7 January 2016
We finally had a long day of exploring and walking around! We’ve been so busy taking care of the business of relocating to Izmir that we haven’t had much time to just check things out.
The day began with a çorba breakfast with Muhammed, our current Couchsurfing host. He took us to an unassuming little restaurant with decent prices and an attentive staff near his apartment in Izmir’s Buca neighborhood. Çorba literally is soup, but eating it, like all proper Turkish meals, is an event! After ordering, the table was quickly covered with a fresh salad of carrots, cabbage, lettuce and arugula, spicy pickled peppers, yogurt dip, a spicy tapenade, “meat balls” made of bulgur paste, warm flat bread topped with grated cheese, and a big bowl of çorba! I had a red lentil and tomato çorba that was quite flavorful. As a finishing touch the waitress dripped in hot fat from a pan, and I must say I’m glad I’m not a strict vegetarian. Like most food here, it was a bargain. The three of us were stuffed for 22 TL, around $7.
After breakfast, Zac and I took the bus down to the Şirinyer metro station, and got off a few stops early by accident. While trying to find our way to the metro, we stumbled upon an incredible street market! A riot of color, sounds, and smells greeted us as we wandered through it. Everywhere we looked were ripe, fresh fruits and vegetables, women in headscarves shuffling about doing their shopping, men at the stalls shouting their wares, and young punky Turks darting around with trays of çay and sweets. Everywhere were smells of earth and sweetness and salty brine from giant vats of pickles and olives. We saw huge slabs of cheese being bargained over, and further on amazing cheap fashion and housewares, with sweaters and scarves and purses flapping in the breeze. I love being in cosmopolitan Izmir, but it’s times like these when it hits me smack in the face: I’m in Turkey right now!
Eventually we made it to the metro and got off in Karşiyaka, a district we had yet to explore. It is definitely my favorite neighborhood, which is great as we are going to live there! Right when you get off the metro, you are dumped into a bustling shopping district. It was early afternoon, and the streets were packed with people bustling about. In any other city such a street may feel overwhelming, but this was manageable. Clothing, cell phone shops, cafes, and all kinds of businesses lined the streets, but I was especially pleased by the large amount of makeup stores that I saw!
The big shopping street ends right at the waterfront and ferry port. I’m a California girl, and love being by the water, so this proximity to the sea is just one more reason to love Karşiyaka. We strolled along the peaceful promenade, stopping to take photos of the big statue of Attaturk and a row of Turkish flags.
From the waterfront we walked to the Starbucks (just for the WiFi!! Not because we have an attachment to Starbucks) and then to the area where our potential apartment is. It was an idyllic stroll, and took us through the posh Bostanlı neighborhood. We passed nice apartment buildings, cobble-stoned streets, orange and palm trees, and shops and cafes that got progressively more bourgeois and expensive. What I like about Karşiyaka is that it is a mixture of old and new, of bustling, cosmopolitan energy alongside serene and tranquil side-streets.
The area where our soon-to-be apartment is really displays this diversity. It’s one of the oldest areas in Izmir and has been in a period of growth and vitalization for the last few years. Crumbling old buildings are adjacent to shiny new ones, like our apartment building, which is only two years old. Some streets are dusty and uneven, while others close by have been recently paved and cobbled. Close by our building are lots of markets as well as a few cute cafes. It’s a quiet neighborhood, except when the call to prayer goes off at the mosque directly across the street from us. It’s an area with more families, and is more conservative than some other parts of town, as seen by the increase in women in headscarves and the cafes crowded with old men playing backgammon and drinking çay.
All too soon, the sun had set, and it was time to catch the metro back to Buca to meet up with Muhammed and his university friends. In just a few days, we will begin our CELTA course to become bona-fide English teachers and have limited time for explorations. But until then, I hope for many more discoveries and revelations.