Our flight landed in Istanbul, Turkey, and, as usual, didn’t have much of a game plan. We started by getting ourselves a SIM card for our phone and iPad, and then found a place for the night. Since we were planning to meet a friend in a few days, we had to figure out what our plans for Turkey were going to be, instead of deciding day-by-day, like we had been doing lately. In the end, we decided to catch an overnight bus the next day towards Izmir and explore the rest of Turkey for a couple of weeks, and then, at the end of our time in Turkey return to Istanbul and see all the sights there then.
We arrived in Izmir around 8am after an overnight bus journey that included a ferry ride across the Sea of Marmara. We were told by others that there wasn’t much to see in Izmir, but since we like walking through the streets and people-watching, we’ve discovered that a town doesn’t need to have many attractions in order for us to enjoy it.
When we arrived in Izmir, we grabbed a fresh orange juice from a stand at the bus station at the edge of town and were fortunate to get a little help from the juice lady as she arranged a shared taxi into town for us.
We had read about Kadifekale, the ancient castle ruins in Izmir with a great view of the city and decided to spend the day hiking up to the castle. We stopped at the clock tower in the centre of town on the way and tried some green plums we’d noticed were quite popular amongst the Turkish locals. The plums are quite sour and the salt they’re served with made for a different taste than we were expecting. The one bag was enough of an experience for us.
We continued on our way, weaving through the streets and making our way to the ruins. We were pleasantly surprised to come across a Mount Rushmore-like monument carved into a small hill. Our guide book mentioned nothing of any monument, so we were fortunate to come across it. We later discovered that this was Ataturk, the first president of modern day Turkey, who is much loved and venerated by the Turkish people.
After pausing for a picnic lunch and then getting a little lost in the streets of the city, the castle was finally within our sights.
It was a pleasant surprise for us to be able to access the castle for free. The city has turned it into a nice park for all the locals and is trying to turn it into a tourist attraction. They allowed us to climb on one section of the old walls and view both the city and the rest of the castle-grounds. The views were tremendous and well worth the hike!
When we finished looking around on the castle walls, we climbed back down again to chat with some of the kilim makers (traditional Turkish carpet weavers) and explore the rest of the grounds.
As we exited the Kadifekale grounds, we stopped for one more magnificent view, and then jumped in a cab to the bus station, to catch our bus to Selcuk, the next stop on our Turkish tour.