What is one of the things I love about cruising? Going to sleep in one country and waking up in another. Now, we are in Turkey on another gorgeous sunny day. We have arrived at the port of Kusadasi, an old fishing village that has evolved into a popular holiday resort. Located on the western coast of Turkey about an hour south of Izmir, it’s a town filled with ancient ruins, temples, shopping bazaars and fabulous food. Most people visit the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus, that was home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the 7 Wonders of the World but, not me.
This was the one place where we had to get special visas for filming and so we made sure we would have a professional and local tour guide with us in case of any issues. Our guide, Nihat Hocagoui met us with a van and driver and our first stop was to a look out point for a birdseye view of the city and surrounding sea. (Incidentally, the name Kusadasi means Bird island.)
Back in town, after a stroll through the bazaar stocked with colorful rugs, clothing, spices and all kinds of odds and ends we visited Saray restaurant in the heart of the old town. Incorporating fresh ingredients bought daily from local markets the restaurant not only maintains the traditional character and dishes of Turkey but also includes dishes from Italy, China, Mexico and India. Sitting in their pretty courtyard garden, I sipped a local Efes beer while feasting on the many traditional mezzes the owner and chef proudly presented. Delicious stuffed vine leaves, yogurt dip, beet salad, eggplant and tomatoes, Turkish spring rolls and fresh bread were all so flavorful. I wish there would have been more time to finish them all.
But, we now were expected at Oz Urfa restaurant , another traditional Turkish place in the old town with a varied menu but noted for their kebabs. As I had already had an ample amount of mezzes at Saray, Nihat mentioned that we’d only want to try a selection of kebabs. Well, as Turkish hospitality goes, within a short time our long table was laden with a massive platter of the kebabs made from meat, chicken, lamb and eggplant with peppers and onions and a few plates of mezzes as well. There was some freshly baked “bubble” bread to accompany all the meats served to us all nice and fluffy. While Nihat and I talked about Turkish cuisine he realized I should try the National Turkish drink, Ayran. This is a cold yogurt drink that is traditionally served with grilled meats and rice especially in the summer time. It reminded me of buttermilk.
Adjacent to the restaurant was a spice and sweet shop and so my director, Johnny, cameraman, Kevin and I wandered over to see what we might buy. The proprietor, who spoke no English, started cutting pieces of all kinds of Turkish delight and feeding us even shoving some in Kevin’s mouth as he was filming. He was rather “friendly” and I discreetly made my exit.
Being quite stuffed, I commented to Nihat that I wasn’t sure how I would be able to get any more food in me. Without knowing it, we were going to have about a 1/2 mile walk (or maybe a bit more) to our next restaurant by the waterfront and this definitely helped.
It was now time for seafood at Mezgit restaurant with some of the absolute freshest in the area. This cozy family run place once again displayed the warmth and generosity that was evident all around Kusadasi. While only expectng a piece of fish as my meal, they first filled the table with seafood mezzes of octopus, calamari and shrimp. Then, this was followed by giant shrimp, grilled sea bass and fried red mullet along with a refreshing glass of Raki (the anise flavored alcoholic drink.) The Raki made a great digestive.
With absolutely no room left for even a morsel of food, I was actually happy we were done for the day. Except,when we got back to town and saw one of the many juice stands that seem to be quite popular, I was encouraged to partake in a glass of fresh squeezed o.j. (for the camera!)
It was another tummy satisfying day in a gorgeous part of the world. Thank you Nihat, the Turkish Tourist Board and all the wonderful people of Kusadasi for making this trip possible.
All the best,