Monday, October 23, 2017

Izmir and Kusadasi, Turkey (& Ephesus, Too)

I have nothing against Izmir, Turkey. I really don't. 
View of Izmir from the top of the Asansor

No one robbed me. No one accosted me. I didn't see any homeless people, a remarkable feat for a city of its size. Almost everyone was helpful. I found many excellent small restaurants and diners (interestingly, the best ones had chefs from Konya and Syria, not Izmir). 

But Izmir, formerly called Smyrna, is just another city. It lacks the magnificent mosques of Istanbul or Iran. It doesn't have Delhi's palpable energy. Unlike nearby Malatya, it's so used to tourists, it doesn't feel the need to impress them. 

In case you want to visit, you only need one day. Almost all the popular tourist sites are within walking distance around the Konak Square metro stop. If you want a budget hotel, you can stay in Antikhan Otel, located near a small ruins area. 
Agora Park area
A typical tourist will visit Konak Meydani (aka Konak Square); Saat Kulesi (Clock Tower); Kemeralti Bazaar/Market; Kestanepazari Camii/Mosque; and Hisar Camii/Mosque. Farther from these sites and accessible by taxi or metro are the Asansor, an elevator with a nice view of the city, and the Izmir Museum of History and Art (not to be confused with the inferior, forgettable Izmir Museum of Art and Sculpture near Konak Square). 
Entrance to Asansor

Some tourist websites mention Kadifekale as a nice spot, but I didn't go there. Also, if you go to Asansor, you can see the Bet Israel Synagogue next to it (it was closed when I tried to go inside). 
Bet Israel Synagogue

For me, Izmir really only had two interesting attractions: the Museum of History and Art (mentioned above) and Kulturpark. 
Conveniently, the Museum is inside Kulturpark, a large, relaxing outdoor park that also hosts a convention center. Entrance to the three separate museum "houses" is only 5 Turkish lira, easily the best deal in town. 

After you spend a day and night in Izmir, take the train at Basmane Otopark (aka Basmane Gar Otobus Duragi) to the small town of Selcuk (about 10.50 TL), then walk to a the local bus station and catch a small shuttle bus to Kusadasi (about 6 TL), which is near Ephesus.

Kusadasi is unlike any other city in Turkey, a combo of Newport Beach and Santa Cruz, California. It had perfect sunny weather in late October. There's not much to do except walk along the beachfront, but part of the charm of visiting a small beach/hippie town is precisely that there's not much to do. 
View from my hotel balcony

To be fair, several tours exist, and the primary attractions are in or near the Biblical town of Ephesus, where several archaeological ruins and the House of the Virgin Mary (aka Meryemana) are located. 
Not the House of Virgin Mary.
This is Ephesus Archaeological Site aka Efes Orenyeri.

An Ephesus (aka Efes) tour, including roundtrip transportation, will cost you 40 euros in the low tourist season or 50 euros in the high season. Combining the Ephesus tour with other attractions, such as the Virgin Mary's house, will cost you extra (maybe another 10 or 20 euros). Definitely see Ephesus if you visit Kusadasi--it's only 20 minutes away by car, and it'll take you an hour or hour and half to walk the entire area. (The exit is located near the church ruins of the Virgin Mary, not to be confused with the house of Virgin Mary, which is in a totally different location.) 
Altogether, you only need one day for Izmir and two or three nights total for Kusadasi/Ephesus. I stayed at the Doubletree (by Hilton Hotel Kusadasi), about one mile from the main strip, where you can visit Mado Cafe for your sweet tooth, Mezgit Restaurant for seafood, and Erzincan Restaurant for Turkish food (get the beef/chicken claypot dish). For your SIM card or cellphone provider, Turkcell worked much better than Vodafone in Kusadasi but performance was even in Izmir. 

I'm not a beach or golf guy, but i
f you want to golf, try the Ramada Resort Kusdasi & Golf hotel. Kusadasi also has four beaches: Pamucak beach; Kustur beach, a narrow strip of beach with a beautiful view of the ocean; Ladies Beach, accommodating to both men and women, despite its name (25 years ago, it was only for women); and Long beach, which is probably exactly what it sounds like. I didn't visit any of them, but I passed Kustur beach, and it looked nice, almost like a private beach. 
Your eyes do not deceive you.
This is Kusadasi, Turkey, the bar district.
I'm sitting in Mado cafe now, enjoying yet another rice pudding and sunset. For some, Kusadasi is the place to get wild in Turkey, but me, I prefer pudding and sunsets.

Bonus: I just visited Sirince, a small village about 20 minutes from Kusadasi known for its wine and olive oil. I paid my driver 40 euros, and he dropped me off and waited while I walked around. The drive to Sirince was beautiful--lots of greenery and mountains--but the village itself was too small for me. Then again, I'm a coffee drinker, not a wine person, and lots of older ladies seemed to be enjoying themselves. I'll include some pictures below in case you want to visit. 

Lots of small European-style pensions here.
This one looked nice from the outside. Gate was locked.
Personally, if you desire a small town atmosphere, I'd try Selcuk, though it lacks the full nature scenery of Sirince. 
Temple of Artemis in Selcuk

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