Izmir is my favorite city in Turkey. I really love this place. Cheap flights from all over Turkey come here for less than 30 Euros and the city is not a tourist trap. It’s a place where people live and work. Izmir offers the same diversity but is not as expensive as Istanbul.
With more than two and half million people, Izmir is Turkey’s third largest city. I would say that it is also Turkey’s most livable city. The place is sprawling and massive but broken up into very manageable neighborhoods such as Alsancak, Buca, Karsiyaka, Bostanli, Konak, and Bornova. Each place has it’s own character and charms. While Izmirians complain about public transportation, it is better than in many places. Two metro lines connect the major areas of the city, though for some reason they stop short of the logical idea of connecting to the long distance bus station. So, to get there from Alsancak you have to either take a bus or Dolmus or take one train, connect to the second train, then take a bus from the Bornova Metro station. Thankfully, the airport does connect to the metro and that makes things easier.
To get around you just need to have a ‘Kent Card’ one more connection between Izmir and Seattle that I don’t understand. Wouldn’t it make more sense to call it an Izmir Card?
The water is of course what makes Izmir great. The architecture in general isn’t spectacular, the historical stuff was mostly destroyed in various wars, and the cultural things are fair but not wonderful. However, the long esplanade in Karshayaka, the green space along the Kordon, and the view as the ferries go into Bostanli or Konak make this place wonderful. The ferries are an integral part of the public transport system and for 1.7 lira you can catch a ride from Pasaport to Alsancak to Bostanli and back. A glass of fresh orange or pomegranite juice for 2 lira and a cup of tea and you’ve got the Vago secret for how to enjoy an hour on the water. Don’t forget to throw breadcrumbs to the gulls along the way.
Ultimately, as much as Turks won’t admit it, Izmir is a Greek city. It was founded by Greeks and occupied by Greeks until Attaturk and the Republicans made them all leave after Turkish Independence. When it was founded it was called Smyrna, that was about 3000 odd years ago. It also belonged to the Lydians and the Romans. Under the Ottomans it was the jewel of th nation and a center for culture and sophistication. Today, it is still all of that. Turkish, but not like the rest of Turkey.
Izmiri girls are considered to be the most beautiful in Turkey and it is a fact that the majority of models and actresses come from this city. Whether it is because they wear their makeup better or the mixture of Levanitne, Jewish, Greek, Turkish, Arab and Italian bloodlines is an argument that can be found along the waterfront bars of the Kordon. The fact of the matter is that when you walk down the street in Izmir, it is impossible to argue the point.