Seeing the archeological sites of the Turkish Aegean with kids. Part 1

Whether you are living in Turkey or just visiting, chances are, you'll be wanting to visit the historical sites of the Agean. And if you've got kids, you shouldn't let that put you off. Over the last ten years we have taken our children (now 11 and 8) many times, and we have seen an increasing number of young families on the sites. Before you set off, though, you might want a few pointers about practicalities.

Getting there:

A lot of those sites are accessible by dolmus (minibus) from the nearest town (Selcuk, for Efes). Children don't pay on the dolmus provided they sit on your lap. If they have their own seat, the driver will probably ask you for a full fare for them. On busy routes, drivers can be a bit grumpy, so if you're intending to have your child on your lap, just hand in the fees for the adults without asking. Otherwise expect the driver and other passengers to play with your kids, give them chewing gum, cake, sweetcorn, etc, without asking you first! Generally, you might want to keep an eye on what your kids put in their mouths in they are things they shouldn't eat. People will feed them.

If you need to take a taxi to a site, ask the driver before hand how much it is going to cost. If the price seems reasonable, go with it. Otherwise, ask for the counter to be put on. Some sites are only accessible by taxi. Going to the Virgin Mary's house from Selcuk is an expansive taxi drive. Also, there is not much to see there and a lot of standing in line not touching anything. You might prefer not to take your children there.

Pergammon has two sites. One is the ancient city, which is accessible by taxi from Bergama, for a reasonable price, and the other is the Aesclepeion, or ancient spa, which you can walk to from the city. The latter has many interesting things to see and is less dangerous (because not on a cliff) than the former. It also has a pond with turtles which will keep children amused for a while.

Bus companies advertise themselves as going to sites, but mostly they don't. So the bus to Selcuk from Izmir says it goes to Efes. In fact it takes you to the Selcuk bus station from which you take a dolmus. Taking a bus to Bergama from Selcuk we were once dropped off at the edge of town on a buzy motorway. Basically the rationale seems to be that if you can catch a dolmus for the rest of the way you'll be fine. And you will be, but make sure you know in advance that's what you're going to have to do.

On the other hand some bus companies from Selcuk organise day trips to three sites: Miletus, Priene and Didyma. All three are well worth seeing and hard to get to (trips involving several dolmuses and a lot of walking). But three sites in a day can be tiring for children. To get to Priene you must climb a steep hill, Miletus is a big site so involves quite a bit of walking and Didyma is a long drive. So make sure your kids have plenty to keep them happy and occupied during the journey. All three sites are beautiful and special. Go if you can.

Entrance fees

Children don't pay. Don't expect any kind of reduction if you're a teacher unless you're a Turkish national.

Efes is expensive, and you'll have to pay extra if you want to see the covered villas. But it's well worth it.

Beware the salesmen outside the busiest sites. Or rather, beware your children with the salesmen. Better warn them in advance that they can't buy anything – otherwise you might end up paying over the odds for some very poor quality stuff. On the other hand, don't be surprised if your children get given food or small souvenirs by the shop keepers. They don't expect anything in exchange, they just think your child is cute.  In particular, if a Turkish shopkeeper thinks your child is beautiful, he or she will pin a little blue bead on them to cast off the evil eye.

Charlotte and Max in Efesus in the summer 2007.

 Come back here next week for Part 2- water, pushchairs, dangers and how to keep the kids amused.

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Jean said...

Wow...Turkey has just become another place on my "To-Visit" list. You'd make a great ambassador! XXX

Sandrine said...

Well: let me know when and where and hopefully we'll meet up!

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