Ionian Odyssey

Practicalities
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The Didymaion
The outer walls of the Didymaion

Turkey is an archaeological warehouse, and the places mentioned here are but a few of the many sites worth seeing.

If antiquity is your thing, you can also visit the ruins of Troy, Pergamon or Bodrum, which all lie along Turkey's western coast. But Anatolia is a huge chunk of land, and the interior is full of other fascinating places.

No trip to Turkey would be complete without spending at least a week in Istanbul, one of the most exotic and enchanting cities on earth. This legendary city—capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire—boasts more history than most countries.

Although the number of English-speakers in Turkey seems to decline in direct proportion to your distance from Istanbul, a phrase book and a little impromptu sign language will get you around.

Getting There
Priene, Didyma, Miletus and Ephesus all lie within a short drive of each other, so you can stay in one town while visiting all four sites. You'll have to fly into Izmir on Turkey's Aegean coast, a short and inexpensive hop from Istanbul. From there, it's only another hour or so by bus to the heart of ancient Ionia.

Try to avoid staying in Kusadasi. This once-small seaside town has since exploded into a typical Mediterranean tourist trap, a boom-town full of half-finished hotels, snarling traffic and cruise ships disgorging hordes of obnoxious sightseers.

Stay in Selcuk instead, which lies just outside of Ephesus; it's a much smaller place that offers a far more realistic slice of Turkish life. When planning your trip, try the early spring or early autumn. You'll get better deals, encounter fewer tourists and avoid the scorching summer sun.

Although you can spend the better part of a day visiting each site, and at least that long in Ephesus, most of the tour operators like to cram Priene, Miletus and Didyma into one day, with another day for Ephesus.

This schedule doesn't leave much time to just sit and take it all in, so if you want to go at your own pace, use local transportation to get to the former three sites. You can walk the three kilometers to Ephesus and take your sweet time, which you'll want to do, since Ephesus gets hit the hardest by busloads of tourists.

Food, Drink, Money and Turks
Resist the temptation to eat in familiar western junk-food chains because Turkish cuisine ranks among the world's greatest, and rightly so. And don't forget to sample some Turkish delight, the national confection.

Contrary to popular belief, Turks drink more tea than coffee. Try some, especially the apple tea. If you're a beer drinker, order an Efes (Turkish for Ephesus). If your tastes run to stronger stuff, try a glass of Raki—lion's milk—the national Turkish drink. This delicious clear liquor turns milky white when you add water, hence the name.

Inflation is rampant in Turkey. A U.S. dollar currently buys something like 480,000 Turkish lira, so plan on carrying a few million around at a time. And all Turkish notes and coins bear the portrait of Ataturk—the founder of modern Turkey—so learn to count zeros, because it all looks deceptively similar. If you're not careful, you may find yourself handing over five million rather 500,000 lira.

As for Turks themselves, they've gotten a bad rap thanks to films like Midnight Express. In reality, Turks are some of the warmest people you'll ever encounter, far friendlier than your average Austrian, Frenchman or Norwegian. They're eager to counter their negative stereotype, and even a token attempt at the language with expressions like merhaba (hello), tesekurler (thank you), or serefe (cheers) will get you far.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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