Write:Melih Uslu - Photo:Yavuz Meyveci
İzmir, dissatisfied with solely the beauty of its beaches, famous for their sea breezes, aims at hosting five million tourists in five years, through thermal, congress and culture tourism throughout the 12 months of the year.
The exhibition entitled “From İzmir to Smyrna”, which was held at Paris’s famous Louvre Museum, just before the new year, pointed at an inheritance of 8 thousand 500 years, in other words, to the cosmopolitan history of İzmir. İzmir, the art and medical center of the Hellenistic Period, was the most important port of the Aegean Region. Today, Izmir’s cultural identiy on the other hand, bears an important potential. If this accumulation is well seized, it is possible for İzmir to become the cultural center of the Eastern Mediterranean, the heart of the Aegean as a culture, art and design reservoir. The biggest force behind the İzmir Cultural Workshop that gathered for this aim, is the excitement felt for the project by the locals.
JOY ALONG KORDON
İzmir, known for its warm and casual locals, specific to the Mediterranean, is one of Turkey’s most popular touristic provinces, with its hinterland extending from Efes to Çeşme, and Urla to Karaburun. The city center, cooled down by its famous sea breezes, is beautiful enough for its touristic surroundings to envy. Alsancak, with its bay window houses shadowed by huge palm trees, open air restaurants, hundreds of years old pastry shops and smart shop windows, is the shopping center of the city. Kıbrıs Şehitleri Caddesi, which is like the heart of the city, where you can trace the Levantines of İzmir, is like a miniature of Beyoğlu’s İstiklal Caddesi. Kültür Park, which acts as the Central Park of İzmir, is bustling throughout the year with concerts and various fairs. Following a joyful walk, this meets you with historical Alsancak Station and hundreds of years old pastry shops, Kordon awaits you. Whatever you do, order a grilled sea bream, served with plenty of arugula. You can leave the joy of a horse and carriage ride for after the meal.
THE CENTER OF İZMİR
Orhan Veli Kanık once said, “The center of İstanbul is the cinema.” It is possible to say that for İzmir, the center is Konak. The clock tower rising in Konak Square, which is very famous for its pigeons, is inescapable in photographs of İzmir. The clock, which is dated 1901, was sent as a rare present by Wilhelm II of Germany to Sultan Abdulhamit. Yalı Mosque of the 18th century, ornamented with Kütahya tiles, is another of the symbols of the square. The building that completes the trio in the square is the city hall, which was completed in 1872. The flag which was hoisted on this building for the arrival of the Turkish Army on September 9th, 1922, symbolizes the liberation of İzmir. The labyrinth streets of Kemeraltı opening up to the square are an open market where all kinds of goods can be found. Historical commercial buildings which were once used as an inner castle, nowadays serve as shops and cafes for tourists. The most popular of the commercial buildings, the newest of which is a few hundred years old, is Kızlarağası. The streets surrounding this building which has a wide court in the center, are full of family owned restaurants. Basmane, one of the oldest districts of İzmir is divided up by one of the long roads extending out of Kemeraltı. Agora, one of the rare historical places in the city center, is also close by. The Antique bazaar in the Namazgâh district was constructed in a mesh format.
Konak Pier, which is in walking distance to shopping areas such as Konak and Alsancak, used to be a customs building. This building, which is well known for its steel construction, is currently used as a shopping arcade. You can use the coastal road extending from here to Pasaport, which can also be used as a hiking route. The people of İzmir fill the cafes here, especially on the weekends, in order to enjoy the bay. It is also up to you to add a different color to your trip, by adding a ferry trip from Konak to Karşıyaka. Do not forget that a very lively shopping arcade awaits you with its shops, restaurants and cultural places. You can travel out to Balçova, in order to experience different tastes of the city. The spas here have been known as Agamemnon since the Antique Periods and were used as a recovery center during the Ottoman Period. İnciraltı, which is located like the port of Balçova, is the place for people who wish to get some fresh sea air, whereas the people who wish to get some fresh mountain air frequently opt for the teleferic. On the other hand, Buca and Bornova, which used to be the countryside of İzmir, look like huge university campuses. It is still possible to see the old mansion houses of the Levantines, who have had a big impact in Izmir’s cultural history. You may spend your final day in İzmir at Asansör. Situated in Karataş, one of the elegant districts of İzmir, the view of İzmir from the top floor of the elevator connecting Mithatpaşa Road to Halil Rıfat Paşa district at the top, is priceless. The elevator that was built in place of the steep staircase in 1907 between the two districts gave its name to the vicinity, Asansör. The house where Dario Moreno, the famous singer who put his mark on a period with his romantic songs, lived for a period is in this district, too.
KUMRU AND ALMONDS ON ICE
Is it not the variety of treats that make the places you visit popular as well? Although similar ones are made elsewhere, you must try kumru (a kind of sandwich), mastic milk pudding and lokma (bite size) dessert, whose names are interrelated with İzmir. Fresh almonds served on a bed of ice by the sea shores of Kordon and Alsancak satisfy the snack requirements of the people of İzmir. If you want to get away from the provincial environment, in a few hours, you can find yourself in totally different worlds. Alaçatı, Kuşadası, Dikili, Seferihisar and Kemalpaşa. The choice is yours! However, you should be aware that each corner of İzmir is unique and ready to be explored. The Ephesus - Selçuk - Şirince route displays a unique cultural synthesis from the Antique Greek to Roman and Seljuk to Ottoman, right in front of your eyes.
Dilek Peninsula, one of Anatolia’s oldest national parks, is a place for excursion in and of itself with its rare species of animals and plants, as well as its untouched beaches. Foça is among the most important tourist centers of the province with its seals, mythological rocks, quiet beaches and elegant fish restaurants. Urla, the oldest olive oil production center in history, is like an Aegean town engraved in our memories, with its Karantina Island and shore cafes. Sığacık, hidden behind tangerine and lemon groves is a typical secluded Aegean village. Tire and Birgi, which still keep the elegant Ottoman landscape alive, are still towns of memories. There are so many places to be visited in İzmir. Don’t be late! You will agree with the poet Seferis from Urla, who said: “The port is old, I can no longer wait for the friends who have left for the open seas…”