I absolutely love going to local markets when I am traveling. There is often no better place to get a real feel for the local culture, flavors, and atmosphere. It is true that there exists many such venues directed towards tourists, hawking cheesy souvenirs and other crap (for lack of a more appropriate word) that isn’t worth risking the baggage allowance weight in your luggage. Not to worry though, with a bit of knowledge and research, there can be found true gems and hidden spots in little corners of the world.
The Kemeralti Bazaar is located in Izmir, Turkey, some ways away from the more popular destination of Istanbul. This mainly outdoor market is a rambling collecting of covered alleyways, tent structures, mixed in with a few more permanent architectural fixtures. Shops and stalls with every colorful Turkish good imaginable are in no short supply, and although it is often crowded, it doesn’t have the air of being overwhelmingly so. Perhaps this is due to Izmir’s distance from Turkey’s largest city. The prices reflect this difference as well!
When you get tired of weaving in and out of the crowd for shopping, there are many cafes and restaurants available in which to enjoy a Turkish coffee or apple tea, one of the traditional beverages. The locals are friendly, and used to dealing with foreigners. It is a pleasant break to find a cozy spot and sit for a bit – people watching is also particularly entertaining here. I find great fun in watching people speaking in a language I don’t understand, and making up a story as to what they could possibly be talking about. Another Turkish tradition available in the market is the hookah, a water pipe used to vaporize and smoke flavored tobacco, called shisha.
Izmir, located on the Gulf of Izmir, is Turkey’s third most densely populated city. It also has quite a history, being one of the oldest settlements in the Mediterranean area. Many occupants have passed through its area, from the Persians, Alexander the Great, the Romans, and the Ottomans before evolving into what it is today.