A very big town with the welcoming atmosphere of a village. We stayed out of town in a suburb called Buca in the apartment of our Turkish friend's mother. Everybody was very friendly and we experienced the genuine Turkish way of life, with mealtimes especially being a real family occasion.
On the Saturday evening we were even treated to the sights and sounds of a traditional Turkish wedding from across the street.
After a typical Turkish breakfast (cheese, fruit, olives, bread and, of course, cay) we drove through the busy suburbs down to the centre of town, where we were treated to a guided tour, courtesy of our friends.
A place not to miss is the Kemeralti shopping area, with its vast array of stalls and shops up and down numerous alleyways. What we thought was a good idea was all the wedding shops being grouped together in one area. Close by, a particularly interesting building housed an antique collector's paradise.
The whole city centre is a collection of beautiful buildings, monuments and statues.
It is well worth taking one of several ferries just to experience the city from a different perspective.
In contrast to the city centre is the Crowne Plaza hotel and shopping centre. If you need a towel that is the place to go. We were amazed at the huge variety on offer for very reasonable prices.
Close by, it was back to the traditional with a visit to the Patlıcan Café.
City Tour of Izmir - from modernity to ancient sites
The following day saw us heading out of town for some sightseeing further a-field.
Passing through the town of Selchuk, our first stop was the historic hillside village of Sirince, well known for its wine making. Rumoured to have been called 'Esphesus on the Hill', the village was actually originally a Greek settlement, only being populated by Turkish families after the liberation of Izmir in 1924. It still retains its Greek roots in its architecture and names of cafes and pensions e.g. Zeus.
Retracing our steps through the spectacular scenery, we passed the ancient site of Ephesus (save that for another day). A tip if you do intend to visit Ephesus is to read up a little beforehand to make your visit even more interesting.
Turning left shortly after passing the airfield look out for the storks in their nest!
We are now heading for the holiday centre of Kusadasi. Make sure you don't miss the first spectacular glimpse of the sea on your right before the downhill drive past Adaland Aqua Park into the town centre.
Contrast the harbour area with its fishing boats moored alongside gulet-type trip boats to Ladies' Beach, where there were only inches to spare between the oil-covered bodies in the hot summer sun.
Crossing the bay of Izmir by boat
If you want to experience more peaceful surroundings, travel out of town to the horse-riding centre of Değirmen. Here you can wander for an hour or two, see the animals, ride a horse or stop for something to eat. Try the cheese and parsley gozleme, delicious! Don't leave without walking across the rope bridge over the water filled with ducks.
Approximately 3 hours from Izmir and about 15 kilometres out of Denizli is the stunning geological site which is Pamukale, meaning cotton castle. Known as The White Paradise, this is a 'must see' area. A spectacular 100-metres-high limestone formation. Wander through the constantly flowing waters, known for their healing properties. The town itself is also well worth a visit.
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