Making new friends in Izmir

20 km across Izmir

How many people does it take to load a bicycle on a bus?
How many people does it take to load a bicycle on a bus?

On Monday morning, we packed up to move to Izmir. We had spend enough time in the Pensiyon in Cesme and it was time to move on. Becky still was not feeling 100% so we decided that it was best to take the bus, an 85+ km ride was a little more than she could handle at the moment. We loaded up and headed to the Otogar (the main bus terminal in Cesme). Fortunately, this did not involve climbing any hills. Becky was OK on the flats – although a little slow – but hills would likely have been a real challenge.

Upon arrival at the Otogar, there was some urgency in loading our bikes onto the bus. Five or six men helped Scott put the two bikes into the lower bays and we hopped on. We were confused at first, as we had not bought a ticket. They just shuffled us onto the bus and say later. The bus was empty – us and one other person. We took a nice front seat and we were off.

The first stop was the Cesme town center – just outside of our Pansiyon. We knew this, but figured it was easier with the bikes to go to the Otogar. As we approached, we were told our seats were 5 and 6 – apparently, all seats are assigned on Turkish buses. After 3 or 4 more stops, the bus approached the highway and we were on our way to Izmir. There is a person in addition to the driver, who is responsible for managing all the seats, collecting the fares, and handing out little cups of water. He will shuffle passengers if necessary to ensure that a women travelling alone need not sit next to a strange man. We thought this was all very civilized, especially for a 45-minute ride.

By 1 pm, we safely arrived in Izmir. Just was we were pulling up into the first stop, Scott noticed a cyclist with a helmet and clipless pedals – the first local we had seen with clipless pedals in Europe, and one of the very few with helmets. Upon disembarking from the bus, we discovered that it was our host – Mehmet – who we met through Warm Showers ( Within a few minutes we had the bikes back together and we were on our way.

We are staying with Mehmet’s friends Gulistan and Metin. Like Mehmet, Metin is a mechanical engineer and Gulistan is an anesthesiology technician. They have a lovely two bedroom apartment, which is much nicer than most apartments back home.

Upon arrival, we were fed a wonderful assortment of home cooked foods. Our bellies happy, we sat down to visit. Becky was still not 100% and tired from the 20 km ride across Izmir (although it was flat), so she took a nap while Scott explained more about our bikes and our tour plans.

Our hosts brought us out to a wonderful Kebab restaurant ( ) for dinner that served food that was traditional in the South of Cappadoccia. We had Kebabs that are from Adana and a dessert that was sweet and included cheese from Antakya. Scott really enjoyed the meal, but unfortunately, the primary source of protein is lamb. Fortunately, Becky mentioned that she could not eat lamb soon enough that a special plate of chicken and beef was ordered for her. We tried a drink called Shalgam, which was definitely an acquired taste – to Becky it tasted like the brine from an olive jar. We wonder if this is the same drink that Friedel and Andrew tried: Scott was not too fussy on it either but he did enjoy the Ayran (a watery yogurt drink with salt). Becky gave up on the cultural experience from the beverage perspective and had a Sprite.

Mehmet at a teahouse in the Izmir Bazaar
Mehmet at a teahouse in the Izmir Bazaar

On Tuesday, after a lazy morning, we headed out to see the second largest bazaar in Turkey. We took the subway across Izmir and wandered the streets of the bazaar, stopping several times to try out some new treats. We discovered the original dessert restaurant the spawned a chain that can be found throughout Turkey (Ozsut) (

Becky reflects that Izmir feels a lot like a Canadian city, except that all the food kiosks serve Turkish food – in Canada the kiosks would serve food from a variety of different places. Mehmet mentioned that the city is not too crowded, and that might be part of why it feels familiar. We do still see many couples holding hands in the streets, and it is completely acceptable to walk arm in arm with a friend of the opposite gender in Izmir.

Yummy little fish
Yummy little fish

For supper we went to a seafood restaurant a little out of town called Umit. Here, you purchased your fish directly from the fish store and then told them which restaurant to send it too. The restaurant prepared the fish and other courses, and provided the service. We had a wonderful meal that began with stuffed mussels (mussels stuffed with rice and spices), many different appetizers, a wonderful salad, and many grilled fish. With our meal we enjoyed Raki, a liquorish flavoured alcoholic beverage that is the national drink of Turkey. It is similar to Ouzo and Sambuca, but that’s like saying Scotch and Irish whiskey are similar. Don’t ever say they’re the same! Three other friends of Mehmet’s (also cyclists) joined us for dinner, so we were a large crowd of eight.

We had planned to leave for Ephesus on Wednesday, but by the time we got moving, and had consumed the wonderful breakfast Gul prepared, the weather had turned, and heavy rain was expected for the rest of the day. Oh well! We spent a relaxing day catching up on email and reading instead. Ephesus can wait a day…

The gang at dinner
The gang at dinner

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1 thought on “Making new friends in Izmir”

  1. Hi guys, we’ve enjoyed your journals so far from Turkey. Aren’t the buses a dream? It doesn’t get any easier than Turkey so take advantage. We are now south of Kuala Lumpur, after some truly horrendous motorway cycling. Anyway, we survived….

    We also found food prices in Turkey often a bit higher than we expected. In Istanbul, a sit-down meal never cost us less than 20 YTL, although if you eat by the dock at the end of the Galata Bridge you can get lots of tasty things for just a few lira each. I remember we paid about 12 YTL for a meal when we first entered Turkey in a little town near the Greek border but from there on in it was always more expensive. The humble chorba is usually 2 YTL a bowl or thereabouts and that was our staple.

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