Boring Izmir?

Today was the day I left Ölüdeniz. Finally! I said goodbye to my paragliding group whom I didn’t really hang out with much in the end, as you saw in my previous posts. They continued to stay for a few more days to practise solo paragliding. I took a bus from Ölüdeniz to Fethiye then from there took a bus to boring Izmir. At least, that was what I thought at that time.

The reason I chose Izmir was as I mentioned in my previous blog, there was no bus ticket to Cappadocia. Also, I’d like to visit Ephesus. That meant, I didn’t really plan to do anything in Izmir. I didn’t even do any research on that city.  I only did a research on hostels.

It turned out the hostel I stayed at was a ‘sxxt hole’. The photos on the website were taken when it was new. When I arrived, I found a torn down, dirty hostel in poor condition and it was in a dodgy area. Bedsheet was dirty. Bathroom was so dark and filthy that I didn’t want to take a shower. Remember, it was summer. It was extremely hot but I couldn’t take one. Also, there was no soundproof in the room. I couldn’t sleep at night because some people were partying down the street. I could hear them clearly even though the windows were all tightly closed. It felt like sleeping in a tent in the middle of a busy road. The only ‘good’ thing about the hostel was probably the location. Restaurants were within 10 – 15 minutes walking distance but the downside was you needed to walk in the dimly lit alleys in between the residential buildings.

Izmir has a red-light area but I didn’t know where it was. I felt unsafe when I was walking back to the hostel after dinner plus the terrible state of the hostel, I decided to check out the next day even though I reserved the room for two nights. I started backpacking in the 90’s. Since then, I had stayed in numerous hostels and guess what, this was one of the worst.  

The hostel manager texted me and asked me why and I told him politely that I changed my plan. He didn’t think there was anything wrong with his hostel. He thought it was the customer service and that the receptionist didn’t serve me well. That was the problem.  He wasn’t even aware of the issues in his own hostel.

In fact, when I arrived, the hostel receptionist was quite shocked. He had this question written on his face, ‘what on earth are you doing here? You don’t belong to this place.’  After I checked in and was shown to my room, I understood why he had that expression.

Anyway, I checked in to another lodging early in the morning the next day and found a free walking tour on some travel websites so I texted the tour guide and that’s when everything turned better.

The guide asked me to wait for him at the clock tower which was the landmark of Izmir city centre.

I waited in the shade at the clock tower but it was still hot though this place was close to the sea.

I then got another text from him asking me to go to a bazaar where he and his other guests were having some drinks. (Doesn’t it sound like I was demanded a ransom? 😄) He then told me I texted him too late but he’d still include me in his tour. I was thinking of not joining him at that stage because of what he said. But I had nothing to do and I was out in the heat anyway. So, ok. Whatever. I walked there in the heat. I couldn’t find it at first but I insisted on finding it and the friendly locals showed me the place. Yeah!

The bazaar used to be a hotel for the businessmen who traded goods in this area. Now, you could see those rooms had been converted into shops. Some even custom make jewellery for their customers. I think the Grand Bazaar that I missed in Istanbul was similar?
These used to be letter boxes. Really? Where did they put the letters?

The guide then took us to a candy shop where we tasted candies and coffee. He emphasised it wasn’t Turkish coffee. It was Ottoman coffee which was different. I couldn’t drink coffee but he insisted I try so I did. It was indeed different from other coffee. (Other coffees make me sick, literally. Honestly, I won’t risk my life next time.)

Turkish delight and coffee stand inside the shop we visited
Ottoman coffee
It must be a wedding season. Apart from my friend’s wedding and the one I saw at Fethiye, this was the third one I saw. But this one looked quite cool! 😀
The guide then took us to a museum.

His other guests found it too hot so they went back to the hotel for a rest and I continued. The guide asked me if I could ride a bike. Seriously? I said yes, but I didn’t want to go uphill or downhill. It’d only be good if it’s just a flat cycling path – not the road with other traffic. (what a difficult lady!) 😛  He lent me one of his bikes and took me to the first escalator in Izmir.

The tall red building on the right was the first escalator in Izmir.

We stopped at a small shop near the escalator. It was indeed a very good place to sit down, relax and take a break. It was high enough to overlook the city. The guide wanted me to try the ferry but it wasn’t necessary for me. It had been a very busy day (and hot) for me. Too much walking. I was actually quite glad that he suggested us to ride a bike. On the other hand, I think the family made a wise decision too.

The guide introduced me to their Izmir or Turkish snack – mussels with rice. YUMMY! I didn’t know if it was because I was too hungry. I just know that I paid for one more plate. 🙂
Sunset in Izmir

The guide and I then rode back to the city centre. He also recommended me a few restaurants.

My original plan for today was to have a relaxing day. I didn’t expect to walk this much. The free walking tour was supposed to last for half a day only but he took me around for one whole day! At the end of the day, I paid him a generous tip* for what he did today.

Now, I didn’t know if I could wake up early and enjoy Ephesus tomorrow.

Let’s see.

So, is Izmir boring? What do you think after reading this?

18 – 19 August 2018

P.S. * ‘generous tip’ – I checked the average salary of Izmir in 2020 and found that the amount I paid him in 2018 was above the average daily wage. No wonder he was over the moon when I gave him the tip.

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