When I was searching about this park, I came across its full name: Kusadasi Dilek Yarimadasi Buyuk Menderes Deltasi Milli Park. It is probably the longest name given to a national park in Turkey. Let’s parse this: Kusadasi is a very famous resort town, unfortunately now a big cruise destination due its proximity to Ephesus. Dilek Yarimadasi is a beautiful peninsula named Dilek (means “wish”). Buyuk Menderes Deltasi is the Great Meander River Delta. Put them all together and you get a great park famous for its flora, fauna, sea life, and beautiful beaches with flat rocks. Milli Park means National Park. In short, everyone calls this national park: Kusadasi Milli Parki (“Kusadasi National Park). That is a nice settlement!
We have a chance to visit this park thanks to my college friend Nurgun inviting us to Kusadasi to spend a day with her. It is a long day which includes getting lost (again!), having an amazing breakfast at Nurgun’s house with a traditional Turkish spread including fresh figs, and peaches. Her tea is especially tasty. She has the semaver, a traditional Turkish tea making device, on a small table next to our breakfast table on their balcony.
After breakfast, we go through winding roads passing villages and summer villas and reach Kusadasi Milli Parki. This is an area well protected from any development which is covered with a variety of trees including, my favorite, tall pine trees. I cannot imagine a better color combination of all shades of green mixed with all shades of blue waters of the Aegean Sea.
The park is about 23 km south of Kusadasi, located in a town called Guzelcamli . The park is 6 km wide and 20 km long. It is a paradise for bird watchers (including rare dalmation pelicans and pygmy cormorants), hikers, and swimmers. During your hike, you may catch a glimpse of wild horses. There are cafes and picnic benches if you bring your own food. Nurgun talks about the wild pigs, especially cute little ones digging into the watermelons and sandwiches on the picnic benches. They are the little thieves you need to watch out for!
We spend a few hours at the beach, most of it spent in the beautiful water.
We did not have a chance to visit the Cave of Zeus. Nurgun tells us that it has a pool of fresh water in it. Perfect spot to take a dip after a good swim.
Nurgun drives us through the beautiful fig, peach or olive orchards and parks her car next to “Yesil Vadi” (meaning Green Valley), an eatery that serves home cooking and sells their home-made olive oils, oil cured olives, and vegetables. There are wooden tables covered with plastic table cloths. We are surrounded by their garden. Tiny green clementines on the trees thriving to get as much sun as possible to get their orange coat for the winter. There are wooden trays filled with bright red hot peppers drying under the sun. There are two trays of peaches in syrup literally sun-cooked to turn into delicious jams for winter consumption.
We order stuffed squash flowers, fried vegetables with yogurt and tomato sauces on the side, gozleme, and tea. I have not eaten these delicious fried vegetables since my grandmother died. They are so tasty and perfectly fried. Silky eggplant slices, soft zucchini, and green long sweet peppers give an amazing aroma.
Yesil Vadi is totally run by a family. Their cute grandson bicycles around us. It feels great to watch how the family interacts.
As we leave the store, I ask the owners if they have some hot pepper flakes for my friend Drew, the amazing chef of Drew’s Bayshore Bistro in Keyport. He always asks me about the hot peppers in Turkey. And he orders some on the Internet. Now, I can take him real home-made hot pepper flakes.
We thank the owners and drive off to Nurgun’s house to get our bags. We are ready to drive to Kula to see the first Geopark in Turkey.