Izmir, TurkeyJune 13 in Turkey
The short crossing from Mytilene, Lesbos, Greece to Ayvalik, Turkey took only 1.5 hours and it was a beautiful warm sunny early evening for the sailing. On arrival at Passport Control in Turkey however I was advised I had to pay 25 Euros for a Visa. ‘Now you can be in Turkey for 3 months’ an Immigration Official told me, even although I had already told him I would only be here for 3 days. ‘Yes, that’s correct, 3 months’ he insisted.
I was a bit panicky that with the later crossing, it might be hard to get to my next destination, Izmir, by public transport, and I knew there was no rail connection. I caught a local bus to the bus station just in time to catch the 20.15 express coach to Izmir. This turned out to be quite the luxury coach with reclining seats, airline-style at-seat video screens, and complimentary refreshments on the 2.5 hour trip. And all this for the princely sum of £4.90. It was just like the Megabus Gold to Aberdeen (minus the tablet). Izmir is a huge city of 3 million inhabitants, and the Coach Station was somewhere on the outskirts. I was about to take a taxi but the helpful transport officer told me there was a free connection to the old town, some distance away, and I was even dropped off right at my hotel.
Given the excellent value in Turkey, I had decided to splash out on the 5 star Renaissance Hotel Izmir. It is one of the best hotels I have stayed in. My room was almost a suite with separate bathroom and shower rooms - a far cry from my cell at the Clink in London. I chilled out with a glass of Merlot on the rooftop bar surrounded by the lights of the city. The breakfast was terrific, 2nd only to the Intercontinental Hotel in Singapore (courtesy of Mr Super Kenny tours!).
In spite of my late night, I got up early to explore some of the sights of the old city, all within walking distance of the hotel. The impressive Smyrna Agora from Roman times; the old Bazaar selling everything from fruit, veg, fish and meat (including pigs trotters - sorry, Betty) to costumes which would look great in Aladdin; and the elegant Clock Tower, emblem of the city.
Back at the hotel, there was time for a rejuvenating swim in the pool before heading off, all to soon, to catch the train to Bandirma port. Izmir surprised and is well worth a visit.Read more