Izmir: My New Home

With its palm tree-lined boulevards next to the sea, Izmir, is the American equivalent of San Diego, while Istanbul is closer in comparison to New York.

I have always thrived in smaller cities (San Francisco, Kraków, Boston), and Izmir naturally seemed the best choice to reside in for the summer, and definitely more manageable than Istanbul. In Turkey, people are known to be more liberal in Izmir, and some Turks joke that Izmir could easily be mistaken for Spain or Italy due to it laid-back nature. Women in Izmir have a reputation as some of the most beautiful, whether this city breeds natural beauty or the warm climate, and relaxed attitude cause women to wear more revealing outfits, is eternally up for debate. On Friday nights, outdoor cafes and bars with names like Bar 911 and Hangover in Alsancak are packed with weekend revelers, reminding me of late-night street parties in Lisbon.

At first I thought Izmir would pale in comparison to the steady pulse that Istanbul emitted, but now I realize that after living in Izmir almost a month, this is not remotely true. With all its historical monuments, and international flair, I don’t think I could live within Istanbul frenzied lifestyle, just as I could not stomach New York as a permanent residence, but am content with being a frequent tourist for both cities.

One of my favorite activities is walking on the kordon at sunset, with the ferries zipping across the bay, making their way to one of the docks on the far sides of the peninsula that glimmers in the distance with thousands of lights, as if inhabited by millions of fireflies. Street vendors bellow “ciğdem,” trying to sell their daily quota of sunflower seeds before heading home for the night. Nearby fisherman sit like human statues on the pier, trying to catch their dinner. Big, marbled balloons for sale, are piled high on top of each other, forming a rainbow tower that floats precariously above these twilight scenes that I’m quickly beginning to embrace as the familiar.