Mythical, Magical Voyage to Antiquities

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by Matthew Wexler

A New Country of Epic Proportion

Leave it to the brilliant minds at Voyages to Antiquity to plan an itinerary that departed Greece only to arrive in the Turkish port of Kuşadası followed by one of the most magnificent cosmopolitan cities of ancient times, Ephesus.

Once populated by more than 250,000 people, this seaside port shows evidence of playing host to Antony and Cleopatra, a 24,000-seat theatre, 8-acre shopping center, and the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world.

Our tour offered exclusive access to the terrace houses, and like all of our tours throughout the trip, made excellent use of the Quietvox Audio System, which allowed me to wander off and take photos while still catching the commentary through a radio receiver and ear piece.

Turkish Delights

The ship docked overnight in Kuşadası, which gave us an opportunity to explore Turkish nightlife. There are a surprising number of Irish bars in this tourist-driven port town.

While I might expect to get a pint of Guinness and toss some darts at my local Irish joint in the U.S., the Turkish version involved hawkers on the street inviting us to enter any number of wild dance parties where cocktail waiters (mostly young men with mullet haircuts and purposefully distressed wardrobes) and patrons danced on the tables to high energy DJ mixes. Most of these venues can be found on Barlar Sokak ("Bar Street").

On the way back to the ship I couldn’t resist stopping off at a local shop for some Turkish Delight, which isn’t what you might think. This sweet confection has been part of Turkish culture since the late 18th century. The taffy-like treat is often flavored with pistachios, dates or rosewater. It was then back to the ship and off to our final destination - the mystical city of Istanbul.

The City on Seven Hills

With only 24 hours in "The City on Seven Hills", I dropped off my bags at the Ritz-Carlton in Taksim Square, found my way to the light rail system, and before I knew it I was standing in the middle of the infamous Spice Bazaar. With my pockets overflowing with smoked paprika and Medjool dates, I grabbed a quick lunch at a local stand and washed it all down with traditional chilled buttermilk.

With the clock ticking, I hopped on a boat tour of the Bosphorus River and winded my way through the Blue Mosque, a culmination of two centuries of both Ottoman mosque and Byzantine church development. It was back to the hotel to splash some water on my face and then off to my final dinner of this extraordinary journey.

Topaz, the Jewel of Istanbul, was the perfect culinary ending to my Mediterranean adventure. From fresh artichoke with melon foam to baked lamb with mastic-smoked eggplant, the menu soared beyond expectation as the sun set on this spectacular city of more than 13 million inhabitants.

While Voyages to Antiquity may have created the perfect recipe to share the unique sights, sounds, and flavors of world’s most ancient civilizations, for me it was much more. The juxtaposition of magnificent architecture and soaring mythological tales against a country in economic crisis struggling to hold onto its identity was hauntingly beautiful. It was, without a doubt, a voyage of a lifetime.


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