A Travellerspoint blog

Izmir, Turkey

True Turkish hospitality and kindness

sunny 85 °F

Emre, happened to have to work in Izmir on the same day that we had planned to take a bus to Izmir. We hitched a ride and were thankful once again to have small backpacks that could fit on the backseat with us in a small car.

Emre’s door to door service handed us off to Ekrem at a coffee house in a north suburb of Izmir called Karsiyaka. Ekrem showed us around his math preparation clinic for high school students looking to score well on their university entrance exams. It was really interesting learning how important the entrance exams are for Turkish students (they sounded way more important and challenging than the SATs). Some children’s parents will even get a doctor’s note for their child to skip regular school, so that they can spend more time going to Ekrem’s exam preparation clinic prior to the exam.

On our walk around the neighborhood we stumbled upon a huge pasar (market). This was not a tourist market or your average farmers market… this place was under a circus sized tent with clothing and other goods pouring into the streets as overflow. We were in a heaven of fresh fruits and vegetables, buying tomatoes, cucumbers, cherries, eriks (green plums), strawberries, olives, cheese, nuts, bread and eggs. We stocked up on enough food for several feasts, and some for our gracious host and his roommates.

Ripe tomatoes were in season and going for less than 15 cents per pound! The clothing stands were a blast to watch because the vendors would spread out all of their clothes on tables and then stand in the middle of the clothing mounds shouting Turkish phrases to the surrounding shoppers. It was a weird feeling to wander amongst the locals who somehow obviously knew that we were tourists in this market. Being out of Asia, we had thought that we could blend in more with the locals, but apparently, we still stick out like sore thumbs. We asked one vendor who spoke to us in English how he knew we were tourists. He said our sunglasses, figure and our noses!

Izmir was more than a big city, with lots of entertainment options… we watched a local soccer match, had 0.7L Efes beers served with popcorn, nuts, and eriks (green plums), went for a run along the Karsiyaka waterfront, and spent some time playing on the park workout equipment.

The city waterfront is shaped like a half moon with ferries connecting the outer points to central downtown. We headed to town in search of a kumru sandwich and found one tucked away in one of the markets. The kumru sandwich is an Izmir specialty made on a toasted sesame roll with cheese, tomato, bologna like salami, sausage, tomato paste, and a pickle.

In the spirit of adventure, we decided to jump on a random local bus for a tour around the city. We thought we’d luck out and get a bus that went up the hill for a sweet sunset walk through the neighborhoods. The bus driver seemed very amused to have two foreigners fumbling to pay for tickets on his bus, and proceeded to ask us where were going (in Turkish)… we sat in the very front seat and tried to show in charades that we were just riding the bus around. When the bus came to the end of the line, we got up with all of the rest of the riders but the bus driver indicated that we should not get off and repeatedly said “dang-ger, dang-ger, dang-ger” while making the motion of slicing his throat with his finger. In what seemed like a token of his affection and apologizing that he wouldn’t let us off, he had us follow him to an ice cream vender across the street and insisted on buying the two of us ice cream cones (with chocolate sauce and nuts). He then escorted us back on the bus and drove us back into tourist land. Later that same day, Robin had asked for one chocolate baklava from the huge tray at a deli. The lady behind the counter just handed one to Robin, and offered another to Kevin, free of charge! We only accepted one, seeing as one piece of baklava can put a non-diabetic into diabetic shock due to the copious quantities of sugar… but thank you Turkish hospitality for saving us from the ghetto and feeding us with sweets!

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 03:54 Archived in Turkey

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