While in Izmir, we just happened to stumble upon a protest in progress. The State Department strongly encourages citizens to stay away from such gatherings. In fact, according to their website “U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Turkey should be alert to the potential for violence. We strongly urge U.S. citizens to avoid demonstrations and large gatherings. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence.”
But, our curiosity got the best of us! And it just so happened that the protest was marching in the same direction we were headed. We were still a decent distance ahead of the march, but I was able to rely on my mega-zoom camera to get a glimpse of the action while maintaining a “safe” distance.
Our tour guide had actually mentioned the protest to us before dropping us off at our hotel (a tidbit of information that I apparently slept through), so Rob did a bit of research before we headed out. According to this article, they were protesting a change to the Turkish Constitution that would lift the ban on turbans at Turkish universities. Ok, so this protest had nothing to do with Syria or the American Government…sounds safe enough to me! Does someone want me to carry a sign or something?
Disclaimer: This post is not meant to encourage others to defy the State Department. We did so at our own risk. That’s how we roll!
Rob and I spent 2 nights in Izmir, which is Turkey’s 3rd largest city (behind only Istanbul and Ankara). The ancient city of Izmir was called Smyrna, but it was officially changed to Izmir in 1930 (according to our tour guide, the name “Smyrna” was difficult for the Turks to pronounce). We didn’t get to see too much of the city because our days were spent touring two different ancient ruin sites (more on that later). But our hotel was a short walk to the waterfront along the Gulf of Izmir which feeds into the Aegean Sea. So we spent our evenings cruising along the waterfront.
It seemed as though the entire coast was lined with waterfront cafes. It was the perfect spot to enjoy a beer and people watch.
Most of the cafes provided board games upon request and we saw a lot of people playing backgammon. I really wish I remembered how to play because it looked like a fun way to relax and enjoy the scenery with good company.
Most of the cafes also offered hookahs. Hookahs are water pipes used to smoke flavored tobacco called shisha. I had never tried a hookah before and since I couldn’t play backgammon, I figured I would give this a try instead. The only problem was the Turks don’t call it a hookah, as we so ignorantly assumed they would, so trying to order one was a bit of a challenge. But our waiter finally figured out what I was trying to order and flipped the menu open to the nargile (NAR-gee-lay) options. I decided to try the vanilla shisha and I must say I quite enjoyed it!
Rob and I will be traveling to Turkey at the end of August! I found an incredible deal on Travelzoo for a 13 Day Turkish Treasures vacation package by Gate 1 Travel. Our package includes 11 nights at 4 star hotels in Istanbul, Canakkale, Izmir, Antalya, Cappadocia, & Ankara, as well as a ton of included tours and meals. This package can be booked to include airfare, but we purchased the land only package and plan to use reward points to purchase our airfare, making this vacation incredibly affordable! (Less than $1000 per person!)
This vacation will complete # 5 for my goals for 2013. Turkey is also on my Top Ten Wish List, so I will get to scratch that off the list as well! If you have ever traveled to Turkey, please feel free to leave any tips and suggestions for us!
Photo courtesy of Gate 1 Travel
Categories: Destinations, Goals, Turkey
Tags: Ankara, cappadocia, gate 1 travel, Goals, Istanbul, Izmir, Travel, travelzoo, Turkey, wish list