We left Istanbul on a domestic flight to Izmir, the country's third most populous city. The flight was delayed while we were taxiing on the tarmac due to another plane making an emergency landing. One of the engines actually burst into flames. Thankfully, the plane made it down successfully and everyone was fine. I found a video of the flight in question if you want to see it for yourself.
When we landed a short time later, we discovered that the Izmir airport was virtually empty. It clearly had a capacity for thousands more people arriving and departing, but we were in the off season, so most of the airport was vacant.
We then found a driver to take us out to Çeşme (pronounced chesh-may), a sea-side town an hour outside the city that caters to tourists looking to get away from it all. We were staying in a big, fancy resort with all sorts of amenities we never used, including a spa and a movie theater. The resort seemed just as empty as the airport.
In Çeşme we found our first doner kebaps for lunch. Both Joe and I are big fans of this particular Turkish food in its transplanted-by-immigrants version in Berlin, so it was exciting to finally get it straight from the source. We had pide for dinner, which is a kind of stuffed flat bread shaped and cut like a pizza. Its consistency is somewhere between pita and pie crust. The word pita may even derive from pide.
The next day we explored the Alacati neighborhood and it felt like being in a Mediterranean version of Martha's Vineyard. It was also very similar to some of the towns on the Greek islands I visited, although those were more plain visually, dressed consistently only in that country's white and blue. Here we walked through small, winding pedestrian streets surrounded by colorful buildings. There were many restaurants and shops and even hostels to choose from.
We had drinks and dinner in Alacati, doing as the locals did: just enjoying ourselves and the amazing clear weather surrounded by the smell of salt coming off the ocean. The meal was fish and chips, but it was fresh fish caught locally, specifically, bream.
Back at hotel we witnessed a spectacular sunset. Çeşme really delivered when it came to the idea of a beach vacation. And although it was still a bit cold to enjoy the water in April, being there in the off season meant we had the place to ourselves.