This year we chose an eastern destination: Turkey. It was a common wish after the end of our last trip to Serbia and Romania. Finally, George, Stratos and Manolis joined this year's trip.
Our destination was the southwest part of Turkey. In particular, from Izmir to Alanya and from there we will move northern on the axis: Afyonkarahisar, Kutahya, Eskisehir & Pamukkale. We entered the country through the port of Cesme, which is opposite to Chios. We traveled around 3.000km in 14 days.
The morning finds us at the port of Chios. Sitting at Everest, we are looking forward to pass the time until the box office for ferry tickets to Cesme opens. We preferred to go to Turkey through Chios as it was cheaper (142€ rider+motorcycle) than to choose the way through Alexandroupolis.
At 8am we headed to the ticket office located on the harbor road. There are several companies, but we preferred the one we found on the Internet. The boats leave at 8:30am and the duration of the trip is 40 minutes, while the cost of the ticket is 50€ (two way, rider-motorcycle). After we passed the passport control, we entered the small ferry. The officers, although Turkish, were speaking some greek. They carefully tied the bikes and we boarded up to the small deck waiting for the departure.
The hours passed, but we did not start. For our bad luck we found that our anchor had become entangled with the one of a larger ferry which was parked in the harbor. After several unsuccessful attempts we managed to depart after 90 minutes...
After about 30 minutes we saw the Turkish coastal city. Its tourist development was obvious. Arriving at the harbor, numerous shops and boats were there waiting for the visitors. The impressive medieval fortress towered proudly, filling up the whole landscape!
Once we arrived, we headed to the newly office buildings in order to pass the control. The passports have been checked by the police, and the rest by an employee, without actually asking anyone. As expected at the end of the process he asked for a tip, 2€ per person. As we were waiting for our passports, we exchanged (in the office of exchange) some euros in Turkish lira (with rate 1€ = 2,2 TL). It was not the best rate, but we needed some money for our first expenses.
At 12 we start following the western route, having as a first destination the city of Selcuk (155km). We would use the highway for which you have to pay a fee. We started, therefore, following the signs to Izmir (Smyrni). Entering the motorway (O-31) we discovered that tolls had no employees. Insteed ther were 2-3 different ways of crossing and certainly none of them was through direct payment. So we went as there were no bars. We waited to see what the situation in the next toll station!
With the temperature reaching 30 degrees we were moving into a valley with small plants. In most of the way there were no buildings at both sides. After we passed the exit for the city Urla (50km), we found the exit to Seferihisar (57km) which is a nice alternative coastal route for someone to reach Ephesus. We, however, preferred to stick to Izmir.
A few miles further we found one more toll station where bars existed. So we stopped in the right side where there was a building. There we realized that they were selling cards KGS. This is some magnetic prepaid cards which you fill with money and you can pay the toll. These are sold at some tollbooths, and at some motorway service stations. The cost is 5TL to buy the card and you put all the money you need. Unfortunately for us, the staff did not speak English so we took 3 cards of 10TL each, while we could use 1 card and load it with money, using it all together as we were traveling together.
Moving on, we got to the Izmir ring road (95km), the second largest city of Turkey. Its size is really impressive as the road gives you a panoramic view of the entire city. A little further we found the exit to Aydin, and we changed direction, moving towards to the south. Having traveled approximately 140km at the highway we found the exit to Selcuk and then we followed it for 17km to approach our first destination. Arriving in Selcuk, we could see the impressive Byzantine castle of the 6th century, standing proudly on the top of the hill. As expected we continued through that direction.
Arriving at the gate we parked the motorcycles in a shaded place and we changed clothes, putting something more comfortable. We moved towards the impressive gate. At some point there's a relief representation of Hercules fighting with someone. But when the Christians came, they said that in this representation is a Christian who struggles with a gladiator!
Entering the Castle (ticket: 8TL/person) we met several ancient finds. The most important of these are the ruins of the Basilica of St. John which impresses with its size and its magnificence. It includes -as called- the tomb of John the Evangelist who spent the last years of his life in the city. The point offers a spectacular panoramic view of the region.
We left the castle and headed to the Museum of Ephesus (ticket: 8TL/person), located 300-500m beyond. The guide said it is one of the best in Turkey, so we thought we have to visit it. Maybe because we expected more, but in my opinion, the museum seemed "poor". It had some nice exhibits, but not impressive. Perhaps because most have been "moved" to other museums abroad. Anyway, the museum features objects and statues from the Roman era, but especially the Hellenistic. Good impression made us different mosaics and statues of Priapus.
The time was 3 pm when we left the museum. We got tired because of the hot atmosphere and the high temperature. We felt that a stop for tea in a park in front of the museum was required!
Our next destination was the ancient site of Ephesus, located relatively close to the museum (5-6km). Is one of the most important archaeological sites in the western world. Founded by the Greeks around 1000B.C. and was one of the major ports of the Mediterranean.
With the temperature reaching its peak we began to visit the site (fare: 25TL/person). It has impressive exhibits and needs at least 2-3 hours to visit the most important of these, which are: Theatre, Celsus Library, private residences, Lower Market, Marble Street, Street with colonnades, Hercules Gate, Temple of Domitian, parliament, etc.There are no words to describe the grandeur and majesty of the site. It worth a visit for sure, but the best time would be either early in the morning or late afternoon.
At 6pm. we took the road to Maryemana (House of the Virgin Mary), which is around 8-9km far from Ephesus. This is the "home of the Virgin" where she spent her last years of her life. Following an impressive winding route through the pines, we arrived in the area that hosts this small stone building, which nowadays has become a temple. Indeed, while we got there, a mystery happened. The area (ticket price: 12,5 TL/person) is located in a region with lot of plants that offers relaxation and coolness. Exactly what we needed at that time!
The time was 7pm and the site closed. So we took the road to Kusadasi, where we would stay for the night. The fatigue accumulates and what we needed at that time was a bath and some food. Kusadasi is a well-known Turkish tourist resort. The name means "Bird Island" and it is due to the island near the harbor where there is a Genoese fortress of the 14th century.
We had no difficulty finding accommodation, so we headed to the Hotel Stella (room rate: 130TL with breakfast) located near the coastal road. As the night came, we had a walk on the beach before we get to a restaurant with local cuisine.