Cesme

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A breezy seaside village, Cesme was built around a 14th-century Genoese fortress that was expanded and beautified by 16th-century Ottomans. A little over an hour from Izmir, the town has deservedly gained popularity for its cool climate, crystal clear waters, and proximity to the Greek island of Chios. Daytrippers from Chios keep the myriad restaurants and leather shops in business, and the affluent Izmir it’s who have weekend houses here ensure an active nightlife in the cafes and bars along the marina. Summer is festival season in Cesme, as the town hosts the Sea Festival/International Pop Song Contest at the end of July and the Cesme Film Festival at the end of August. For the song contest, bars stay packed, and primary sponsors TEKEL (the state alcohol and tobacco monopoly) and Coca-Cola set up tents along the waterfront for giveaways and contests. Information regarding exact dates for these week-long festivals is available in the tourist office.

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TRANSPORTATION

Buses to Cesme stop either at the new otogar or at the top of İnkılap Cad. All buses from Cesme to İzmir pick up passengers at both stops.

  1. Buses: The otogar (712 64 99) is at the corner of A. Menderes Cad. and Çevre Yolu Cad. From here,Turgutozal Cad. runs down to the sea. To: Ankara (10hr., 9:30pm, $11); İstanbul (11 hr.; 10am, 9:30pm; $12); İzmir (1hr., every 20min. 6am-10pm, $2). Most buses to İzmir arrive at the Üçkuyular otogar, not the main otogar. However, İzmir bound buses at 6, 7,8,9,11am, 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, and 9pm continue to the main otogar for a small additional fee. Bus #605 connects Üçkuyular with the main otogar, and any bus running north heads to the center of Izmir.
  2. Car Rental: Teodan Turizm (712 14 81; fax 712 11 55), on the left of İnkilap Cad., rents the cheapest cars and motorbikes in town. For 1-2 days: cars $30; motorbikes $15; bikes $7.50. Open daily 9am-9pm.

ORIENTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Shopping and nightlife are centered around İnkılap Cad., a pedestrian street lined with leather shops and ice cream parlors, İnkilap Cad. meets the sea at Cumhuriyet Meydanı and runs some 300ın to (lie bus stop up the hill, past Mehmetçik Park on the left. From the otogar, follow Turgut Özal Cad., which begins at the corner of the parking lot with the Kamil Koç booth, down to the sea (about 200m), turn right at the sea, and walk 300m to Cumhuriyet Meydanı just past the castle.

  1. Tourist Office: 8 İskele Meydanı (fax 712 66 53), on the waterfront across from the castle and kervansaray. Helpful English-speaking staff. Maps and accommodation info available. Open 8:30am-5:30pm, also open in summer Sa-Su 9am-5pm.
  2. Banks: TC Ziraat Bankası, in the main square, offers currency exchange, traveler’s check exchange (M-F 9am-5:30pm), and a Cirrus/MC/Plus/V ATM. Just to the left, Türkiye İş Bankası has a small currency exchange office. Open daily 9am-llpm. Police: (712 66 27), in the back of the tourist office.
  3. Pharmacy: Çağler Eczanesi (712 69 64), on the left side of inkılap Cad. when walking away from the sea. Open daily 9am-lam.
  4. Hospital: (712 07 77), 5km east of town on Cesme İzmir Yolu, on the right. Take the llıca-bound dolmuş from beside the tourist office and ask for “hastane” ($.40).
  5. Internet Access: Emre Computer and Internet Cafe, 11 KutludagCad. (712 67 36). One block from Cumhuriyet Meydanı. Open daily 10am-2am. $.75 per hr. Melis Cafe (712 12 15) is usually less crowded and has quick connections. Turn left onto Dalyan Cad. from İnkılap Cad. just before Mehmetçik Parkı. Open daily 9am-lam. $.75 per hr. PTT: (712 66 20 or 712 63 48), on the waterfront as you walk away from the tourist office (with the sea on your left). Currency and traveler’s check exchange. Open daily June-Sept. 8am-midnight; Oct.-May M-F 8am-5:30pm.

Postal Code: 35930.

ACCOMMODATIONS & CAMPING

There is no shortage of pensions in Cesme, but it might be a good idea to make res ervations in July and August to get the best rooms.

  • Filiz Pension, 16 Deltal Sok. (712 67 94), just after the shops and restaurants end on İnkılap Cad. (walking away from the square). Turn right onto Mektap Sok. and then immediately right onto Dellal Sok. Refreshingly clean rooms with decorative rugs. Hot water with good pressure. Extra bathrooms and showers on each floor for guests who’ve already checked out. Guest kitchen. Breakfast $2. Doubles $7.50.
  • Alim Pension, Tarihi Türk Hamamı Yanı (712 83 19; fax 712 83 19), on the corner past the kervansaray and hamam as you walk with the sea on your right on Alpaslan Cad. Carpeted rooms with phones and showers, some with balconies overlooking a patch of trees and shrubbery with a fascinating, partially collapsed Ottoman stone house beyond. Guest kitchen in rear garden. Breakfast $1.25. $4 per person.
  • Avrupali Pension, 12 Sağ Sok., İnönü Mah. (712 70 39). Turn left off İnkılap Cad. (when walking away from the square), and turn left at the sign for Cesme Pansiyon. Clean rooms with private bath. Lovely, vine-canopied garden and a quiet location. Guest kitchen. Breakfast $1.50. Doubles $7.50; triples $11.0
  • Yalcın Otel, 38 Kale Sok., Musalla Mah. ( 712 69 81; fax 712 06 23). Walk up the hill between the kervansaray and the “No Problem” cafe. Follow the alleyway past the Pension and take the first left. A bit more upscale than the standard pension. Cozy rooms with bath and phones. Two beautiful terraces looking out over the water. Break- lost included. Doubles $11; triples $19.
  • Yeni Kervan Pension (712 84 96), Kale Sok., Musalla Mah. Walk up the hill between the kervansaray and the “No Problem” cafe. Follow the alleyway that goes beyond the Tarhan Pension, turn right at the 1st road, and continue 30m. All rooms have showers and balconies with a garden view. TV lounge and private garden on basement level. Breakfast $1.25. Doubles $7.50; triples $11.
  • U2 Pension, 2 Muarrem Sok. (712 63 81). Centrally located on the leftside of inkılap Cad. as you walk away from the sea, about 150m from the waterfront. Pleasant rooftop terrace overlooking the town. Rooms, some with bath, are small and not quite immaculate. Laundry $7.50 per load. Guest kitchen. Homemade Turkish dinner upon request ($2.25). Breakfast $1.25. Doubles $7.50; triples $9.
  • Baba Kamp, Altmkum Beach. From the dolmuş stop, face the water, and Baba is the first building on your right. Electricity, water, restaurant, and beach. Open June-Aug. Free if you eat at Baba restaurant, the cheapest around. No tents provided.

