Izmir in Turkey is a cluster of nine districts reaching along the shoreline of the Aegean Sea. Today a city of palatial, palm-fringed boulevards, thriving commercial districts, pavement cafes and fine restaurants, Izmir rests on prolific antique foundations which reach back through time to prehistoric settlements, and not so far back to the precedent city of Smyrna which was all but destroyed in a fire in 1922.
The skyline is a stratified spread of pastel and white concrete buildings, flowing from the curving coast of the Izmir Gulf and climbing toward the looming Foca hills. An extraordinary feature, the Asansor or Street Elevator was originally constructed in 1907, and vertically links the low-lying Mithatpasa Street to Halilrifatpasa, which is almost 50 metres directly above. Not only is it the most practical way to avoid a crippling 155 step climb to the summit, it provides a dynamic view of the city, and a romantic place to dine by sunset.
The ornate obelisk of a 25m high clock tower marks Kornak Square; designed by French architect Raymond Charles Père it sprouts four fountains at its base and is shaded by swaying palms. Nearby, the Ethnography Museum houses a collection of local artefacts and examples of craftsmanship from surrounding areas, including jewellery, costumes, carpets and weapons. Its immediate neighbour, the Archaeology Museum, holds Greek and Roman relics, including fragments of tombs and ancient sarcophagi, friezes, and statues of Archimedes and Poseidon.
Just outside the city, visit the Agora and glimpse the shadows of former Roman grandeur, weave through the crumbling columns which once surrounded Zeus’s altar, and touch what’s been left behind by the ravages of history and earthquakes. Tours of the ancient city of Ephesus and St Mary’s House can be arranged through a private company, and incorporate the final resting place of the Virgin Mary and the temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. These cost around 60 GBP and include lunch, transport, entry and a guide.
The historical Kemeralti Bazaar is sculpted around the inner bay of the city. Pocketed with stalls and stores, it’s a warren of coloured walls, cloth canopies and archaic archways. Always rushing with humanity, Kemeralti is vibrant, evocative and intensified by the hectic music which often drifts from its various buskers, the scent of cooking food and the light and shade which contest for supremacy in its tributary streets. Traditional stalls selling goods like handwoven kilims, wooden and leather crafts and a plethora of different foods intersect with contemporary restaurants, cinemas and businesses. Kemeralti is also important for its mosques, synagogues and the mayor’s building. Fight through the crowds, haggle for a bargain, or sit in a shady corner and nurse an aromatic Turkish coffee to absorb the atmosphere.
Izmir holds an international festival for four weeks starting in June, and opens its historical and cultural spaces such as the Celsus Library and Ephesus Antique Theatre to leading classical musicians and orchestras of the world. The Izmir International Festival also hosts ballet, jazz and theatre, and has just celebrated its 25th year. The Izmir European Jazz festival and the International Izmir Short Film Festival have also garnered respectful followings in recent years, and a well-timed trip during any of these should reap rich cultural rewards. Any other time of the year may result in a pleasant surprise in the way of a mini festival, as Izmir is a city which seems to embrace any excuse for celebration, from its Watermelon Festival in July to the deliciously titled Bird Paradise and Golden Cherry Festivals during May.
Last Edit by HT Helper on 12/10/2011 EDIT NOW >>