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  • Merhaba, I'm Rick Steves, back with more travels.

  • This time, we're living the good life --

  • backgammon, a nice glass of raki,

  • and the sparkling Mediterranean.

  • It's the best of Western Turkey.

  • Thanks for joining us.

  • This time, we're spicing things up,

  • venturing east of Europe

  • for the more exotic charms of Turkey.

  • I've been traveling here since my backpacker days

  • and I've enjoyed seeing the country evolve.

  • Today, Turkey's a mighty nation whose ancient heritage,

  • Muslim traditions, and Western ways

  • are coming together beautifully.

  • ♪♪

  • As we explore Western Turkey,

  • we'll see magnificent Roman ruins,

  • relax in ancient pools...

  • munch lunch in a Turkish pizzeria,

  • learn why dervishes whirl as they pray...

  • and enjoy a Mediterranean cruise

  • on a traditional Turkish gulet,

  • capped with a refreshing plunge.

  • In the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey links Europe

  • with the Middle East and Asia.

  • Starting in the port of Kusadasi,

  • we'll explore ancient Ephesus.

  • Then we'll travel up to Pamukkale,

  • Aphrodisias, and Konya before finishing in Antalya.

  • Turkey is where East meets West.

  • For centuries, a cultural, economic,

  • and religious crossroads,

  • it's long been a land of change.

  • And Kusadasi is a fine example of the latest change,

  • modern prosperity.

  • The port of Kusadasi

  • is a good low-stress place to start our Turkish adventure.

  • As if to remind its residents of a humbler past,

  • colorful fishing boats still bob in its harbor,

  • cradled in the sweeping curve of a people-friendly promenade.

  • Kusadasi is booming today in part because of its foresight

  • in building a fine cruise port.

  • Nearly every morning in season,

  • ships carrying thousands of passengers

  • slip artfully into harbor.

  • As they disembark,

  • cruisers enjoy an ambush of hospitality

  • as traditional musicians

  • celebrate their arrival.

  • I find Turkey every bit as friendly

  • and rich in history as Greece.

  • The food's great and it's a good value.

  • While most visitors find it's a safe and welcoming place,

  • it still feels exotic.

  • In Turkey, some women may be more comfortable

  • traveling with a partner,

  • but with a spirit of adventure

  • and applying your common sense,

  • I think anyone can find this country

  • as friendly, comfortable, and as intriguing as I do.

  • Kusadasi is popular with travelers

  • because it's just a few miles from the ancient Roman city

  • of Ephesus.

  • While tour buses and taxis can get you there in a snap,

  • as anywhere in Turkey,

  • I like the excitement of hopping a local minibus,

  • or "dolmus."

  • A dolmus is kind of a cross between a taxi and a bus.

  • You hop on one heading in your general direction,

  • tell them where you're going, then relax.

  • They'll tell you when to jump out.

  • Okay, Ephes.

  • Ephes. Thank you.

  • The ancient home of the Ephesians

  • is one of the world's greatest classical sites.

  • The west coast of what we now call Turkey

  • was once a cultural heartland

  • of ancient Greece.

  • Ephesus blossomed as a Greek city

  • in about the 4th century BC.

  • It was later consumed by the expanding Roman empire

  • and eventually became a major Roman city.

  • While the site is vast,

  • only about 15% of this Greco-Roman metropolis

  • has been excavated.

  • But as Rome fell, so did Ephesus.

  • Once a thriving seaport,

  • the city was sacked by barbarians.

  • Eventually its busy port silted up and it was abandoned.

  • 1,000 years of silt left it stranded three miles inland

  • from the Aegean coast.

  • The library -- the third-largest

  • of the Roman empire,

  • is a highlight.

  • The facade is striking.

  • Statues of women celebrating the virtues

  • of learning and wisdom inspired the citizenry.

  • The city's main street is lined with buildings grand,

  • even in their ruined state.

  • This one, known as Hadrian's Temple,

  • was built in the second century.

  • Dedicated to Emperor Hadrian,

  • its decorations are full of symbolism.

  • To this day, archeologists debate just what it all means.

  • For extra guidance, we're joined by my friend

  • Lale Surmen Aran.

  • For years, Lale has led our bus tour groups around Turkey,

  • and for this itinerary she's joining us.

  • Huge city -- quarter of a million people.

  • This was one of the biggest metropolises

  • of the Roman period.

  • Now, we're in the downtown and the main street of the city,

  • but the city expanded beyond this main street on both sides.

  • RICK: So, way up to the mountain, actually?

  • LALE: On both directions, way up to the mountains,

  • and housed 250,000 people.

  • All the city was planned.

  • Right underneath us there was a huge sewer,

  • and there were clay pipes at either side of the street

  • taking fresh water to the baths and the fountains.

  • Ah, so they had aqueducts coming in and powering the whole city.

  • LALE: Yes.

  • See, these were the public toilets

  • attached to the Roman baths next door.

  • Everybody sat next to one another.

  • RICK: So, public toilets were really public.

  • The terrace houses stretch up from the city's main drag.

  • These excavations are incredibly complex,

  • like piecing together an enormous puzzle.

  • The fragments are so delicate,

  • the ongoing work is protected under a roof.

