Izmir is the third largest city in Turkey, so there are many different options for accommodation. They seem to be grouped in different districts of the city, all fairly distant from one another. How to chose?
Our method was to hop onto HappyCow and see where the vegan restaurants are. There are exactly 2, in the same neighborhood. Well, that certainly narrowed down our search. Often what we do at that point is to simply find a hotel in that area and book it.
In Izmir we tried a different approach, with great success! We traveled to the city, navigated the standard Turkish bus station (i.e. inconveniently located 7 km from the city) and just went to one of the vegan restaurants we had found.
Arriving in a new city at around dinner time with two kids, big backpacks, and no hotel may seem risky to some. We went to Yasam Kafe, ate some vegan toasted cheese sandwiches, some terrific iskender and asked some questions.
The wonderfully friendly and helpful staff suggested a couple of hostels in the neighborhood. The one they really recommended was Shantihome hostel. I went over while the family was finishing up dinner, and immediately grabbed their 4 bed family room on the top floor. The rooms are all named, and ours was called Freedom!
The best thing about Shantihome in Izmir is the people we met there. There were many travelers, some folks who had been there for months, and a constant stream of friendly Turks passing through. We met Russian street musicians who have been travelling for over a year. They are self-funded by busking and human generosity.
They performed for us in the living room one evening. Yelena is also an amazing artist, with a collection of Vegan-themed pencil and charcoal drawings.
We also got some free baby-sitting from the incredible Jo from Australia. She’s a digital nomad, doing consulting work while she travels the world. We hope to see her again in SE Asia, and not just for the babysitting!
We also went to an art gallery in the former French embassy. There was a display of water-themed paintings and a room for the kids to colour.
We also went on many ferry rides and saw beautiful sunsets. People were throwing bread to the seagulls so the birds were flying so close I almost grabbed one.