Sorry men, not trying to leave you out, but this one is for the ladies! I mean, you totally can read it, and most of it would actually still be applicable to you!
I don’t have to tell you that Turkey is a favorite country of mine. If you are new here, then you might not know that I fell in love with Turkey back in my single days. While Turkey at that time was considered modern, I found it to still be somewhat conservative for women traveller. The city atmosphere have definitely changed over the last 8 years, but I still hold true to some of my suggestions for female travellers to more rural areas.
In 2008 I boarded a plane by myself to move to Turkey, a country I had never been to before, for at least two years.
Even though I was a well-traveled college graduate, I see now my innocence in making such a big move just one year out of university.
And you know what?
The solo move to Turkey was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and it’s one of the reasons I now live here again today.
Best Turkish cities for solo women travelers – at least I think so
I love this country, what I know and what I have yet to discover. But if it’s your first time and you’re on your own, here are seven wonderful Turkish cities that would make a great starting point for your travels….
Our trip to the Urla was a perfect day outing. The summer season and crowds are starting to flow into the more coastal areas. So, knowing this, we headed to the Urla Artichoke Festival super early to beat the crowds. After a few hours of exploring all the festival had to offer and still time left in the day, we decided to pop over to popular, colorful little town of Alaçatı.
Funny enough, Alaçatı use to be just a passerby town for foreigners as they made their way to the more attractive Çesme beaches. Over time, this quiet little town with its’ crystal clear beaches has come to grow in popularity – with boths foreigners and Turks alike. Ironically enough, most people don’t come here for the beautiful beaches, but they spend most of their time getting lost in the town center a couple of kilometers inland. As well, every spring the town host the Alaçatı Herb Festival, and tour buses of people are brought in (even from Istanbul!) to experience this.
Once a Greek town, the Aegean city of Alaçatı is situated on the western coast of Turkey south of Izmir. Before the Balkan wars, vineyards use to be the popular income, but after the “Greece/Turkey exchange agreement” in 1923 when the Greeks and Turks move back to their ‘homelands’, tobacco and livestock took its turn. Over time the tobacco industry died out in the area just in time for windsurfing to start becoming popular in the 1990s.
The town is know as the ‘home of wind god’ and is a perfect location for windmills and its windsurfing. The town itself showcases unique architecture made of the local Alaçatı stone and colorfully painted, flowering shops and restaurants are the major appeal for tourist and photographers alike. The historic old town is full of narrow winding streets which are mostly pedestrians only, even though a few cars and mopeds tend make their way through.
Our experience of Alçatı was enchanting as well but the crowds made the city seem less magical (it always does that to a place, right?). After meandering the local handicraft shops and boutique, we found ourselves at a little shaded patio of the Julio’s cafe where we enjoy a basket of fries and 2 turkish coffee. In Turkey, there is no pressure to move on from a restaurant after you finish your order. So we enjoyed the time to just rest and chat about the area. Just across from the cafe is an old church converted into a mosque. While it doesn’t seem like much from the outside, behind the large curtained wall is a pristine, beautifully ornate Greek Orthodox altar complete with intact pictures of holy saints. It is VERY rare that mosque keep pieces of old churches like this! Definitely check it out if you go.
On our way out of town, we drove through the area of town near the water. Finding a quick, perfect parking spot, we hopped out to enjoy a peek of the sea at Küçük Plaj or small beach. We had heard the water was beautiful, but we truly could not get over how transparent the crystal blue waters were. Even though it the water was a little chilly, the hot day was a great balance for those enjoying an afternoon sunbathing by the sea. For us, it was a perfect sight to finish our outing for the day!
If you would like to travel here, I have a few tips for you:
Rent a car for a day or weekend: There are buses that go out to this area, but if you are like us and live on the north side of Izmir, it is worth your time to travel by car!
If you are living locally, come during the off-season: Izmir is such a sunny state. Even though the weather will be chilly, the sun still gives you the beauty of the city like it looks in the summer.
Stay a night or two in one of the many cozy hotels:You can only eat so much in a day. We didn’t even try any of the restaurants in our short time there. Come and enjoy a few local dining options.
During the summer, come during the week if possible: If you only come for the day, start early! Spending a couple of nights during the week will give you a more enjoyable time exploring everything this town has to offer.
Enjoy the beach: Our time was just too short, but if we had come earlier in the day, we would have enjoyed a quick dip in the sea like everyone else there!
Hope you also travel to Alaçatı in the future! Iyi yolculuklar! Good travels!
For Turkey readers:
Have you traveled to Alaçatı before? What did you enjoy about the area? What suggestions do you have for our next trip out there?
For non-Turkey readers:
What do you think of this cute little town? Is it what you thought Turkey to look like? Does it reminds you another place you have visited before?
In the states, chips and dip are a BIG deal… Chips and ANY type of dip are a big deal. Salsa, guacamole, cheese dip, french onion dip, veggie dips (both sweet and savory)… Needless to say, we love our dips.
