A June 2004 trip
to Izmir by shaunandtrish
Quote: What an interesting experience !!! - to witness your own work translated into Turkish, delivered to a Turkish audience, by a Turk, in Turkey. At the start of the week I knew no Turkish words at all - but by the end of the week I'd learned three !!!
The other highlight was the pleasure of spending a week working in Turkey's third city. Our base right on the harbour in the Hotel Konak was ideal as an introduction to this busy and beautiful working city.
Did I see pickpockets? - no
Did I see lone females struggling with unwanted male attention? - no
Did I see any sign of any extremism (religious or political)? or experience any anti-western hostility - no
Turkey is an economy on the up and its people know it. It’s been a while since I've encountered such a general feeling of optimism and positivism. I hope it continues for them.
The entry visa - you need the exact amount in your own currency. Currently its £10 GBP for UK citizens - I think its for US. Like a bad parking meter they don't give change.
Try the food. Doesn't matter what you get it will be good.
Try and book your hotel accommodation direct. The cost of living in Turkey is relatively low, but booking via Expedia (for example) you wouldn't know it.
Hotel | "Best Western Konak"
The rooms are small, clean and adequate with bath and shower. They have a mini bar with not-too-expensive contents, and you also get a basket of fruit on arrival. The main drawback of the room was the difficulty of temperature control. My room had an inefficient and noisy A/C, which meant you got no sleep. If the A/C was off, the heat and humidity kept you awake, if it was on, the noise got you. The TV had lots of channels including a couple of English speaking ones. BBC World News and MTV as I remember.
The staff were efficient and friendly and most spoke at least a little English.
Breakfast was hot and cold buffet, and to a very good standard. The cold choices were especially good. You could choose from a wide selection of cereal, breads, fresh fruit, salad vegetables, nuts, yoghurt, cold meat, and cheeses. Hot choices were scrambled eggs, hot dog sausages, and hash browns.
I would certainly recommend this hotel. It is ideally placed to explore the nice Konak area with its lovely square and interesting shops on foot (10-minute walk). Also you have the lovely sea front promenade right outside. On site car parking is free, but cramped.
One piece of advice, if you book it go to the hotel direct - you'll find it 50% cheaper than using Expedia. My room for six nights B&B came to about $300. Email the hotel direct on email@example.com.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 18, 2004
Best Western Hotel Konak
Mithatpasa Cad. No 128, Konak
Izmir, Turkey 35260
+90 232 489 15 00
By the word "process" I mean that you are regularly supplied with a series of small, but different dishes, which you eat in turn before progressing to desert, rather than dealing with a single main course as such. There is a main course, but it is less "main" than westerners may be used to and is preceeded by maybe two or even three small starters and salad side dishes. Its very interesting, especially since real Turkish cuisine is spectacularly good.
Anyway, its difficult to be specific about what I ate during the week, there were so many different dishes that I never knew the names of, some resembled savoury crepes, some resembled ravioli (covered in yoghurt not bechamel), there were escalopes of chicken, a huge variety of fresh salad dishes and some more familiar deserts including creme caramel, ice cream and fresh fruit salad. All immaculately prepared and presented. I left nothing.
The only real problem with dining in Turkey, for people like me anyway, is the fact that a higher proportion of the population in Turkey enjoy a cigarette, meaning that if you have grown used to enjoying your meal in a smoke free environment lately (depending on where you live of course) you will be taken back to the way things used to be a few years ago, with people literally smoking their heads off between courses.
Restaurant | "Naci Usta Restaurant, Izmir"
The location of this restaurant was superb, set in between the coastal highway and the sea; most of the tables were outside in an open grassy dining area.
The food was excellent. We had fish (which you chose for yourself from the counter) or a Turkish barbecued meat dish. The quality could not have been better. If only I could remember what they were called. In typical Turkish fashion, the almost continual supply of starters and salads begins shortly after you are seated and precedes the main course by at least an hour. This enables diners to make the most of the relaxing surroundings as the sun goes down. Our starters included tomato, mint and onion salad, various breads, a hummus-type dish and aubergine in various tasty guises. My hosts were treating me, so I can only guess at the price, but I'm told Izmir is much cheaper than Istanbul.
Turks are not big on desserts, so we tended to round off our meal either with a Turkish coffee (my own favorite) or a tea, which my Turkish hosts tended to take black and sweet.
