The Izmir Tour

I took advantage of staying at Mike and Sarah’s and slept as much as possible. So after a full day of wine tasting, I went to bed and slept in the following day before waking up to pack and see Izmir. Before bed, there were some rallies/protests/celebrations (we aren’t quite sure what it was) outside their apartment, so we were all on the balcony watching and sending snapchats. They live right by a square which is one of the few places people can protest, so it seems like this happens a lot. It’s never violent, though, and it was cool to see how proud people are of their beliefs.

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We got a rather late start the followingΒ day, but thankfully there is not much to see in Izmir (I mean that in a good way, I promise!).

There is a restaurant on the same street that Mike and Sarah live on that serves traditional Turkish lunch, which is essentially pita and meat. That was our first stop, where we made a plan for the rest of the day.

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Afterwards, Mike had to run a few errands which we tagged along for before taking a walk along the Kordon (the water). It was refreshing to catch the harbor breeze after so many days in the still heat.

Our first tourist attraction was Asansor, which is essentially an elevator that takes you from one street to a higher street. The story is actually pretty cool because it was built to make it easier for women, children, and elderly to get up to the high point without facing the walk up hill and the altitude differences. The view you get at the top is if the entire city, and across the harbor as well. We sat up there for coffee before moving on.

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[Mike in his element]

We then went to the clock tower, which is the major tourist attraction in Izmir. It was much smaller than I expected, but in a nice little square that had a ton of people. There was also a really cute mosque in the same square – it is tiny (only one octagonal room) and the coloring is beautiful.

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Around the corner from the clock tower is Kemeralta, the bazaar in Izmir. It was much different than the Grand Bazaar – fewer souvenirs and more practical items (clothes, shoes, backpacks, etc.). It was probably more crowded than the Grand Bazaar when considering it relative to size, though, and we struggled to maneuver our way through all of the people. Mike and Sarah picked up 5 kg of chicken (because why not) and I grabbed some tea to accompany my new tea set.

We stopped back at the apartment to drop everything off and then moved on to the most important stop of the day: ice cream. I was going to be that girl who took a picture of her ice cream, but I became the girl who devoured the entire cone before remembering to do so. When we were walking back from our ice cream stop, we picked up midge dolma, which are sold on the street everywhere in Turkey. They are basically mussels stuffed with rice and a bit of lemon juice added on. And they are delicious. We went from one each to three each in a matter of 30 seconds. I was worried I wouldn’t get the chance to try them since we were cutting it close wth time but I’m so happy we not only got to try them but also found really good ones!

With an hour left to kill, we went for one final hookah/tea break before heading to the airport. I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare and, naturally, decided to spend that time shopping. Since I didn’t get the chance to pick up coasters from the markets, I bought a set at duty free. And a hot plate! Slowly stocking up on things for the house…

[All of the souvenirs…I think I went a bit crazy this trip!]

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Wine Tasting in Izmir

After traveling for a week straight, it was nice to be able to sleep in in Izmir. Sarah and I both happily took advantage and stayed in our pajamas, catching up on the Internet since we finally had wifi, while Mike was out running errands in the morning. 

Once we finally set off for the day, we headed to Urla, which is the wine country in Izmir. We visited three wineries during the day: Urlice, Usca, and MMG. 

  
Urlice was the smallest of the three and had a really quaint, rustic feel to it. The girl there said they serve pizzas on the weekend and also do six course meals when you have a large group. We unfortunately did not have the chance to meet the owners, but the girl who was there told us they lived in America for awhile and opened the winery once they moved to Turkey. They only produce about 10,000 bottles each year, but the wines were so good – I ended up buying a Rose which was unlike most roses I’ve had, and a Cabernet Sauvignon which was both delicious and had a really cute bottle! 
        
Usca was slightly bigger and had absolutely incredible views. It was set high on a hill in a barn-like structure which had a coastal feel. The winery would be the perfect venue for a party. We were able to try four of the wines and all of them were really good. However, we were not able to learn as much about the wines as at Urlice, and the environment seemed more formal than friendly. 
   
    
 Our favorite by far was MMG. We met the owner and his daughter – it’s a family run business – and learned all about their wines and the winery’s history. They were extremely friendly and open, so we spent a good amount of time there just chatting while trying the wines. The owner had just been to Virginia and visited some of the vineyards, in the Leesburg area we assume, so we talked to him about the various types of grapes found there and how Leesburg is turning into the prime brewery/vineyard location. I had such great conversations that I honestly wanted to buy a full case and send it home, but they do not ship internationally (so sad). No worries, Mike and Sarah will have to find a way to get me a supply!

    
   
 
Their winery was located on the mountain, with stunning views and no other businesses in site. They also had just taken in a street dog who was a six month old black lab and the cutest puppy ever. He would get overly excited and pee, just like Bruno did when he was younger. After good conversation, great wine, and puppy love, we all left so happy. I told Mike and Sarah they better go back there all the time and promised my return the next time I am in Turkey. 
    
It’s crazy how much better of an experience we had wine tasting in Izmir than in Bozcaada, an island pretty much known for its wine. I am so excited to experience more wine tastings throughout Europe, and at home when I get back. Also, I made major progress this week on filling the wine rack in the new flat. Three happy campers returned home today!
  

Roadtrip to Izmir

The past couple of days have proven that roadtrips don’t work in Turkey. At least not for us. 

We woke up early on Sunday to leave Bozcaada and, naturally, couldn’t. The previous day, we saw a sign that said reservations were required for the ferry. We went up to the ferry stand to make a reservation and the guy wouldn’t let us. He told us it wasn’t required on weekdays. So we went on our way happily planning on waking up to get the 9:30 ferry the next morning. 

Around 9:00 the next morning, we reached the town. You can only drive through if you are going to the ferry so we told the guard that’s where we were heading. He asked if we had a reservation and when we said no he told us it was required. A big thank you to the guy the day before who told us otherwise! We immediately called to make a reservation but they didn’t have anything available until 12, so we had three hours to kill. On an island that had already seen most of!

We went for coffee, breakfast, and a good wander and then just started driving. We stopped at one of the wineries we hadn’t been to yet so Mike could buy a bottle and then went to taste a few wines at the GΓΌler Ada winery which was actually right next to where we had been staying.

   
    
   
When we finally got into the ferry and then onto the mainland, I fell asleep for the majority of the car ride. I normally don’t sleep in cars, but there is something about Mike’s car that allows me to sleep so well! 

We only made one stop on our trip, which was to Pergamon, an ancient ruins site. It was very similar to the Acropolis in Athens. I love seeing stuff like the ruins and imagining what life would be like back then. There were also gorgeous views over the city. The bad part is that it was boiling hot. I’m not sure if it’s because we were up high or if it was just hotter in this specific town, but we were out of the car for less than half an hour and so happy when we were back in the air conditioning. 

   
    
    
    
 
We drove back to Izmir to find that the power in Mike and Sarah’s apartment was out. It apparently happens a lot, but I had really been looking forward to wifi and air conditioning! When the power finally came back on, we all did of our internet browsing and then went to their local hookah bar, Hookah, for tea and hookah. I called it an early night out of pure exhaustion and the fact that I was falling asleep at the table.

 

Izmir is very similar to US coastal towns, and is much more Westernized than Istanbul. I felt completely comfortable there immediately, and was excited to explore once rested!