One of my favorite dips was artichoke and spinach dip and ironically enough, for a long time I couldn’t tell you what an artichoke even looked like. But if you mix veggies with the right amount of sour cream and cheese (and bake it) and you have me sold! Outside of that dip and occasionally buying the cans artichokes for my salad toppings, I have never purchased an actual real uncut artichoke. And here in Turkey, they prepare and cook artichoke much differently.
Starting in April in Izmir, artichoke (enginar in Turkish) season is in full swing and starts to dwindle around the end of May. The markets and streets have vendors selling mountains of them. You can buy/sell them whole or ‘cleaned’, some with just the bottom part of the veggie and others with both bottom and the leaves.
A small nearby city, Urla, held its 3rd Artichoke Festival and yearly the masses come out for the 3 day event. So if you want to go, go early in the day because by 1 pm it is crowded. This quaint little town center is completely transformed into a sea of tents. The main area near the stage is mostly food while other nearby parking lots are taken over by local small businesses selling handmade goods.
If you aren’t sure about artichokes, this is the perfect place to go. Every vendor has found some new way to prepare them… savory, sweet, sushi (ok, i’m not actually sure they put it in the sushi), sandwiches, stuffed, casserole style, quesadilla style, dessert, and even a smoothie. You also have the option to buy other byproducts of artichokes like hand creams as well! While you wander around trying to decide what to eat and buy, you can watch vendors cleaning and selling artichokes behind their stands.
If you get tired of walking, stop and just enjoy the general cheerful ambience of the day. The festival has a list of programs throughout the 3 days such as cooking competition, classes, and children’s activities. They all can be enjoyed from the center of town, usually from the public stage. Everyone is in high spirits, locals sharing their hometown, and foreigners trying something new. And since the weather was perfect the day we went, everyone was even more joyful than usually.
Questions for our readers:
Do you like artichoke? How do you prepare it?
Would you go to an artichoke festival? What would you like to see at a festival like this?
Culture shock can happen and will happen to everyone. And yes, I will argue against well-seasoned travelers and long time expats that it can happened to them as well! Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it below.
Culture shock affects everyone differently: some people withdraw from others, other may become sad or depressed (homesickness can hit hard during this time- even if you don’t have a home!), some become angry at all the little differences, and others struggle to find meaning in their world and the relationships around them.
Spring is gorgeous here in Izmir, Turkey. The sun shines and the weather is just the right temperature. Recently, I went out for a few errands and just basked in the rays of sunlight peeking through as I weaved in and out of the shadows made from my neighborhood buildings and trees. In a split second, I went from gloriously praising MY lovely city to cursing the stinky rules of THEIR culture. Because, for the almost 1 millionth time, I barely missed stepping on fresh dog poop in the middle of the sidewalk….
In the past, Turkey hasn’t been known for having the most decadent desserts outside of their amazing baklava and ‘Sorbet/Syrup’ desserts(basically sweet treats soaked in a simple syrup). And to continue that, chocolate in any form isn’t high on anyone’s priority list. In fact, I read that the average Turk consumes less than a kilo of chocolate a year whereas the average German can consume up to 7 kilos per year. But, similar to the rising popularity of specialized coffee, the chocolate scene is slowly starting to make waves. The times are changing folks.
So, needless to say, when Izmir held it’s first annual (and long anticipated) local Chocolate Festival at the La Vie Nouvelle venue on March 31 – April 2… I had to go! The same organizers, Next Organization and Ateş Prodüksiyon, of private festivals such as the Izmir Coffee Festival back in October 2016 also organized the Izmir Chocolate Festival.
The festival was well planned with many booths representing mostly chocolate or dessert companies, but there were several other small businesses stands as well to give the guests some diversity. We found coffee, chocolate crepes, truffles, ice cream, and a beautiful chocolate fountain that you could dip your fruit into. Along with purchasing items from the businesses (or free sampling at some of the more generous booths), the festival offered workshops for both adults and kids and held seminars on different topics related to chocolate like ‘Health and Chocolate’.
If you got tired from all the sugar you enjoyed, you could sit and enjoy the view of the bay since the venue was right on the water. And there was always a DJ providing music in the background. We happened to be there while they were teaching the crowd how to do some type of line dancing and then some salsa dancing.
If the adults weren’t enjoying the music, the kids would. The kids were allowed up on the stage to dance and play at different times. Even though the venue was too crowded, the event was super family friendly.
Overall, I think the festival was worth going to! I will leave you with 3 thoughts. Firstly, while it was a fun time, I am not sure it was worth 2 full price tickets. Fortunately for us, the festival offered a buy one, get one free promotion back in February. Secondly, although the time we went was super lively and hopping, I wish we would have gone on the first day early in the morning because well… less crowded… more food to sample/try… and just easier to have a conversation with people. Lastly, I so wish I would have signed up for a workshop! I would have loved learning alongside others how to make truffles or a Nutella praline, just to name a couple!
Questions for the readers:
Would you go to a Chocolate Festival near you? Have you been to one before?