Undiscovered Aegean Cruise Day 6 - Izmir

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June 6th 2015
Published: June 17th 2015
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We only sailed 69 nautical miles last night, at an average speed of seven knots, to reach Izmir in Turkey. This is the port offering a day trip to Ephesus for those passengers wanting to see the wonderful Roman ruins at Ephesus. Since we have already visited Ephesus not just once, but twice, we were happy to have a relaxing day just mooching around Izmir.

After breakfast we disembarked and walked all the way along the waterfront into the historic centre of Izmir. It was quite a hike as the cruise ships share the cargo terminal that is a long way out of town. It is a lovely and flat 'green' walk along the waterfront with well-maintained lawn and gardens the whole way. And when I say well-maintained I mean it - we saw a guy actually vacuuming the lawn and others busily weeding the garden beds ... on a Saturday.

The general election is being held this weekend in Turkey so sections of the waterfront walk, particularly Gündogdu Square, were decorated with electoral bunting. We also saw and heard a number of vans being driven around delivering their candidate's electoral promises (we assume, because we don't speak Turkish!) and/or playing loud music to get everyone's attention.

We walked on past Cumhuriyet Sqaure, with its equestrian stature of Atatürk, before eventually reaching a bridge that took us from the waterfront into Konak Square that features the Saat Kulesi (Clock Tower) and the Konak Camii (miniature mosque). We took a few photos and then ran into an old couple from the ship - Kath and Albert, would you believe it?! They had shared a taxi into town and had already explored the bazar before heading towards the waterfront.

We left Kath and Albert and made our own way into the historic Kemeralti Bazar. Never before have we seen so many ugly shoes and even uglier clothing! We walked through streets and streets of truly awful clothes and shoes before we eventually found a street of produce. We enjoy the colour and chaos of the produce markets in countries like Turkey and were pleased to eventually find a small section of the bazar that featured the sights (and smells) of fish stalls, butcher's shops, spice merchants and vegetable sellers.

Next on our list was to find the Agora, the ruins of the old Roman marketplace. It was supposed to be just outside the limits of the bazar. We wended our way out of the narrow lanes of the bazar and found a main road which had a sizeable fenced off area on the other side. Too easy we thought, that must be the Agora. We walked along the street looking for a way to cross to the other side to find an entrance to today's Roman ruins. We turned right and walked to the next intersection where we were confronted with a sign that said Agora ↗️. Hmmn, OK, the fenced off area is to our left, but the sign says go rightish so we assumed that whatever was inside the fence, it wasn't the Agora.

We set off up the hill and walked past shops selling commercial kitchen equipment. We saw many more stainless steel worktops and commercial cookers and refrigerators than we ever needed to see! Finally, with the sun beating down on our backs and our water bottles nearing empty, we stopped to take stock. We had the paper map out and Bernie found that he had actually downloaded the Izmir map onto his phone. We identified the streets near the Agora on our paper map and entered those into Bernie's phone thinking that the App would be able to guide us to the Agora. Nope, the the App kept insisting that no such streets could be found!! And we tried three or four different streets ... and none of them could be identified by the App.

Eventually a lovely lady stopped to help us. From what we could gather she was originally from Holland so only spoke Dutch and Turkish and a tiny bit of English. She flagged down a young Turkish girl to see if she had more English. A little bit more, but still not quite enough to give us directions. In the end the young girl told us to follow the older woman, she would take us there. Despite all the horrible stuff you hear about dodgy taxi drivers and pickpockets there are also plenty of helpful and generous people around who are willing to assist lost tourists.

I'm sure anyone reading this knows where I am going with this story ... of course our guide took us back down the hill and pointed us to the small street to the side of the fenced off area opposite the bazar!! We walked up the side street and around a corner and, sure enough, there was the well hidden entrance to the Agora. We paid our entrance fee and ventured into the site ... which was underwhelming to say the least. Especially after the time and effort spent finding it!!

Even more distressing was the number of stray dogs at the site. At other Turkish ruins we have visited we have see plenty of stray cats, but never before so many large stray dogs. I don't know if it's because I am more of a dog person, but I always think stray dogs seem much sadder than stray cats. I just think that cats seem so much more self-sufficient whereas dogs need people!! Even more upsetting was a dog having his way with a bitch that must've been on heat. I was so upset at the prospect of a litter of homeless puppies in a couple of month's time.

But then ... a silver lining, we found the underground part of the ruins. Thank goodness for that. It is true that the aboveground part of the Agora is almost non-existent with just a few columns that have been reinstated to give a (scant) impression of what the Agora may have looked like in its heyday. However, the underground, basement area of the Agora is very well preserved and quite atmospheric. And the best part was that we had it practically to ourselves with only a handful of other tourists exploring the site; quite unlike Ephesus which would, no doubt, be crawling with tourists today. We took loads of photos without having to worry about any other pesky tourists photo bombing them!!

We headed out of the Agora and back towards the bazar. We made a point of going back past the sign to see if perhaps it was a bit ambiguous and we had misinterpreted it. Nope, it definitely points in the opposite direction!! Opposite the bazar Bernie spotted a multi-storey car park and came up with the bright idea that its roof would be the perfect spot to capture a panoramic image of Izmir. So we headed back across the street, negotiated our way around two boxes of ducklings on the footpath and found our way to the car park entrance. We waited a while for the lift and then decided it might be quicker to walk up the stairs. We really didn't want to get trapped in a dodgy car park lift! From the car park roof we were able to take some 'aerial' photos of the Agora site and, of course, a panorama - or several - looking out over Izmir.

Our stair climb for the day completed we meandered our way back through the bazar - different section, same bad outfits! - and then out again onto the waterfront. We stopped for drinks at a waterfront bar and used our phones to check our emails. We considered taking a taxi back to the boat, but decided to walk. This time though, rather than walking along the path right on the waterfront, we walked on the designated walking/running track set slightly back from the water's edge. This was made of that rubberised asphalt stuff that they use for children's playgrounds and it was much softer underfoot.

At dinner tonight we were treated (?) to the Baked Alaska Parade. Selected hospitality team members paraded around the dining room with flaming Baked Alaskas. We got a close up look at Robert's Baked Alaska and, as suspected, it was a fake; they don't parade the actual Baked Alaskas that they are serving for dessert around the dining room!! Following the parade we were introduced to some of the members of the hospitality staff. All VERY CHEESY, but I guess it is nice that some of the people who are working the hardest are recognised and acknowledged for their efforts. A bit of a Reward & Recognition program I suppose??

As if we hadn't already had enough entertainment for one night we went from the dining room to the show lounge for the Dance, Dance, Dance show. Tonight the members of the Thomson Spirit Show Team were showing us their dance moves. Bernie loved it!!

Steps for the day 15,045 (10.25 kms)

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