The only negative point, more for my fellow diners than for me, was the specter of the Greek football team overcoming tournament favorites the Czech Republic live on the large outdoor TV screen while we ate one night. I happened to be out there at the tail end of Euro 2004. Worse, of course, was to follow on Sunday, as they ended up winning the final with Portugal. A national day of mourning followed ...
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 29, 2004
Naci Usta Restaurant
Cesme Yeni Otoyolo No 154/1 Balcova
(232) 239 4101
1. The entry visa: You need a 30 day tourist visa for entry into Turkey. What that means is that on arrival, BEFORE you pass through passport control, you must pay £10 for a little stamp in your passport. A couple of things to watch out for here. Firstly, the little kiosk dishing the stamps out is on the FAR SIDE of the line of 12 or so passport control booths, and there is no signage telling you to go to the visa booth first. That means many people automatically join the lines, wait ages to get to the front, then get told to go and get a stamp and start again. So when you arrive you must WALK PAST all the passport control booths to the little kiosk on the end, get your stamp, THEN join the line. The second thing is that you must pay in your own currency (£, $ etc) and you must pay the EXACT AMOUNT - they don't give change. Worse, if you are travelling as part of a couple and offer a £20 note as payment for both people (i.e. £10 each), for some reason they don't accept this either. They'll keep the £20 for person number 1, then ask for another £10 for person number 2 - you have been warned.
2. Baggage - maybe it was a one-off, but I'd checked my bag through to Izmir, and after passing through passport control, quite by chance, I spotted my bag rotating alone on the carousel. So I rescued it and re-checked it. I can't say how typical this problem is, but again a word of warning.
3. Turkish Airlines: George W was in town for a NATO summit when I passed through, so maybe this factor might have been to blame, but I did notice that every single local departure with Turkish Airlines was delayed on the day of my visit. Not that George W causes problems wherever he goes, of course ... My flight was delayed three hours while a technical problem was resolved, however. This I know because I watched from the gate window while a team of eight technicians took an engine to bits then re-assembled it by torch light on the tarmac. Now I will admit that I held my breath during take off on that short flight.
On the plus side, though, the airport has an easy to walk and navigate route from international to local departures (10-minute walk), and a nice duty-free area. Signage and traveler info in the terminals is also good, as is cleanliness and temperature control.
My overwhelming impression of the city and especially the Konak area was that I could easily have been working in a less attractive place, I had really landed on my feet with this assignment. I wished I'd brought my wife, but not knowing anything about the area before I went, I didn't know how she would have occupied herself, or even whether it would have been a safe place for her to wander around alone. I need not have worried. A street full of interesting shops and department stores were a 10-minute walk away, and the promenade was a lovely place to sit, enjoy some sun and read.
The promenade is a very pleasant pedestrianised sea front walk/meet area. It gets well used throughout the day, but especially at night when lots of young people meet there to talk, walk and pass the time. Older men also go there to talk, smoke and to line-fish. If you walk along towards Izmir you can watch the ferry boats arrive and leave for destinations across the bay at 5 or 10 minute intervals.
Back into Izmir, the Konak area centres around a beautiful square. I bought a disposable camera to get some snaps and used the lot before I turned the corner onto the best bit, the square. If only my spider-senses had not momentarily deserted me I'd have had some better photos to post.
There are plenty of shops close to the main square, small and medium sized, some relatively expensive boutique-style, some bargain orientated, catering for people who live and work in the city. Izmir is lucky in some ways not to have a beach. There are few tourists and little of the hassle, rip-offs and irritations that go with an out-and-out tourist destination, especially in Turkey.
Izmir is Turkey's third city with three million inhabitants, on my ride back to the airport I got an insight as to how much it sprawls away from the coast. These areas are understandably less pretty and there is less reason if any to make these industrial and work-a-day residential areas part of your itinerary, so as a visitor you would stick mainly to the shore and commercial parts of the city.
Frankly I can't wait to go again, but next time I must try to allow myself a day either side of work to fully explore and enjoy more of this lovely city.
One final point - the city faces west onto the Aegean, so you get the most beautiful sunsets over the sea. The best daily free show on earth you could say. These should enjoyed from the multitude of excellent open-fronted restaurants that line much of the immediate shore area in the main part of the city. Failing that, you could just sit on the shore's edge and simply watch. A better option, maybe, for borderline fatties like me.
Durham, United Kingdom