GUEST ARTICLE: It was a beautiful sunny morning when we continued on our road trip around Turkey. We had rented our own wheels and so far had no problems getting around (with much thanks to our trusty TomTom car navigator). We’d just spent a few nights in Gallipoli National Park and were now back on the road headed to Turkey’s 3rd largest city – Izmir (Smyrna).
Izmir is located on the western coast in the Izmir province. To get there we had to take a little ferry across the Dardanelles to the beautiful city of Çanakkale. The ride was short but sweet offering stunning views of Turkey’s mountainous terrain and its busy waterway.
Just out of Çanakkale we paid a visit to the ancient city of Troy (Troia). At the entrance stood a replica of the fabled giant wooden Trojan horse. Luckily for us we had just arrived before an onslaught of tour buses came. The area wasn’t that big but the ruins were nice. I thought it was definitely worth the stop even if just to say we’d been there.
Back on the road we drove through some charming countryside and busy little towns while getting glimpses of the beautiful blue Aegean Sea. The highways were great and looked brand new which made for a really nice drive. The next stop on our list was to the ancient city of Pergamon located just outside the modern city of Bergama.
We took a little cable car ride up to Pergamon’s Akropolis and immersed ourselves in its remarkable ancient Greek ruins (that were first mentioned in 399 B.C). The panorama over the lakes, valleys and city below was absolutely breathtaking. We especially liked the massive Hellenistic Theater that back in the day could seat 10,000 with grandiose views.
We spent about hour up there before getting back on the road to Izmir. Unfortunately we couldn’t spend that much time or it would have made for an even longer drive. About 7 hours later (including our pit stops) we arrived in Izmir. We were really glad we had a car navigator, because with all of Izmir’s little non-descript streets I think it would have been a nightmare trying to find our way.
Our hotel the Karaca Hotel (http://www.otelkaraca.com.tr/Default.aspx) was situated along a beautiful palm tree lined street just a hop skip and a jump away from the Kordon seafront. The reception was really accommodating and they had a car spot waiting for us when we arrived (parking is tight in Izmir – you need to book ahead).
It was late in the afternoon by this point and luckily for us the weather was still in our favor so we headed out straight away for a little explore. The area around us was really nice with leafy green streets and an assortment of different shops to look at and restaurants to choose from.
We only had to walk a few blocks before finding ourselves on the busy Kordon promenade overlooking the Pasaport Quay. There were small groups of fishermen tossing lines into the sea while a very content fat cat lay not far behind them doing the big schmooze while cutely tossing to and fro on the grass. Now that was one happy cat!
The promenade seemed to go on forever winding its way passed beautiful grassy areas and heaps of eateries and bars teeming with patrons. Unfortunately for us exhaustion soon overcame us and we had to pack it in for the night but not before having a nice quick authentic Turkish dinner of pides (grilled flatbreads with meat and cheese), rich tomato soups and homemade breads.
What a great sleep we had! You really gotta give it to the Turkish for their comfy beds and rooms. After breakfast we went on walkabout once again. We wasted the day away walking around lovely shopping areas in Alsancak and a massive park called Kulturpark that had some great trails.
Izmir has plenty to offer and from what we saw I think our favorite was the waterfront at night with its vibrant atmosphere. We really enjoyed our time there and could have easily stayed on a few more days, but our journey had to continue, our next stop – Pamukkale.
This travel diary has been written by Machalle Gower, a friend who enjoys taking the road less traveled!