Izmir - The Pearl
Izmir, the third largest city in Turkey,
is described as the pearl of the Aegean.
It is a major port and commercial centre
set dramatically around a huge bay and
backed by mountains to the south.
Izmir, with its ancient name of Smyrna,
was established on a hill called
Tepekule which is on the north-east of
the bay now called the Gulf of Izmir.
The magnificent and indeed rich history
of Izmir and its first inhabitants goes
back long before 3000 BC but excavations
so far only date back to that time. From
the evidence of excavations, the first
settlements dated from the Ancient
Bronze Age and were founded at the top
of the hill about 3-5 metres above sea
level. The settlements established on
the Aegean coast were developed under
the rich influence of the Trojan
Hittites settled in Anatolia in around
1800-1200 BC and their writings help us
to understand the history of that time.
The famous author Homer wrote about the
Hittites in the Iliad.
Around 1000 BC, the Aiolos and the
Ionians came from Greece and settled in
Smyrna and its surroundings, now known
as Bergama (Pergamon),Manisa (Magnesia),
Urla (Klazomenai), Kemalpasa
(Nimphaion), Çesme-Ildırı (Erythrai),
Sigacik (Teos), Selcuk (Ephesus).
Smyrna gradually became richer up to the
7th century, thanks to trade with
neighbours, especially Lydia. The good
relationship between them lasted many
years untill Lydia was conquered by the
In 334 BC, Alexander the Great arrived
in Anatolia and brought the Persian
sovereignty to an end. The Hellenistic
period began and the new inhabitants of
the region settled around Kadifekale
The city was ruled by the Roman Empire
from 27 BC until 324 AD. The Agora,
Acropolis, Theatre and Stadium all
contained evidence of the Romans from
this period. The roads from Kadifekale
to Ephesus and Sardis were built by the
Romans, who made the city an important
trade centre and harbour of Asia at that
At the beginning of the 16th century
Izmir was an important seaport for world
trade. In order to check the ships
entering and leaving the Gulf of Izmir,
a castle was built on the narrowest
point of the bay. During its struggle
for liberation, Izmir suffered mass
destruction and huge fires.
In 1922, the Greek army was driven out
by the great Turkish leader Mustafa
Kemal Atatürk and Izmir started to
become a modern city of the young
our trip to a pleasant centre
A very big town with the welcoming
atmosphere of a village. We stayed out
of town in a suburb called Buca in the
apartment of our Turkish friend?s
mother. Everybody was very friendly and
we experienced the genuine Turkish way
of life, with mealtimes especially being
a real family occasion. On the Saturday
evening we were even treated to the
sights and sounds of a traditional
Turkish wedding from across the street.
In 324 AD, the Byzantine Empire took the
city and added it to their territories.
During the classic Hellenistic, Roman
and Byzantine eras Ephesus was a very
important cultural and religious centre.
Izmir became a part of the Turkish
Seljuk kingdom when it was seized by
Kutalmisoglu Suleyman Sah, in 1076.
During this period, the governor of the
city, the famous sea admiral Caka Bey,
conquered the islands of Urla, Foca,
Sakiz (Chios), Samos and Istanköy (Cos).
In 1320 the city and its surroundings
were added to the Turkish lands by the
Turkish sailor Umur Bey.
In 1426, Izmir and its surroundings was
completely absorbed into the Ottoman
Empire. During the Ottoman period many
Turkish architectural constructions were
built, such as the Hisar Mosque, the
Sadirvan Mosque, the Hatuniye Mosque,
the Konak Yali Mosque, the Kemeralti
Mosque, the Kestane Bazaar Mosque, the
Izmir Clock Tower, Bedesten (a special
trade construction), the Kizlaragasi,
the Mirkelamoglu and the Cakaloglu Inns.
These are outstanding examples of the
Turkish culture and have adorned Izmir
After a typical Turkish breakfast
(cheese, fruit, olives, bread and, of
course, cay) we drove through the busy
suburbs down to the centre of town,
where we were treated to a guided tour,
courtesy of our friends.
A place not to miss is the Kemeralti
shopping area, with its vast array of
stalls and shops up and down numerous
alleyways. What we thought was a good
idea was all the wedding shops being
grouped together in one area. Close by,
a particularly interesting building
housed an antique collector?s paradise.
The whole city centre is a collection of
beautiful buildings, monuments and
It is well worth taking one of several
ferries just to experience the city from
a different perspective.
In contrast to the city centre is the
Crowne Plaza hotel and shopping centre.
If you need a towel that is the place to
go. We were amazed at the huge variety
on offer for very reasonable prices.
Close by, it was back to the traditional
with a visit to the Patlican Café.
The following day saw us heading out of
town for some sightseeing further
Passing through the town of Selchuk, our
first stop was the historic hillside
village of Sirince, well known for its
wine making. Rumoured to have been
called 'Esphesus on the Hill', the
village was actually originally a Greek
settlement, only being populated by
Turkish families after the liberation of
Izmir in 1924. It still retains its
Greek roots in its architecture and
names of cafes and pensions e.g. Zeus.
Retracing our steps through the
spectacular scenery, we passed the
ancient site of Ephesus (save that for
another day). A tip if you do intend to
visit Ephesus is to read up a little
beforehand to make your visit even more
Turning left shortly after passing the
airfield look out for the storks in
We are now heading for the holiday
centre of Kusadasi. Make sure you don't
miss the first spectacular glimpse of
the sea on your right before the
downhill drive past Adaland Aqua Park
into the town centre.
Contrast the harbour area with its
fishing boats moored alongside
gulet-type trip boats to Ladies' Beach,
where there were only inches to spare
between the oil?covered bodies in the
hot summer sun.
If you want to experience more peaceful
surroundings, travel out of town to the
horse-riding centre of Degirmen. Here
you can wander for an hour or two, see
the animals, ride a horse or stop for
something to eat. Try the cheese and
parsley gozleme, delicious! Don't leave
without walking across the rope bridge
over the water filled with ducks.
Approximately 3 hours from Izmir and
about 15 kilometres out of Denizli is
the stunning geological site which is
Pamukale, meaning cotton castle. Known
as The White Paradise, this is a 'must
see' area. A spectacular 100-metres-high
limestone formation. Wander through the
constantly flowing waters, known for
their healing properties. The town
itself is also well worth a visit.
World Unity on the Aegean Blue 23rd
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