It wasn’t until our first morning on Celestyal Olympia that we realized why the cruise director told us to forget about sleeping — it wasn’t even 6AM and we were already up, preparing to disembark for a quick visit to Turkey!
Kuşadasi and the ancient city of Ephesus
Kuşadasi, founded in 3000 BC, is a port city along Turkey’s Aegean coast. This picturesque town is know for its lively markets, coffee shops, important monuments (like the statue of president Atatürk) and its Mediterranean climate. Our guide Özgür was waiting for us at the port when we arrived. After a quick presentation we took off towards the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2015, and one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.
En route, we got to know Özgür, who was born and raised in Kuşadasi, a city he loves deeply and feels very proud of. Özgür told us about the problems Turkey has been facing for the past few years, including a steep decline in tourism. He hopes things will get better soon, but wasn’t confident they would. At least, he said, they have the locally brewed Efes Pilsen, “the best beer in the world!”
Ephesus used to be a port city founded at the mouth of the Cayster river during the 7th century BC. With time and several earthquakes, the river retreated more than 15 km. Today the port is currently located in the city of Kuşadasi. Visiting Ephesus is a unique experience that offers a chance to see how the richest and most influential Romans of the time lived. We were excited about the visit, and happily spent our time exploring its many architectural wonders. This included the state of Agora, the Odeon theatre, Celsus Library, Curetes Street, Grand Theater, and the Temple of Hadrian.
Since Turkey is known for its rugs, we thought it would be interesting to stop off at a local carpet factory for a quick visit. They showed us how they hand-make them from getting the silk from the worm cocoon that is later knotted together. They also showed us a wide selection of rugs for purchase that are authentic works of art, some taking more than 9 months to finish.
After the visit we headed back to Kuşadasi to board the cruise, where we spent the rest of the morning sampling delicious cocktails by the pool. Margaritas, pina coladas, mojitos, caipirinhas and an endless list of other delicious drinks are included in the all-inclusive rate. And, after a few, we quickly learned we need to be careful to not get carried away!
Around 4PM, the captain announced our arrival to the island of Patmos. We didn’t know much about this island before our trip, but the crew told us it was one of their favourite stops, so we were exited to check it out.
Patmos, the sacred gem of the Dodecanese
Patmos is a small volcanic island with Mediterranean landscapes and beautiful beaches. It is one of the most sacred islands of the Christian world as it is believed that it was here where St. John the Evangelist wrote the book of the Apocalypse, the last book of the New Testament. During our stay we visited the monastery, where apparently the apostle received his revelations, and enjoyed breathtaking views of the island backdropped by the Aegean Sea.
But above all, Patmos is a really calm island, and we were happy to have some time to explore it by foot. A short walk took us to some old windmills, that although not as famous as the ones in Mykonos, are in excellent condition following a restoration in 2010. Placed in line at the top of the hill, and surrounded by fields of fennel, they are the perfect addition to the beautiful sunsets of Patmos.