|Izmir - Nick writing
We arrived in Izmir in the afternoon, and met our wonderful host Enise at the bus station. She took us to her incredibly chic apartment in a nice suburb of Izmir, which has about a million people in it. We were incredibly fortunate that night to be included in our first Turkish birthday. A friend of Enise (Zulehah) was having her birthday, and Enise was throwing the party for a small group of friends. We had a fantastic time eating, drinking wine, and discussing dozens of topics under the sun.
We got up early the next morning, and Enise's brother-in-law Bugra (pronounced Boo-rah - I can't get the silent 'g' on this keyboard) drove us to the metro, and we spent the day in downtown Izmir. The first task was to find Kyla a resonable facimile of a coffee, and not a Nescafe from an envelope (I hate coffee, and even I shuddered at the coffee abomination that was Nescafe 3-in-1, which was a small packet of powder with coffee, whitener, and sugar). We roamed for quite a while, while caffeine-deprived nerves became ... a triffle frayed. However, all was made better by the best French press coffee Kyla had found on the trip to that point. We wandered around downtown, and found the covered bazaar, which was very cool. Everything you could hope to find, and more, in one huge area, in tiny shops crammed into alleyways. Kyla found a nice store, where she picked up a graduation gift for someone (not naming names, so as to not raise anyone's expectations. Though, that would presume that someone is reading this trog...). We settled in along the waterfront for a cup of tea, and a game of backgammon. We were at a smokey cafe, where the walls were yellowed with 100 years of unfiltered cigarette smoke, and were lined with old men playing speed-backgammon and okey. Kyla sorely wanted to go in from the patio and sit at one of their tables, to better learn how to play cut-throat okey, but we ran out of time, and had to head back to Enise's place for dinner. We went out that night for stuffed potatoes, another think Turkey does brilliantly. Scoop out a potato, mash it, let the customer choose 4 of 20 toppings, then throw the mashed potato part back in the skin, and cover it with the toppings, all for about 2 bucks. Tasty.
This was also our first official glass of ayran, the ubiquitous Turkish yoghurt drink, which was excellent. (Derek and Jen - please note that your daughter's name is well-respected in Turkey, and is very tasty and healthy). The excellent, first, glass of ayran is not to be confused with the second, not excellent, glass of Ayran the next day on our bus trip to Istanbul. We stopped about half-way for lunch, and we grabbed a huge frothing glass of what looked like fresh ayran from the kiosk, only to find it sour and disappointing. Worried that we had been duped by the first glass, we talked with our Turkish friends about our experience. They were incredulous - what were we doing drinking a yoghurt drink from a kiosk at a bus stop? All of the next glasses of ayran that we had were great, pointing to a true-ism common to all cultures around the globe - don't eat anything from any bus-stop ever.
So our time in Izmir came to a close, too short a time with our wonderful host Enise and her great friends. Next time we are back in Turkey we will make sure we spend more time in this fun city, especially so we can meet Enise's husband, who was away on a business trip while we were there.
In meeting up with other travelers throughout the south and east of Turkey I had to ask them how they traveled from Istanbul or how they planned on travelling up to Istanbul. Even though there was quite a bit of time for me to figure out how Nick and I would travel to Istanbul from Izmir I could not put it out of my mind. I was very confused about how it would all happen. Check out our niftz map to see that Istanbul is surrounded by a lot of water. Cities like that confuse me. Vancouver confuses me. Halifax confuses me. I live in a city with rivers - that is pretty much it - oh of course a canal. There are not many lakes to speak of, there are no bays and there are certainly no water ferries on my daily commute to work. Again cities with a lot of water confuse me. So I had been reading up on the variety of options for Nick and I to travel into Istanbul but I thought that info from other travelers was the best way to go. Unfortunately everyone I spoke to was either flying in or was taking in a different part of the coast that involved a ferry that would not be an option to us.
When we met us with our host Enise in Izmir she helped us make our arrangements and the bus was the best mode of transportation. Great I thought. We are taking the bus option, not the ferry option. On less thing to worry out.
So the bus ride was 8 or so hours (maybe it was 6). As we had packed in a lot of quality time with Enise and her friends we were rather tired on the bus ride and I slept almost the entire time. I likely could have slept the entire time but...
Nick woke up in alarm at one stage of the trip and felt the need to wake me up as well. Things were not right on our bus. Somehow the ground was shifting? What was happening? In looking around we discovered that yes we were still on the bus, but somehow we were also on a ferry! Cleary this was a situation that called for reference to our travel bible aka our Lonely Planet guide. Such as the night we were asked for passports on the bus and we thought that somehow we were crossing a border meaning that we would have been on the wrong bus (we were not) was it possible that we were on the wrong bus? And looking ahead into the distance if we were on the wrong bus, what polluted city were we headed to as there was a yellow bank of smog off in the distance?
Rest assured we were on the right bus, the smog was from Istanbul and that prior to us arriving in the city, we obtained a quick knowledge of the cityscape.