Whilst living in Kuşadası is most definitely truly enjoyable in itself exploring the surrounding area is, too. And one such destination no one should miss out on is our big Aegean sister, İzmir!
I am not intending to compete with professionally written tour or travel guides in this regard but rather share with our reader’s a number of my personal reflections about what I once dubbed ‘İzmir – Gateway to Turkey and beyond’ (original article as published in the Turkish language by Hürriyet EGE newspaper albeit with a non-matching picture, 27th April 2007, http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/ege/6374987_p.asp).
İzmir has a population of just below four million people but it never feels as if it is too crowded unless you try to reach the city centre by car coming from Torbalı during a Friday afternoon rush hour as I once did. In that case covering one mile easily turned into one hour! Otherwise, and in particular if you avoid using your car but do walk instead large parts of the city centre become a pedestrian’s paradise indeed.
What amazed me when I came here for the first time had been in particular two of the city’s many features. First, the almost perfect layout of the city centre which loosely connects a seemingly endless number of roundabouts with streets meeting there and then only to once more departing in the opposite direction, always in an arrow or ray-like fashion, respectively; besides, İzmir has a specifically southern flair, there are designer boutiques as well as more traditional shops and we are never far away from a bar, café or restaurant.
Second, the city is remarkably green taking its hot summers into account; many avenues and appropriately so come complete with trees on either side or planted right in the middle in case of a dual lane road. Not just palm trees as one would expect but a huge variety of many other tall trees and shrubs. All this adds to the above mentioned impression of having entered a ‘laissez faire, relaxation only – tolerated zone’ which captivates new arrivals as well as long-time residents alike.
One way of finding out about these fine features which are the result of clever city centre planner’s efforts is taking an extended walk departing from Basmane train station. With the station to your back, turn right towards the roundabout ‘9 Eylül Meydanı’ facing the entrance to the impressive Trade Fairground, then turn left into Gazi Bulvarı. Having reached the seaside after a leisurely stroll of about 20 minutes or so turn right and enjoy walking next to the waterfront well away from the traffic until Alsancak commuter ferry boat pier. There are fabulous views to be had across the bay as well as many inviting watering holes dotted just off the promenade. If you then turn right for a second time towards the end of the waterfront walkway complete with work-out lane, crossing one small street and then enter the Kibris Şehitleri Caddesi pedestrian zone you find a wide array of shops and café’s. At the end of that street, turn right into Talatpaşa Bulvarı, a few minutes later turn left into Plevne Bulvarı and at the first roundabout facing another entrance to the trade fairground and Culture Park to your left just continue to walk straight and you would come back to from where you had begun your city tour, i.e. Basmane station!
Your walk resembles a triangle of sorts, shows you some of the finest parts İzmir has to offer and when you go online next you may wish to take a look at a street map of İzmir, enabling you to easily re-find the route I have just indicated.
In case you have more time (and/or come back more regularly) I suggest to visit the Agora which you would have just about by-passed whilst walking from Basmane to the waterfront, the city’s old fashioned yet never out of date pedestrian’s only shopping district. It is where the word ‘clustering’ comes back to life as different lanes of course host different trades-people yet selling identical goods and all housed alongside each other! There is the money-changer and gold seller street, and there is the shoe shop lane. There are the clothes shops walkways and then there are many others. Clustering is a very old Turkish concept although the word as such did not exist back then when the Agora’s layout was produced. The advantage is that competition brings extra business (it is a precursor to today’s shopping malls if you like) and keeps customers happy, too, as if one shop does not sell what you need chances are the one next door does.
Talking about shopping malls, and if you enjoy contrasts, why not head down back to the waterfront (another ten minute stroll away) and visit Konak Pier Shopping Mall (here is their web-link: www.konakpier.net)! This is the modern face of city centre shopping as well as eating and dining out, respectively, or going to the movies.
Whether you like old, new or both İzmir is a perfect winter season daytrip destination with affordable, comfortable and frequent shuttle buses departing from our Kuşadası coach station. Enjoy!
Comments are more than welcome by writing to Klaus.Jurgens@gmail.com