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A trip to Izmir in Turkey

This ESBA trip was to be one of the more convoluted ( but worthwhile) journeys I’ve done recently…from home in Wark to Newcastle to Edinburgh to Istanbul to Izmir with an even more torturous return journey, ending up in a few days break in Spain.

Nightlife in IzmirThe purpose of the Turkey trip was an ESBA meeting (European Small Business Alliance) and visits to the Izmir Chamber of Industry and Chamber of Commerce. I’ve been to several such meetings elsewhere and always managed some IT-related benefit – not so long ago I managed to get a speaker for the FSB’s annual conference out of the deal. This time I was interested in exploring a potential member directory system being developed for ESBA with a view to using it elsewhere so it was primarily a business trip – but as always – I took lots of pictures as well!

I got off to a bad start to the trip leaving the house with plenty of time but not taking into account the combination of morning traffic and the most atrocious weather. After a very harrowing drive from home I arrived at Newcastle central train station with only moments to spare… and  then road works, taking the situation from dire to impossible. I missed the train by around 3 minutes.

Things went downhill for a while, the newly updated Sat-Nav on my S4 refused to show either maps or ETA, thank goodness for Google maps which now has voice navigation. According to Google I could drive to Edinburgh with just under an hour to spare. Pushing it but do-able. (the map issue was later resolved when an update appeared for CoPilot Live).

I drove to Edinburgh, again in horrendous rain for most of the trip but managed to make up some time by putting peddle to metal and indeed on arrival I had just under an hour to go.  I have NEVER needed that long at an airport – but then I’d never travelled to Turkey either so I was a bit concerned when told the gate was just about to open and I’d not even been through the detectors!

TurkeyBut I made it, just. By lunchtime I was in the air. The flight was pretty uneventful, they had the new SciFi “after Earth” with Will Smith showcasing his son and which has been branded elsewhere as “the worst movie of 2013”. I’m a great SciFi fan but this was just rubbish… some of the worst non-acting in modern times and WAY too slow..

The food on the flight (salmon starter, beef main course) was excellent and the seats comfortable with plenty of leg/stomach room.  Outside as usual it was perfectly sunny – a far cry from the situation BELOW the clouds.

After a short break in Istanbul I was back in the air. This time the offering consisted of a turkey sandwich, Panna Cotta and Egg Plant. If this was to be indicative of the food… bring it on!!

I arrived in Izmir just after 9pm with air temperature of around 20c… What more could you want! Well apart from a supply of Leffe, of course. My email instructions had finally arrived from the hotel and off I went looking for the bus.

I should have known the way the day was going this wasn’t going to work – the bus driver wasn’t having any of it – too late I THINK he said. So I got in a taxi at his suggestion – not as if I had a lot of options… Turned out to be 60 Lira – which as it happens is not THAT bad, about 25 quid – but next time I know better – GET THE EARLIER FLIGHT.

Karaca Hotel in IzmirGot to the hotel – really it’s the kind of place I love the best, you get out of the taxi, it’s maybe 20c or more at night, palm trees line the street – nearby hotels are all lit up in pretty colours…. but it’s quiet – no Geordies on the hoy here! A couple of the guys were having dinner out on the front – what a great start but as I’d eaten on the plane I thought I’d give that a miss and just ordered a couple of beers. Lovely.

Izmir first thing in the morningWe chatted and the night came to an end all too quickly (bearing in mind the flights put me back 3 hours so early evening in the UK was much later In Izmir) and there I was shortly after, on the hotel WIFI with my tablet and my new usb keyboard and mouse setup, happily constructing notes.

Izmir Chamber of IndustryFor our first morning (Thursday) we listened to a talk by the head of the Aegean Regional Chamber of Industry and learned a lot about Turkey’s successes.

Izmir Chamber of CommerceIn the afternoon we met with the Izmir Chamber of Commerce, again picking up some excellent information and meetings some local business people at the same time.

The evening was organised by the Chamber and we dined down at a seafood restaurant down at the waterfront.

Izmir in the morningThe ESBA meeting started in earnest on Friday morning with really nice weather outside reminiscent of Spain but with a distinct haze almost constantly.

As I hoped, I found out more about the new electronic intertrading system being put into place. Meetings were all day with a break for lunch and to visit the Chamber’s own museum! Back to work for the afternoon after which again the Izmir Chamber organised dinner for us down town, exceedingly informal and superb food only this time in a more informal, traditionally Turkish style – and after dinner some of us went off to investigate the city which is even more amazing at night.

Chamber of Commerce building - Izmir

Izmir at nightThis whole visit blew away my stereotypes and those of others about the place. Izmir is a successful city without the trappings of the EU. They didn’t seem THAT bothered about joining – and with an 8% annual growth who can blame them.

On Saturday with only hours to spare I said goodbye to everyone and took a walk along the seafront. Fabulous and interesting to compare the likes of mobile phone contract costs with the UK. I did notice that fuel seems to be more expensive – yet clothing seemed to be ridiculously cheap as was the food.

Mid-morning I headed off to Izmir airport following instructions in my diary. Well, not too good an idea and I ended up with an hour less than I was expecting – good job I left early.

NutsThe airport is big but the choice of duty free is, well, not. So I figured I’d grab a coke and sandwich and sit that one out, hoping that Ataturk would have more choice. I don’t normally bring stuff back but this is after all QUITE a foreign country. Even the procedures at Izmir airport are different – they have the metal detectors both when you arrive AND when you get to your gate! I stood in the airport, as British Airways were almost impossible to find and not open when I did, doing my booking in on-line – would you believe that simple job cost over a tenner in on-line charges on the phone – none of the usual deals you’d find in Europe.

Izmir is huge and I only touched the surface. Not at all what I expected and what a nice place for an exploratory break. Due to time restraints and endless meetings, that was never going to happen this time but maybe in the future…

Waterfront in Izmir

The flights back to the UK were pretty uneventful though I did note there seemed to be more female staff with head cloths in Heathrow than in Istanbul which has to be wrong… I arrived in the UK with my mobile PDF boarding passes only to be given a printed version by the security gate “just in case”. I did think that kind of defeated the object. As the plane (British Airways) was late landing I didn’t have to wait long before starting the next lap of my journey… London to Edinburgh.

Educational books in IzmirOf course, wouldn’t you know it I arrived in Edinburgh sans luggage as they managed to lose that on the way so no jacket, toothbrush, deodorant… good start.

Maureen picked me up and after waiting in line to report lost baggage we set off for the Stair Arms Hotel in Pathhead to be welcomed by a disco which went on, inescapably until the early hours.

Up bright and early Sunday the Stair Arms Hotel shower failed… beeping insistently and ignoring button presses which had us rushing to leave to get away from the noise. We went downstairs, noticing that some of the mess from the previous night was on the carpet and had breakfast.

After breakfast we headed off to do a little shopping before driving to Edinburgh airport – for which we’d left plenty of time – however due to ATTROCIOUS traffic holdups in Edinburgh (note to self, NEVER drive in Edinburgh at the weekend).. we just made it in time for our flight to Murcia in Spain.

And for that story – you’ll need to travel to www.bedrock.es

Click on any of the images to enlarge – and to see the whole album of my trip to Turkey – here it is…the Turkey Album

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