Walking along Izmir’s pier, soaking up the morning sun and the fresh sea air, the sun hasn’t been up for long, but already the day is in full swing and the crowded pier is buzzing. Fisherman line the wooden boards, reeling in the mornings catch, then scale, clean and barbecue the fish for the passersby – now that’s fresh! Continuing along there are other tempting breakfast options including; grilled corn on the cob, roasted chestnuts and freshly squeezed pomegranate juice. The smells and flavours are fresh and raw, and the air is filled with local banter and squarks of low flying seagulls.

Izmir is Turkey’s third largest city, with apartments stacked wall to wall down narrow streets. Our driver doges the on-coming traffic with expertise, while we close our eyes and hang onto our seats! The life of the city is on its streets, with crowds of people everywhere; buying and selling, haggling and arguing, making and mending. It’s a very confronting and real perspective into local life, but even in tough times and a harsh economical climate the people are vivacious and take pride in their city. An incredibly old part of the world, Izmir is home to the ancient city of Ephesus, and more recently excavated is the Agora. There is so much history here and it’s an experience to stand on its sandy streets and imagine a world that existed thousands of years before. It’s a humbling reminder of a much bigger world and a greater story out playing.

A few hours later, we find ourselves sitting in the back of a dim little rug shop sipping on apple tea, while a brilliant salesman tries to sell us some of his hand made tapestries, in whatever colour, whatever size and whatever style we can imagine. He happens to be the brother of our taxi driver. For lunch we go to the recommended restaurant next door, conveniently owned by their cousin, and afterward, a guided tour through the streets with their uncle. We laugh, realising the family connections, but gladly oblige to the well-oiled system they have running. Apparently we’re not the first travellers to find ourselves wondering how we ended up in the back of a Turkish rug store!