From Istanbul, I wanted to make my way to the port city of Kusadasi. The closest major city is Izmir, and it was about a 10 hour bus ride from Istanbul. After spending days on trains in the past few weeks, I wanted to do whatever I could to avoid another long stretch on a bus or train. With the help of a friendly travel agent in Istanbul, I located a relatively cheap flight (84 Euros) to Izmir’s airport. From there, I hopped on a shuttle into downtown Izmir, transferred to a public bus, which took me to the main bus station, where I was able to find another bus to Kusadasi. Perfect.
In Kusadasi, the bus stops at a location that isn’t really convenient for people who want to get to the port, so I ended up walking the 1 km or so from the bus stop to the port in the scorching afternoon sun. Since I’d spent most of the morning in a plane and bus, I was wearing jeans. Ugh. I changed on the side of the road. Turks seemed to universally love my fuchsia underpants. Yaay!
After a quick change, I made my way to the Hotel Panorama, which is advertised as a 5-Star Backpackers Hostel. It reminded me of a Cuban Hotel, which is to say, it was aging, but still great. It was really affordable, located right in the heart of the city, and has an owner (Ali) who really went out of his way to help sort out ferries, excursions and so forth. The breakfast they served in the morning was the by-then-familiar Turkish breakfast. However, I could not tire of fresh bread, tomatoes, coffee, cheese, eggs, olives and cucumbers. It was really great.
From the hotel, it was an easy walk to popular beaches, or you could hop into one of the many doma/shuttles for a couple of Euro. I usually walked, because of the lovely views. Once you arrived at “Ladies Beach” – not just for ladies – you were greeted by the crush of people. I wasn’t fond of that, so the next day, Ali suggested I take a trip on one of the many charter boats. I did that. For the price, we visited 3 fantastic beaches which were relatively secluded, and were treated to a day on the water, and a really fantastic lunch. I think it was actually cheaper to do that, than to go to a more popular beach, rent a chair and buy lunch. Plus, on the boat, I met some fun Turkish students and a couple of cool Irish women, who were on a summer holiday. As you could tell at the conclusion of the trip, if anything was in short supply aboard the boat, it was certainly not the sun.
After a few days in Kusadasi, I was bound to get to the Greek Islands, so I hopped on a morning ferry to the island of Samos.