  • The terrace houses give us a particularly intimate look

  • at Ephesian life 2,000 years ago.

  • Now, how many families would have lived in this zone?

  • LALE: Only five.

  • -Just five? -Five families.

  • And these were huge houses.

  • RICK: This must have been the elite of Ephesus.

  • LALE: Ultra, ultra rich.

  • Not only for Ephesus,

  • but among the richest of the world

  • lived in these houses.

  • RICK: So, when you walk through here,

  • can you imagine what it would be like to live at that time?

  • Sort of -- it was very luxurious living in these houses.

  • All houses were arranged around an atrium,

  • so they had the courtyard with rooms all around,

  • which were richly decorated with art on two or three floors.

  • A standard feature of any Roman city

  • was its theater.

  • To estimate an ancient city's population,

  • archeologists multiply the capacity

  • of its theater by ten.

  • As this one holds 25,000, they figure the city's population

  • was a quarter million.

  • It was here that the apostle Paul planned to give his talk

  • instructing the Ephesians to stop worshipping man-made gods.

  • And here in Ephesus, that god was Artemis.

  • The local craftspeople produced statues of Artemis like this.

  • It was a big industry --

  • they exported them far and wide.

  • When they realized Paul's message

  • would ruin their businesses, they started a riot.

  • Imagine this theater filled with thousands of people

  • all shouting in one angry voice,

  • "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians."

  • For his own safety, Paul had to flee,

  • and he ended up giving his message by letter.

  • That's why, in the Bible, we've got Paul's letter

  • to the Ephesians.

  • Back in Kusadasi, the cruise ships have left

  • and the town is once again relaxed.

  • We're capping our day

  • with strolling locals on the harbor front.

  • Like anywhere along the Mediterranean,

  • the town promenade is the great equalizer.

  • Everyone is welcome to enjoy this convivial scene.

  • And when the call to prayer rings out,

  • I'm reminded that people of all faiths share the same joys.

  • [Call to prayer]

  • One of the delights of traveling in Turkey

  • the the cuisine; seafood is the forte

  • here on the coast, and we're joined by some local friends

  • for a feast.

  • Traditionally, meals start with a selection of "meze" --

  • fun little plates

  • that let you dip into a variety of taste treats.

  • - Fava bean. -Ah, right, then I like the eggplant over there.

  • So, I want -- no, no, yes, yes, yes, yes.

  • When Turks are ready to party, the local firewater, raki,

  • is often part of the mix.

  • It's an anise flavored drink, like ouzu,

  • you mix to taste with water.

  • Very nice. [Toasting in Turkish]

  • And it goes surprisingly well with the meze --

  • octopus salad,

  • Fava beans pureed with olive oil,

  • zucchini fritters, and grilled eggplant.

  • And for our main course,

  • the kitchen is preparing an array of fresh seafood.

  • We've chosen sea bass encased in salt, as is the tradition,

  • to keep in all the flavor.

  • Oh, that looks very nice!

  • At the table, our fish is cracked open

  • and filleted with pride.

  • Mmm! The flavor with the olive oil and the salt,

  • which keeps the flavor in.

  • This is excellent.

  • We've a saying in, again, Aegean region --

  • if you drink raki and eat fish,

  • fish in your tummy reincarnate and swim again.

  • [Laughing]

  • Kusadasi is a practical springboard

  • for exploring western Turkey.

  • We're driving up the Meander Valley

  • famous for its fertile farmland.

  • We're here in April,

  • and the farmers are busy with their crops

  • before the stifling heat of summer hits.

  • And the strawberries are ripe for picking.

  • Today's Turkish culture is shaped by a complicated history.

  • Ancient Greece, and then Rome from the West,

  • swept in and established a culture

  • that led to the Byzantine empire.

  • Eventually, Muslim Seljuks from the east

  • ended Christian Byzantine rule.

  • Then the Ottomans stormed in and ruled until World War I,

  • when the father of modern Turkey, Ataturk,

  • established the Turkish Republic.

  • While the Republic is secular,

  • the vast majority of Turks are Muslim.

  • Turkey is filled with over 75 million people.

  • They come in many ethnicities,

  • and after thousands of years of exposure

  • as a crossroads between Europe and Asia,

  • it's quite a mix.

  • Faces tell the story...

  • The landscapes of this vast country

  • are as diverse as the people it supports.

  • Distances are long, traffic is sparse,

  • and the roads are great.

  • In what seems like the middle of nowhere,

  • we come to a striking white hillside.

  • This marks the ancient city, spa, and necropolis

  • of Hierapolis.

  • In Roman times, the rich and frail

  • came here to spend their last years, and to die.

  • We approach today as visitors always have --

  • walking through the evocative tombs,

  • then passing under an imposing Roman gate

  • where a grand boulevard leads you to the mineral springs,

  • Famous since ancient times

  • for its curative waters and tranquility.

  • Today, the ever-popular springs

  • in the shadow of ancient ruins

  • fill a pool littered with a dreamy assortment

  • of ancient Roman columns that sparkle

  • beneath the crystal-clear water.

  • A soak here is like bathing in hot champagne.

  • Below, the wondrous white cliffs of Pamukkale