In Izmir, DH and I decided to skip Ephesus because it was very far away (farther than Athens from Piraeus), and we were kind of on sightseeing-overload at that point. Instead, our cruise ship’s “about the port” board suggested as an option the area called the Kultur-park, which was reported to include an amusement park, a zoo, and cultural artifacts. It was a very reasonable walk from the ship, and so we decided to head there.
Walking through the streets of Izmir was interesting. There were lots of random gardens and plants along the street. The curbs were very steep, so coming up and down them was significant. We saw lots of stray cats wandering about…one was just outside a pet store, amusingly. Generally, we felt safe walking around, so there were no problems there. The cabbies were really pushy near port though, trying to get us in a cab. One cabbie was very insistent that the Kultur-park was closed and that he could tell us much better things to do. That made us a bit nervous, but we decided to proceed on our walk because we weren’t sure if we could trust him, given all the pushiness we’d seen.
Later on the ship, we talked to one guy from London (who owns a taxi shop, ironically) who talked to one of those pushy cab drivers and asked for him and his wife to be taken to somewhere with brand name shopping. They got into the cab and went down a bunch of twisty and narrow streets until they were in this tight and dead end alley, with no idea where they were. There was a door with two burly looking guys in front of it. The cabbie said, “you go here,” and got out of the cab. Well, the guy figured he and his wife were about to get mugged, so he told her to get ready to run. They got out of the cab and hightailed it out of the alley and down streets until they found a Hilton hotel and got help in there. The police weren’t interested in doing anything about it (or the hotel didn’t think it was worth calling them…not sure about that), but the hotel did help get them a cab to the area that they wanted to go. I can’t imagine how scary that must have been, though. And, on the other hand, I couldn’t help but wonder about what if that was actually like, the best cabbie ever, and he had taken them to some secret brandname sweatshop or closing house or whatever, where all the high end goods are. The cabbie must be so sad! 🙂 Seriously, though, I’m really glad we just decided to walk around. That was one guy’s experience in thousands of cruise ship passengers, but it was still something that could have easily happened to us.
Our walk was incident-free, though. As we’d been warned, the Kultur-park was largely closed, but it was kind of like City Park in NOLA. The area was shady with trees, and there were lots of locals walking around with kids or pets, enjoying the weather. We saw one of those feral cats stalking some birds, all determined and cat-like. But, a pet dog that was off-leash chased all the birds away. You could tell the cat was pissed. 🙂 We also came to a sculpture garden area that probably contains fountains during the normal season. We saw people setting up for some kind of fair, and the fair included WACKY WAVING INFLATABLE FLAILING ARM TUBE MEN! Wheee! As we had no local currency, we didn’t torture ourselves by looking at the booths, but the smells coming out of the food booths was heavenly.
We were hoping to find the zoo, figuring that a zoo was less likely to close for a season than an amusement park, but the area where it was on the map seemed to be empty. DH talked up a gardener in the park that was working and found out that the zoo had been moved a few years ago to another park of the city. (We couldn’t suss out exactly where.) We did see some animal action, though. One pack of wild dogs starting fighting another pack of wild dogs. That was scary. They seemed to be focused on each other, but for awhile, they were coming toward us, and we didn’t want to get caught in the middle. Some of the wild cats got caught in it and ran free to watch from the sidelines. It was crazy, though.
Having finished our park adventure, we were getting hungry and were a bit tired, so we decided to walk back to the ship. I kind of wanted to go visit this area called Havra Street that had all the synagogues on it, just out of curiosity, and also visit the downtown area nearby, but DH wisely pointed out that, since it was the day before Rosh Hashanah, the synagogues were probably really busy. Also, downtown was the opposite direction from the ship, and, since we aren’t generally inclined to shop and don’t enjoy the whole high-pressure market concept, we skipped the Bazaar area and downtown. (Later, on the ship, everyone said that the bazaar had tons of great deals…things like 4 shirts for around $7, designer knock-off purses for cheap, etc. So, if you are a shopper, definitely check that out.) Instead, we took a slightly different route back to the ship and ended up on a large shopping thoroughfare, with lots of tourist-friendly shops. I couldn’t find anywhere selling postcards that didn’t seem to have ten years of dust and dirt on them, though. Postcards must just not be a Turkish thing? DH found a cafe that advertised free wi-fi, so we stopped for a milkshake for him and a Coke Zero for me. He could never get onto the wi-fi, though. It was still a cool little sidewalk cafe that was co-located with a music store. They had a gorgeous red violin in the window that I was admiring, but I have no need for one and wouldn’t do it justice anyways.
We also walked along the waterfront, which was very nice, but from nearby construction, it looks like it’s about to become a highway. We briefly considered taking a city tour, but I nixed it as I was hungry (all those smells we passed had done the trick) and sweaty….and there was a line. So, we headed back onboard and had a delicious lunch of wings at Blue Lagoon, one of our perennial NCL favorites! 🙂