Our second port stop was Kusadasi, Turkey. Most people visiting here come to see the Roman ruins at Ephesus. They are fabulous, but we had seen them already on a previous port day, and wanted to visit some older Greek sites. There are the remains of three Greek cities dating back from before the 6th C BC, and they all can be visited in a day. At least that’s what our research led us to believe. Tour companies offer one-day guided visits to these sites, and independent travelers reported that they had visited all of these sites in one day via rental car. We rented a car via internet from Lion Car Rentals in Kusadasi for 18€/day. Before we left Kusadasi, we put 70L (about $25) of gas in the car. We headed south on good roads to the first site at Priene.
Priene was founded about 1000 BC as a port city on the slopes above the Meander River. The river has since subsided and silted up, just like the Kayster River at Ephesus. Five of the columns of the temple of Athena, which was built under the auspices of Alexander the Great, have been raised once more. The city was moved back up the slope several times so that it could remain at the river’s edge; thus the area covered by the city at any one time remained rather small. Due to the aggressive silting-up of the Meander, the city was abandoned in the first century BC in favor of the site at Miletus. It is believed that the bulk of the city’s remains are buried under the fertile sediments of the Meander. There certainly seems to be more rubble on the mountain’s slope than remains in situ in the ruins. We stayed at the ruins a good hour. The spectacular siting of the ruins at the base of Mt. Mycale above the vast river valley intrigued us rather more than the stones themselves.
We left Priene and drove across the flat-as-a-pancake Meander River Valley to the town of Didyma. The temple of Apollo was not marked on Google Maps, and it took us at least a half-hour to find it. Statues from the site date back to the 6th C BC, and the site held a ritual connection to the large town of Miletus to the north. Religious processions started in Miletus 10 miles away and ended here at the Temple of Apollo. The fine carvings of the colossal column bases are well preserved.
We wanted to stay longer here, but we had only allowed ourselves 45 minutes because we wanted to visit the sister site of Miletus. We hurried on to Miletus, which is on a bluff in the river valley. As soon as you park your car at Miletus, you are awed by the sight of the huge semicircular theater. When you walk to the top, you can see that the theater is only a small part of a large city.
Since we only had 45 minutes here before having to head back to Kusadasi, we could only glance at a few of the sites. We literally ran from one interesting tidbit to the other, and arrived at our car 15 minutes past our deadline. It was so pitiful as we could have spent hours here.
We headed directly back to Kusadasi using GPS and Google Maps, but we got disoriented when we got confused as to where the port actually was. Kusadasi is a large city! Fortunately we stopped and asked directions from the friendly and helpful Turks, and finally arrived at the port area. Once there, we again got confused when we couldn’t find the street where we were supposed to return the car. We finally found it about 30 minutes before the ship was set to leave. It was unfortunately a very stressful conclusion to an interesting and productive day. If I did this trip again, I would just just give a cursory visit to Priene, and spend more time at the other two sites.