cruise vacations give a traveler fascinating insight into different cultures past and present, and Kusadasi, Turkey offers just that. This small resort town offers extensive shopping at bustling markets and bazaars, lovely beaches, and more importantly, easy access to some of the most impressive ruins in the world.

Not more than a half hour drive from the port lays the city of Ephesus, one of the greatest seaports of the ancient world. Visitors can explore ruins and monuments to get a taste of what ancient life was like.  The area contains more than 30 separate structures that are linked together by stone walkways. Among the best preserved are the Baths of Scholastica, the Library of Celsus, the Temple of Hadrian and the Grand Theatre. The Terrace Houses are a highlight of the site. They are made up of six residential units, the oldest dating back to the 1st century BC and continued in use as a residence until the 7th century AD.  The mosaics on the floor and the frescos from the walls have been consolidated and two houses have been opened to the public as a museum.

The temple of Artemis is known as one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world; a marvelous construction of the Hellenistic Age, entirely made of marble and full of sculptured columns, capitals and shafts. Unfortunately, only one column remains standing at the original sight. Still, it makes an interesting photo stop. The most beautiful relics of this temple are exhibited in the London British Museum.

The remains of the Basilica of St. John are located near ancient Ephesus. It is believed that the evangelist spent his last years in the region around Ephesus writing his gospel, and is buried in the southern slope of Ayosolug Hill. Three hundred years after his death a small chapel was constructed over the grave. It was rebuilt into a marvelous basilica during the reign of Emperor Justinian (527 -565 AD). Today the church lies in ruins, but is still interesting to see.

Also in the area is Meryemana (The Virgin Mary's House). It is said to be the place where St. John took the mother of Jesus after the crucifixion. Situated in a small valley, the humble chapel is positioned on the site of the small house where Mary is believed to have lived until she died at the age of 64. The chapel is tiny and takes only minutes to walk through.  For some it is a very solemn experience.  Outside the chapel is a prayer wall where the faithful can leave a petition on a piece of paper and attach it to the wall. There are literally thousands of the same, which are taken down once a week to make room for more. Tip: You may want to bring a bottle to fill with holy water from the fountains on site.

Kusadasi, Turkey is an amazing port of call on an Eastern Mediterranean cruise.  A visit to this part of the world can be sometimes hectic, sometimes serene and spiritual, but always a thought-provoking.