The best of the airlines that I traveled throughout the whole trip was Turkish Airlines. Going only a short distance from Istanbul to Izmir and then back, the flights nonetheless were comfortable, with good leg-room, accommodating stewardesses, and a quick, delicious meal. I was pleasantly surprised.
Our initial plans were to travel from Izmir by rented car to the coastal resort town of Kusadasi, but it is interesting how plans that have been made months in advance can still be changed in a moment’s notice.
Always interesting to see the countryside and through the towns of Torbali and Selcuk, the destination of Kusadasi was a mistake. At one time, it must have been a quiet, beautiful, undiscovered community along an enchanting shore. But now it has been discovered and now its narrow, twisting streets are congested with tourist traffic. It looks like a resort town where Hollywood movie stars might spend a weekend. Many people from Izmir and other places east apparently filled the beaches every weekend.
As I don’t swim and thus only enjoy beaches for the beauty, I looked at the Kusadasi beaches and was ready to go. When I travel, I usually go for the history and culture features of a place. In other words, something I haven’t seen before.
Twice in our journey, the Lonely Planet guidebook provided information that we found to be…well…wrong, according to our view. The guide rated the Atlantique Hotel in Kusadasi as high. When we got there, the reservations, made months earlier, were messed up and the only rooms they had to offer were ground floor and rather unattractive. We tried to find where the view of the sea shore might have been, as was noted on its website. They must have confused the sea shore with its swimming pool. The song of “YMCA” played at poolside as we cancelled the reservations and “beat feet” out of there.
Tired and wondering what to do, on a whim we called the Hilton hotel in Izmir and were rescued by great accommodations with rooms that had truly spectacular views of the city and the sea. It was a wonder that we found the hotel at night in busy Izmir, which is the third largest city in Turkey. We stopped at a gas station and a helpful Izmir resident led us to a needed turnoff toward the hotel. In the light of day, the hotel is easily spotted, as it is the tallest building in Izmir.
Arriving at the hotel after midnight, I was hungry and broke the rules about food and water caution. I ravenously ate a bread bun handed to me in the bare and commercially-busy hands of a corner, late-night shop vendor. As it turned out, I never got sick the entire trip and that was fortunate.
Izmir is one of the oldest cities in the world, with evidence of establishment as far back as 3000 B.C.E. Southwest from Istanbul and on the coast, Izmir was originally called Smyrna, apparently named for an Amazon queen. Smyrna is mentioned in the Bible as the location of numerous Biblical churches, the place where Paul traveled, and near the town, Ephesus, where Mary, the mother of Jesus, was thought to have spent her later years.
I accompanied my brother Steve, whose diabetic condition affects his feet and doesn’t allow for long walks, for sight-seeing along the city’s Mediterranean seaside, not far from the hotel. Steve took a bus tour of the city, which is a good way to see places that you might want to return to for a longer visit. My brother Phil and I are the hikers. Often we set off to walk to fairly close destinations. We visited the Agora of Smyrna, a place of stone columns for an Athena Temple and below-ground passages that once was a busy commercial center, would also have been seen by the most famous resident, poet/philosopher Homer. We visited the Ethnography Museum and the Archaeological Museum. We walked around the Culture Park, visiting the three Izmir History and Art Museum buildings, which were not on a tour bus route and consequently made us about the only visitors there. Inside the museums were statues of Homer, and Poseidon, and the Olympic Runner as well as art, jewelry, and pottery.
One of the days while we were staying in Izmir, we drove to the small town of Yenipazar. It was where my sister-in-law Peggy had taught English as a Peace Corps volunteer in the 1960s. Peggy had learned the Turkish language for the Peace Corps experience, and now had to remember and use it as no one they could find there could speak English fluently. Several residents could carry on limited conversations in English, including a young teacher also enjoying a meal at the restaurant.
The residents were extremely welcoming, despite the three Roberts brothers being unable to communicate in their language. They treated us like celebrities and even the mayor of the town joined us at our table with delicious Turkish food at the wonderful Hukul Pide restaurant. The mayor was in charge of the nicely printed four-page newsletter-like town newspaper called Zeybek. There seemed to be slight Internet use, as I only saw a few computers at the school where my sister-in-law had once taught. But many people seemed to have cell phones for calling and texting. That seemed to be the one common media product. Isn’t that the case for the world?