Kusadasi - Far Better Than Expected
The seaside resort and cruise ship port of Kusadasi is generally considered a tourist trap and in the sense of having lots of tourist oriented shopping, relatively high prices, and residential over-construction for the summer vacation trade, may well be a tourist trap. Nonetheless, we found the main shopping area to be rather charming in a tacky way. The touristic town center is comprised of a main street leading from the cruise ship docks to several other shopping streets, an almost covered arcade, and a long pedestrianized mall. There are lots of restaurants, the usual rug and jewelry stores, and lots of tour guides and other services concentrated around a striking centuries old caravansery converted to a 4 star hotel. In the hills surrounding the town center, numerous midrise apartment buildings are apparently populated mostly in season as the population increases from 50000 to 500000 in the summer months. The shoreline is populated by large ultramodern hotels with pools, spas, and even a few water parks. According to the internet, 17 hotels in the immediate area classify themselves as 5 star. The touristic attractions of Selcuk and Ephesus are no more than a 15 minute drive, at least in part explaining the attraction but sandy beaches undoubtedly play a role as well.
The stores are relatively expensive, not unexpected given the captive population disgorged daily from huge cruise ships, yet the places we visited were relatively low-key with friendly and knowledgeable staff and less sales pressure than we expected. The quality in the jewelry stores was actually pretty high - trust Proserpina on this stuff - several had "relations" with stores in New York City"s jewelry trade. The shorefront restaurants looked appealing, the hotels were striking.
What we remember best was asking in a store about the location of any internet cafe to email home - the owner insisted we use his computer gratis and bought us tea while we were there. Our interactions here and in several stores left a very favorable impression.
Unique Suggestions: Yes, Kusadasi is a tourist trap I suppose. We have seen far worse. The prices may be high for Turkey but certainly in comparison to jewelry prices in NYC still repesented significant savings for what appeared to be some pretty high quality merchandise. At least one Turkish rug store had a woman weaving inside, perhaps a hint of authenticity, and again the prices were far less than what one might pay outside Turkey.
Any port anywhere in the world that receives several thousand cruise ship passengers a day and hundreds of thousands of summer vacationers has every right to biopsy their wallets. As long as the quality is decent and the price somewhere near reality, it is hard to condemn. We liked Kusadasi and would stay here if we ever returned to the area.
Those coins are literally "***ty"
In the Efes region there is a local scam to sell "ancient Roman coins" to the tourists and other collectors. So here's the scoop. They find coins, feed them to cows, let the aging process take place in the cows stomach, dig through the poop, and presto -- an "ancient coin." Keep your fingers off those!
Selcuk's Turkish Bath....Leaving Loads Lighter
I have been living in Selcuk for about 2 years ago, and EVERY SINGLE time I go to the sole hamam (turkish bath) in Selcuk, they try to rip me off! It is unbelievable. I live with 4 Turks who regularly go to the hamam and spend no more than 5 million turkish lira. However, when I go -- even after I have pointed out the fact that I am not a tourist, and even talk with them in Turkish, they try and pop me for the time at about 20 million. I am lucky that I can fight and cuss my way through it in Turkish, but the average tourist does not have that advantage. So I say, avoid this hamam in Selcuk -- you may have to pay as much in Istanbul or elsewhere, but at least there it is the same price for everyone -- and it is a much better massage and bigger hamam!
Unique Suggestions: Don't go! Or if you have to -- go in and either argue the price first, or only take 5 million with you (you pay after it is finished). They can't take what you don't have...
Fun Alternatives: There are other hamams in nearby Kusadasi, and other cities. The Selcuk one isn't even that good.
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Fake antique coins
In Selcuk and nearby Ephesus, we were aproached by locals try to make a few Lira by selling what they claimed were antique coins. Our guess is that they were fake, since we saw plenty of fake antique coins in the local souvenir shops. Even if they were real, we would not be able to take them out of the country (without the proper paprerwork/provenance) under the strict Turkish antiquities laws.
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