Sea, sand, sun and history in one place: Kuşadası

When you mention the Aegean and tourism, one of the first places that come to mind is Kuşadası.

Sea, sand, sun and history in one place: Kuşadası

When you mention the Aegean and tourism, one of the first places that come to mind is Kuşadası; just one hour from İzmir's Adnan Menderes Airport and 20 minutes from the House of the Virgin Mary, it is as much a destination for most foreign tourists as it is a must-see stop-off.

Ten years ago Kuşadası was suffering from poor city planning, but its has since blossomed into a resort whose modern landscape and city architecture make it one of the leading tourist sites on the Aegean. With its large and clean beaches, Kalamaki National Park and docks for cruise ships, this city is gaining fame among visitors both here and abroad. On one side of the city you can find neighborhoods full of narrow streets lined with old houses, while the other side has a modern esplanade and beaches where tourists can bathe in the sun and the ambience.

Kuşadası has a growing number of foreign residents, especially Irish and Dutch citizens. To date almost 5,000 pieces of property have been purchased by foreigners. During the summer, the city's winter population of 60,000 swells to almost 1 million people, attracting mostly Germans, Irish, Dutch, English, French, Belgians and Americans, though an increasing number have been coming from the Balkans in recent years.

The history of a city

Though it is not clear who established Kuşadası's first settlement; a location near the city called Yılancı Burnu, or "Neopolis," supposedly established by Ionians, was connected to Ephesus. This city was settled around Pilavtepe hill in a place called Andızkulesi. After some time this area belonging to the Byzantines was economically dominated by Venetians and Genoese. Küçükada (Small Island) was a Byzantine fort protecting the shore and Güvercinada, an important military base for the Venetians and Ottomans, passed through a period of restoration and renewal in 1834, after which it received its famous castle.

While the city was connected to the İzmir district until 1954, it later became part of Aydın and rapidly developed. The city we know as Kuşadası was actually "relocated" from Andızkulesi to the present site, primarily named "Yeni İskele" (New Dock). The bay and its close surroundings are known as art and cultural centers that have hosted a variety of civilizations since antiquity.

The area was dominated by Leleges in 3000 B.C., Aeolians in the 11th century B.C. and Ionians in the ninth century B.C. The area between the Büyük Menderes (historically Meander) and Gediz (formerly Hermus) rivers was called "Ionia" in ancient times. Ionians who were merchants and sailors became very rich and powerful in a short time due to overseas trade. During their history they established 12 cities: the Ionian colonies. Kuşadası was one of the first ports to open Anatolia to the Mediterranean. The ancient kingdom of Lydia, whose capital was Sardes (modern Sart in the Manisa province of Turkey), became a dominant power in the region during the seventh century B.C. In 546 B.C. the Persians occupied the area, remaining until 334 B.C. and the arrival of Alexander the Great of Macedonia. At that time a completely new age began in Anatolia in which Greek and Anatolian civilizations merged -- the Hellenistic era. Ephesus, Miletus, Priene and Didim (ancient name Didyma) were the most famous cities of the time.

During the second century B.C. the Romans became dominant in the area. With the arrival and settling of St. Jean in Ephesus during the first years of Christianity, this area also became religious center. Previously Ayasuluğ (Efes-Selçuk) and Balat (Milet) were the docks of the Menderes Valley. However, as the sea receded over time and the river silted up, the region had a need for another dock, attached to a modern city: Kusadası. Because much trade was being controlled by Venice and Genoa at the time, the new dock was renamed in Italian, Scala Nuova. The city was a commercial colony full of consulates, storage depots and merchants. Muslim Turks preferred to settle in Andızkule, a spot about five kilometers away, near the hill of Pilavtepe. As the city grew the Hacı Feyzullah, Alaca Mescit, Camii Atik and Türkmen quarters were added to the original two.

When Kılıç Aslan's region was attached to the Seljuk state in 1186, the Turks finally controlled the region later to become a central gate toward the Aegean for caravans. After the fall of the Seljuks the Sultanate period began and for some time Aydınoğulları ruled. The middle of the 15th century saw the start of Ottoman rule.

In 1413 Kuşadası was attached to the Ottoman Empire by Mehmet the First (Çelebi). After that the city remained completely under Turkish rule and started to fill with Turkish art and cultural assets, some of them built on the orders of the Ottoman vizier Mehmet Pasha. Kuşadası started to take on its present structure around the 17th century. Mehmet Pasha, filling the position of vizier twice -- for Sultan Ahmet I and Sultan Osman II -- built walls around Kuşadasi. The walls had only three gates, one of which today divides Barbaros Hayrettin Paşa Street from Kahramanlar Street. Its upper flat is being used as the City Traffic Control headquarters while the other gates no longer exist.

Mehmet Pasha also ordered the construction of a building complex consisting of an inn, a hamam and a mosque, as well as a new water system. At that time, Kuşadası consisted of two large quarters called Dağ and Camiikebir. Because it was constructed on level ground Camiikebir consisted of narrow but sharply curved streets. Along the streets houses were grouped in pairs with their fronts along streets and courtyards in back.

Back to the future

Turn the clock forward a century or two to the 1960s: this was when the city's tourist potential was truly realized and Kuşadası began to develop rapidly. During the last couple of years in particular many hotels, motels, campgrounds and other holiday facilities were built inside and in close proximity to the city. Meanwhile a marina was built and expanded into a port incorporating many docks and facilities. Today Kuşadası is an important tourist center thanks to its delightful beaches and temperate climate.

Clean sandy beaches stretch north and south for kilometers, boasting names such as Tusan, Akyar, Otuzbir, Kadınlar Denizi, Aslan Burnu, Karaova, Güzelçamlı, Büyük and Küçük Kalamaki, İlyas Ağa, Dipburun and Tavşanburnu. For those who prefer scuba diving to swimming, Kuşadası also has deep rocky bays perfect for the activity.

How to get there

Land: From İzmir you can reach Kuşadası in approximately 90 minutes following the İzmir-Aydın highway. Turn off at the 65th kilometer in the direction of Kuşadası and follow the road for an additional 25 kilometers. The second alternative is to follow the road connecting İzmir's Menderes district. There is a shuttle bus every 30 minutes between Kusadası and İzmir and most travel agencies provide transportation to nearly every location in Turkey.

Air: Domestic and foreign tourists coming to İzmir through Adnan Menderes Airport can reach Kuşadası by highway. Turkish Airlines (THY) has a ticket sales office in the city.

Sea: Kuşadası has a large port with two docks and thousands of tourists come via cruise ship.

Where to stay

Kuşadası has many five star hotels, holiday villages and private lodging, providing accommodation for tourists on any budget.

Where to eat

Kuşadası is home to hundreds of restaurants to delight even the fussiest of taste buds. Beside luxury establishments lining the seashore, you can find smaller and more traditional restaurants littered through the city's streets. Değirmen Restaurant, located on the road between Kuşadası and Davutlar, is a nice alternative, particularly for families with children. This restaurant offers a fine menu, including pide, gözleme and barbequed food.

For traditional Turkish meals you can also try Kuşadası Kör Akdeniz restaurant, offering options such as bolama, Şefket-i Bostan (Turkish special meze) and arapsaçı (a noodle dish) offered by the restaurants in Kuşadası's traditional side streets. Bolama is known as a "sacrifice dish" in Kuşadası and a "make-a wish" meal in Aydın.

Today's Zaman

Güncelleme Tarihi: 09 Ağustos 2007, 10:03