Driving up to Izmir

First a little update on our stabilizer repair. Our active fin hydraulic stabilizers are made by American Bow Thruster. ABT has been great to work with so far. They found a repair person for us here in Bodrum and shipped the part needed for the stabilizer repair. The part is supposed to arrive in two days. The repair guy asked if he could come and take a look at the boat this morning, wanting to see for himself what needed to be done to make sure he has all the right parts and tools on hand when he comes back to do the work. Three repair guys came by this morning at 1030, poked around the interior and exterior of the stabilizers, and by 1100 they were gone.

Once they left, we headed out to do some sightseeing. We drove up to the closest major city, Izmir. It is a 4 hour drive north. The coast is quite hilly, but the really big mountains are farther inland, so the roads are not as steep or windy as they are in Crete. Once we left the Bodrum peninsula, the landscape changed to be mostly agricultural. The mountainous areas have pine tree plantations and olive groves completely covering them as far as the eye can see. The flat lands are farms of assorted produce. We aren’t the best at recognizing plant species, but we could positively identify tomatoes, corn and peaches. There are a few cows here and there. The few areas of uncultivated land held a wide variety of sparsely scattered trees and bushes, including cypress trees. Here and there were some itty bitty towns, so tiny that you would miss them if you blinked. One of these little towns held a surprise a big outlet mall complete with Nike, Bennetton, Levi, several other popular designer brands we can’t remember now, Starbucks and Burger King. The outlet center is probably bigger than the rest of the town put together!

At one point we were speeding along and we rounded a bend to see a cop car up ahead. Of course, we immediately slowed down and prayed they weren’t using radar. It wasn’t until we had almost passed the car that we realized it was actually a cardboard cut out! It looked totally real. Later, again zooming along at high speed, another cop car came into sight. This time it was a real car, but empty.

We stopped to fill up with gas (petrol). We were horrified to find out that car fuel is USD$2.73 a liter ($10.50 a gallon). Marine fuel is always more than car fuel, so we can’t imagine what marine fuel would cost. The average Turkish person makes USD$5,250 a year. There is no way someone who makes so little could possibly afford to buy gas. Diesel was another 7 cents a liter (USD). Turkey is the new winner for most expensive fuel we have seen anywhere in the world.

After about 2 hours, we came to a city called Kusadasi. Lonely Planet says it is a popular tourist destination. The town is centered around a beautiful bay, and is made up of track homes stretching from the water all the up the mountain. It reminds us of a giant amphitheater, with a round bay at the bottom and buildings creeping up the mountain, fanning out wider and wider the farther up they go. It’s kind of surreal to see row after row of identical homes marching their way up the mountain like tidy rows of soldiers. In the Bodrum area the track home developments tend to be smaller and there are breaks between them, so Bodrum doesn’t have quite the same mono effect as Kusadasi does.

We passed a wedding procession in Kusadasi. There was a long line of cars following the bride & groom, all of them waving scarves out the windows. It was colorful and festive. Just a few miles beyond the edge of town is a big water park, which was a surprise to see.

At the 2 1/2 hour mark, we pulled into Selcuk. We expected it to be a huge tourist city since the country’s most popular tourist attraction, Ephesus, is in this town. We were very surprised to see that the town was small and was made up of mostly industrial repair shops. At least, that is mostly what we saw. Maybe there was more that we missed somewhere. We were amused to see lots of tractors driving down the street, and lots more parked at the curb. Whole families were in the tractors, and it almost seemed like they were going for a fun outing in the family vehicle. We now understood why Kusadasi is a popular tourist town all the Ephesus visitors must stay in Kusadasi.

We continued north. Beyond Selcuk, it was still mostly farmland. There were still quite a few tractors on the road, and we even passed a tractor dealership at one point. But the farther north we went, the more and more development there was in and amongst the farms. At one point there was a traffic accident involving the car directly behind us. Man, we got lucky that it wasn’t us!

After another hour, we got to the outskirts of Izmir. Suddenly, the highway was lined on both sides with large commercial buildings, mostly assorted retail stores.

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After a few minutes, the bay came into sight below us. Like Kusadasi, Izmir is centered around a bay and buildings stretch from the water up the mountains like an amphitheater. But Izmir is a big bay, with a lot of mountain space, and the city looked enormous.

Izmir, formerly called Smyrna, was”¦ To be continued”¦

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