I have been traveling around Turkey to study what is turning this beautiful country to hell. My subject for this article is Izmir, one of the biggest three metropolitan areas of Turkey with more than 3 million inhabitants. The truth hurts, but unfortunately I feel it is important to write this.
While Izmir, located in the western extremity geographically, is one of the most beautiful cities of Turkey, it is also one of the ugliest. Just like Istanbul, Izmir is a gigantic metropolis. Every hill is invaded by slums where crime runs rampant. Decent people try to survive under brutal conditions and consequently parent unhealthy citizens.
Izmir's districts can easily be classified as luxurious neighborhoods, middle-class residential areas, and slums. Izmir's higher grounds are invaded by slums, except for a few that are reserved for "visionaries" who conquered these hills to build their magnificent residences. Except for the hills that accommodate the lifts, not even one of them is green.
Alsancak, Karsiyaka, Goztepe, Balcova and some luxurious neighborhoods of Bornova are beautiful, but let's face it: Izmir's urban planning looks like it was designed by a set of toddlers, which means there does not seem to be any planning involved. If you board a ferry from the cove area, you will be able to observe the ugliness of the city in its full glory. Of course, you can always choose to look at the beautiful waterside mansions of Karsiyaka and historical buildings of Alsancak, and refuse to accept the real Izmir.
Would you like to pass away while getting health care, or not get health care at all? Move to Izmir, and you won't be disappointed. In Karsiyaka, a downtown district, there is one hospital for every 400,000 people. If you think I'm exaggerating, feel free to visit the Karsiyaka Public Hospital's ER service.
Izmir is more civilized than Istanbul: There are less vicious people who have sworn to make the city a living hell for the government officials, tourists and other citizens. In Izmir people have a better understanding of politeness, compared to the inner Anatolian cities. However when it comes to public transportation, the inhabitants go bananas. The destructive outbursts of an older citizen in 113ºF for seeing a youngster not giving up his seat may ruin your day.
The conditions of educational services are horrible. With the rising income and "civilization," teenagers dare to try whatever comes their way. The high schools in high income neighborhoods and low income neighborhoods are where hell breaks loose and many teenagers are wasted.
Finding a job is relatively easy. Even when you don't have any skills, it's possible to do something simple and be a breadwinner. You will have no problems if you are okay with having little money to spare. If you are extremely qualified, you can get a job in various engineering and service positions.
The air conditioned buses provide a viable transportation environment. However, there are some old buses and I'd rather live in pain than get on one of those. If you are on one of these old buses and you have earplugs on with classical music on your iPod, you will probably end up listening to industrial death metal with the additions of the noise these buses make.
There are also mini-buses, and these are integral to Izmir's public transportation. They are okay if your destination is close. However, stay on the vehicle for too long and life will gradually become unbearable. For example, get on a mini-bus on the line between Menemen and Bus Terminal and you will have a taste of adrenaline and imminent death as the traffic runs at 93.5 mph.
Railways are definitely providing a scandalous service. Many years ago, the late Ahmet Piriştina, mayor of Izmir from 1999 to 2004, built a subway in almost no time. This subway line is not getting any longer and no one seems to wonder why.
Last but not least: Sea transportation. Izmir's ferries are a nice alternative to road transport. You can cross the cove instead of driving around it, saving you a lot of time.
You can easily travel to any part of Turkey either by bus or by plane. It's also easy to find flights abroad.
If you belong to the middle class and you wish to live in a neighborhood suited to your income, Izmir will prove to be satisfactory. However, you need to protect your child. As with all metropolitan areas, drugs and bad influence pose a problem in Izmir. In short, Izmir is a city where you cannot hope to live smoothly.
What are your impressions of Izmir?
Original article, originally published in Turkish, here.
Credits: Images by Tambako the Jaguar and Ceyhun Isik. Data linked to sources.