FOOD AND ENTERTAINMENT

Mangal Restaurant ( 712 85 21 or 721 10 86), on the corner of Yağcılar Sok. and İnkılap Cad., 200m up from the tourist office, across from the Garden Pub. Enter on Yağcılar Sok., the side street. This 2nd-story open-air restaurant has flawless decor and high ambitions. Excellent food prepared table-side on an enormous barbecue makes Mangal worth the slightly higher prices. Salads $1; pasta dishes $1.50-2; meat dishes from $2.25. Open May-Oct. daily 10am-lam. AmEx/MC/V.
Biz Bize Salonu, 6 İnkılap Cad. (712 17 46), on the right side of inkılap Cad., next to the castle. A favorite among locals, Biz Bize serves some of the best and cheapest döner, and not much else. İskender kebap $2.25. Open 24hr. MC/V.
Flamingo Cafe and Restaurant, Kervansaray Karşısı (-3 712 93 01), right in front of the Kervansaray. Outdoor dining under parasols next to a rippling fountain. Spaghetti plates $2-2.25; mushroom and chicken sautés $3.50; kebaps $2-2.25.10% discount for par ties of 5 or more. Open May-Sept. daily 8am-1am or later.
Street Bar, Uzun Sok. 4/A (712 84 76), on the right corner all the way at the top of İnkılap Cad. when you walk away from the sea. King of the Cesme club scene, Street Bar has the largest dance floor, A/C, and a retractable roof. Charming decor makes the club resemble a town square. Nightly Turkish and Western hits. Beer $1.50. Cocktails $3.75- 5.25. Happy hour before 10pm and after 2am. Open daily 8pm-4am.
Garden Bar, 16 İnkılap Cad. (610 63 76), close to the square, masked by a donkey statue outside. Another disco bar with an outdoor motif and plenty of plant life. Patrons pack the small dance floor and bust a move to Western and Turkish hits. Beer $1.50; cocktails $4.50-5.50. Open daily 8pm-4am.

SIGHTS

Cesme’s main draw is its superior beaches, easily accessible by dolmuş. With a long ribbon of clean, powder-white sand flanked by clear, warm, blue waters on one side and rolling rush covered dunes on the other, Altınkum Beach is one of Turkey’s best. It is also surprisingly free of the crowds that plague other beaches. Dolmuş run to Altmkum from the lot by the tourist office in Cesme (15min.; June-Sept. every 20min. 8am-8pm, sporadic in winter; $.75).

While Altınkum is the best place to enjoy the sun and sand, Alaçatı Beach offers a bit more of a thrill. Situated on a lagoon, it has strong offshore winds, making it one of Turkey’s best windsurfing beaches. It hosted the 1998 Quicksilver Euro pean Championships, which brought such legendary windsurfers as Robbie Nash to brave the local gales. Several licensed clubs just next to Hotel Süzer rent wind surfing equipment by the hour and the day, and also offer instructional classes. Dolmuş run to Alaçati from the Cesme lot (every 20min. in summer during daylight hours, $.40), and stops in town. To catch another dolmuş to the beach, tell the driver you want Hotel Süzer (every hr., $.50). A public beach is only a short walk past the PIT (with the sea on your left), although there’s not much space to lay out unless you want to fork over $2,25 for a chair and umbrella.

Other major beaches are at Ilıca, Boyalık, İldir, and Erythrai. Boyalik is a 25min. walk from Cesme along Cesme Izmir Cad., or a short ride on the Ihca-bound dolmuş. Ask for “Boyalik” ($.40). Ilıca has the additional lure of its famed therapeutic hot springs, water from which can be found at several hotels in town.

The most impressive sight in Cesme itself is the waterfront castle across from the tourist office. Built, in 1508 by Sultan Beyazıt II in order to spy on Chios, the castle had 50 cannons and a garrison of 185. Though it was rebuilt in the 18th century, by the 19th century it had lost its military significance. It houses an attractively-displayed but sparse Archaeological Museum of common local artifacts, including Roman and 19th-century statues accompanied by little explanation. (Open Tu-Su 8am-noon and l-6pm. $.75, students $.40.)

The kervansaray, built under Süleyman the Magnificent and imaginatively renamed the Hotel Kervansaray, contains a typical Ottoman floor plan with a rectangular frame that opens onto a courtyard. Feel free to poke around. Back up on İnkılap Cad., the shell of the Greek basilica of Agios Haralambos is now the town’s exhibition center. The finals of the song contest and some of the film festival screenings are held here. It houses ongoing displays of contemporary, local art and handicrafts from June-Oct. (Open daily 9am-midnight.)

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