Cappadocia, Istanbul and Izmir
Our shuttle to Kayseri airport was due to leave at 8 am; this was exactly the same time that breakfast was supposed to start. Luckily for us, the lovely owner of Star Cave Hotel kindly got some breakfast for us five minutes early!
The airport shuttle stopped at another hotel to pick up another couple. The journey to the airport was rushed; at one point the driver tried to run a red light but had to brake suddenly when he realised he wouldn't make it through if he carried on. The woman in the other couple started shouting and swearing at the driver, who said he was sorry but was in a big hurry because he was also delivering a passport urgently to someone who had forgotten it. The woman wouldn't let up about it, but by the time we arrived at the airport she had quietened down and even thanked him when she got off.
It was another sunny, clear day and throughout our shuttle journey we got a wonderful view of Mount Erciyes, which is an extinct volcano and the highest mountain in Cappadocia. Its peak looked covered in ice and snow.
We were met by a 40 minute flight delay, but time passed quickly and then we were in the air, saying goodbye to Cappadocia. Our final destination of the day was Izmir, on the western coast, but we had to go via Istanbul. I was lucky enough to get a window seat, so I took lots of photos.
The views were amazing, especially of the coastline of the Sea of Marmara as we got closer and closer to Istanbul. At one point before that, when we were still fairly near the centre of the country, I saw something strange - a huge area of whiteness, definitely not a cloud. It was quite far in the distance, but it looked like a massive white hole with water pouring inwards from every side - very surreal. I guessed it was probably a salt lake.
Our 1hr 20 minute flight to Istanbul was followed by an hour's wait in transit and then another 1hr 20 minute flight to Izmir. Izmir is the 3rd biggest city in Turkey and lies on the coast of the Aegean Sea. It was formerly the fabled Greek city of Smyrna...
We took a train from the airport to a station just round the corner from our hostel. Our room in this hostel - ('Shantihome') - did not have a lock; apparently it went against the philosophy of the owners to have locks on the doors... Oh well - we were only here for one night, so we just took our valuables out with us when we headed out for dinner and a walk-round.
We were in the leafy neighbourhood of Alcansak, next to the seafront - the sea being the Aegean Sea! Neither Dave nor I had been to this sea before. Izmir is apparently a proudly liberal city for Turkey, and I soon noticed a much higher proportion of women not wearing headscarves than we'd seen in Istanbul and Cappadocia. There appeared to be fewer mosques, too.The atmosphere did seem to have a Mediterranean tinge to it, with the liberality I mentioned before, the lemon tree we could see out of our window, the mussel stalls on the pavements in front of nearly every café and restaurant, and the palm trees.
After Skopje and Ruse, in Macedonia and Bulgaria, it was lovely to see that Izmir has made a lot of their waterfront. It's beautiful, with a wide stretch of well-kept grass and walkways. There's no beach, but rather a very low brick wall laid with wooden planks for people to sit on. Although I think the tide was in, the sea was too low to be able to touch it when I sat with my legs over the edge.
After walking around for a while we stopped in a pedestrian street parallel to the seafront for dinner at a café. I had a delicious type of kebab I'd never had before, which I think was local to Izmir; it had tomato sauce, yoghurt, parsley and either beef or lamb as well as flatbread. Dave had a mixed kebab which came with rice, salad and yoghurt. To finish, Dave had Turkish tea and I had my best Turkish coffee yet - all the ones I've had so far have been good, but this was the absolute best so far.