Kusadası and Istanbul

Israel was one highlight of our trip and Ephesus is the other. Today we dock at Kusadasi, a bustling resort town on the Turkish Coast which is the entry point for trips to Ephesus. We have a private guide and car due to meet us at 8am. The ship is going to be in Kusadasi only until 2pm, which gives us plenty of time to see Ephesus but leaves no room for anything to go wrong.
But go wrong it does.

There are 5 cruise ships docked at the port and we are the smallest one. The place is jam packed and we count almost 50 coaches waiting dockside for those people who have booked coach tours.

We go outside to where all the private cars are waiting with signs showing the names of the people who have booked them. We search the dozens of signs but our names are nowhere to be seen. We wait for an hour and watch the occasional late arriving car draw up to the port, but none of them are for us.
Meanwhile a sort of organised chaos continues all around us as the inhabitants of 5 enormous cruise ships try to find their transport. The temperature is already in the 90’s. There has been a heatwave following us ever since Egypt and today is the hottest day yet.
We go to an internet cafe to see if there has been any communication from our guide, but there hasn’t.
We are getting really upset, but realise there is nothing we can do about it. We are determined not to let this spoil our day, so we take a deep breath and count to ten. Not nearly enough!! So we do it again, and set off along the sea wall. We find a delightful little beach a short walk away, and spend a very pleasant morning sitting on the beach drinking beers. We don’t usually drink in the morning, but it seemed this was a special circumstance.

As people start returning from Ephesus we hear that the temperature there was 105 and the humidity was 50%. The place was jammed and you had to queue to walk around every section.
We are sort of relieved that we didn’t go, especially as the next cruise we are on calls at Kusadasi as well, so we have another chance to tour Ephesus.
Did you notice how I slipped that in – yes , we have another cruise. This cruise ends tomorrow at Istanbul, but we are staying on the ship for a further 12 days to go round the Dead Sea. Almost everyone on board is leaving tomorrow except for a handful of fabulously indolent passengers, of which, I am proud to say, we are two.
Next morning we sail into Istanbul, and the fabulosity meter rings loud and clear. The approach to Istanbul is breath taking. Istanbul straddles the Bosphorus , which is a narrow channel linking the Eastern Mediterranean with the Black Sea. It is also, so we are told, the busiest shipping channel in the world and certainly seems like it. As we approach the entrance to the Bosphorus , dozens of huge Ocean going tankers are jostling for position and the right to pass through first. However cruise ships always have priority, or, at least the ones I am on, do. And so we find ourselves pushing and shoving our way through an incredible amount of traffic until we are in front. To our left is the old town of Istanbul, rising up on a hill, showing off the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace, and the Hagia Sophia Museum, all dominating the old town skyline. To the right are the greener Hills of the Asian side of Istanbul. Immediately ahead is the entry to the Bosphorous, with the amazing Dolmabahche Palace lining up along the waters edge just ahead of where we dock. And all around us, like a crazy water version of bumper cars, are hundreds of boats all going in different directions. There are dozens of ferries going from one side to the other, all criss crossing in different directions.. Some are modern high speed ferries, while others are older and more sedate, but all are absolutely jammed with passengers. Then there are small fishing boats that get perilously tossed about in the water by the wake from all the ferries, and the tiny water taxis that hardly seem powerful enough to battle the incredibly strong currents (water flows though the Bosphorous at an alarming 8 knots). Dominating everything, are the enormous container ships which determinedly plough their way through it all, completely unable to stop for anything. It is fascinating and scary. But what is truly incredible is the sight of dolphins swimming and jumping between all the ships, seemingly oblivious to any danger.

Our ship docks right in the middle of all this, close to everything and just a stones throw from the tram cars that take you to various parts of the city. The views from the ship are stunning and I have already fallen in love with Istanbul.

Meanwhile, emails have been flying between us and Canada Travels and the tour company. It seems that during all the chaos at Kusadasi, our driver was standing there with a sign with “Koasa” written on it. No one is quite sure where this name came from and it certainly bears no resemblance to our names. The tour company is justifiably mortified and offers profuse apologies. We are due to have another tour around Istanbul with them tomorrow and they promise to treat us to lunch and take us on the Ephesus tour when we return in 10 days. We graciously accept their apology but reserve judgment until tomorrow. We want to make sure they turn up!

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