Port of Izmir
Find a Cruise to the Eastern Mediterranean
Little of the storied path of ancient Smyrna (Izmir's original name) is visible. Today, Izmir is one of Turkey's most populated (3.7 million) and most thoroughly modern cities, with the second biggest port after Istanbul. The container ships, cranes and concrete high-rises that populate the harbor are a drab sight, and, predictably, most cruise travelers bypass the city. Like Kusadasi to the south, Izmir's main virtue is its proximity to Ephesus, an incredibly well-preserved Roman city that lives up to its lofty reputation. Likewise, the ruins of Pergamum and Asclepion, an ancient Greek center of culture and health, are easily accessible and are included excursion options on all ships docking in Izmir.
The city itself is not without merit, and passengers looking to explore the sprawling cityscape in the relatively short time allotted ashore will have options. The sociable Konak Square, with its emblematic Ottoman Clock Tower, is Izmir's main gathering point for young Turks. The square leads into a long, winding Bazaar, a common site throughout Turkey (if you want to buy something, be prepared to haggle). The bayside cafes that line Birinci Kordon, a long main boulevard running parallel to the waterfront, offer the opportunity to relax, sip wine, enjoy appetizers (mezes) of local seafood and watch people wander by. The Agora, an enormous 2,000-year-old marketplace where Roman farmers and merchants once hawked cotton, olive oil and fruit, is one of the few places that has been spared from urbanization, and is a fascinating site.
Though Izmir's modern vibe may initially be off-putting, it's notable that building projects, such as the subway and high-rises buildings, have often yielded fantastic archeological finds such as roman statues and pottery, a reminder of how much history remains just below the surface.
Where You're Docked
You'll end up at Alcansak, a rather industrial-looking pier area, which is a five-minute walk from the shops and restaurants in the neighborhood of the same name and 20 minutes along the waterfront to Konak Square in the center of town. Shore excursion buses are a short walk away, but if you're lucky, the port authority may let buses in to pick you up right at the ship when there's only one ship in port.
Good to Know
In Kemeralti Bazaar prepare for a large number of "salesmen." This is certainly not as bad as some places (like Cairo), but you'll face an incessant wave of requests to buy jeans and designer knockoffs. It also gets quite crowded, so be aware of your wallet.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The currency is the Turkish Lira and ATM's abound. For current currency-conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com. Some shops and restaurants will also accept euros and U.S. dollars, and all major credit cards are accepted.
Turkish, but you'll have little trouble with basic English communication.
Pick up some pottery or, for a larger souvenir, a local handmade carpet. Milas, near Izmir, is one of the main carpet-weaving areas in western Turkey.