Izmir, a city by the bay

One of the most unlikely destinations in Turkey, Izmir offers a whole gamut of experiences such as luxurious waterfronts, scrumptious kebabs and a dose of history

Cesme Castle

Standing on the ramparts of Cesme Castle, I am enthralled by the scene set before me as the warm winds of the Aegean Sea do little to warm me from the cold Turkish winter. Although
Turkey has been the flag-bearer of the ‘East meets West’ culture with influences of the Ottoman empire, Izmir is a throwback to the Roman times. At the crossroads of two worlds, Izmir acted as a gateway for Roman expansion into Asia and is littered with remnants from almost two millennia ago.

A city that started its historical journey about five millennia ago, Izmir is a town on the western coast of Turkey. Filled with historic remnants of the different empires that have passed through it, Izmir is a town filled with gigantic castles, stone pathways and flecks of history everywhere. Set against the magnificent backdrop of the Aegean Sea, Izmir is an offbeat destination that must be explored.

Cesme Castle & Marina

But for right now, let’s start our journey at one of the castles of the Ottoman empire. Located about 35 miles from the city, the 500-year-old castle of Cesme is a throwback to the medieval times when stone fortifications battled against iron cannonballs. As the city was an important port which handled trade from all over Europe, Sultan Beyazit II commissioned the building of this fort in 1502. Standing nearly three storeys high and 200 metres wide, the castle that used to house the armies of the Ottoman empire now holds a museum within it. All around me, thick yellow stone walls are inscribed with Arabic verses as I head to Cesme Museum where more than 400 artefacts are housed. Many of them include coins and terracotta statuettes from the antique city of Erythrai along with books, flags and weapons from the Ottoman-Russian War.

Cesme Marina
Cesme Marina

Checking out from the castle, I decided to take a walk along Cesme Marina which opens up to a majestic view of some of the most luxurious yachts that I could have found in the Mediterranean. The former port has now been converted into a marina which offers the best of food and luxury right by the sea. The Marina opens into a small market that makes for some of the loveliest of smells and sounds that you can come across. As a troupe of musicians strikes up a tune against the fading sunlight, I relish some delightful Turkish delights at Komsu Firin Bakery.

The beautiful town of Alacati

Our next destination is the small town of Alacati which abounds with beautifully coloured cafes and cobblestone pavements. But I am not in Alacati for the scenic beauty it offers. Instead, I am here to try out their favourite mastic. Mastic is a natural resin that releases a sweet syrup, quite akin to that of maple syrup. Alacati is home to a plethora of restaurants serving mastic tea and ice cream. I sit down with a cup of the town’s famous tea to observe the silence and the medley of colours while enjoying its cloying sweetness. All around me, old stone houses, painted shutters and doors are covered in rambling vines of brightly coloured bougainvillea.

The markets of Izmir

Onto the markets of Izmir then. It is a cacophony of smells, sights and sounds as the Grand Bazaar of Izmir envelop all my senses. Walking along cramped places and small dinghy shops, I discover a bewildering array of glassware reflecting sunlight into various shades. There’s a lot to buy in these souqs, including earthenware and spices, but bargaining is one tool that should definitely be up your sleeve.

But what I come away from the market with is an exquisitely decorated hookah. The Turkish love smoking their hookah and it is amply displayed in the marketplace in various shapes and sizes. These glittering handis are filled up with water and form the country’s national pastime, so much so that even the eateries lining the streets are filled with it.

The eateries, oh the eateries of Turkey. Every time I turned my head, there was a spittle and a spark from a doner kebab being prepared nearby. The city of Izmir is filled with these small plastic-sheet-fronted stores where you can find the most scrumptious of kebabs along with a dash of salad and the omnipresent hookah. Combined with a cup full of traditional Turkish tea, the soft, juicy kebabs and a dash of hookah are the perfect way to enjoy your Turkish afternoons.

The Agora ruins of Ephesus

I finally head over to my final destination which houses the damaged ruins of Rome. During the height of the Roman empire, the port city was an important trading centre and most of the trading used to happen in this multi-level marketplace, very akin to the supermarkets or malls of today. Although age has corroded away the grandeur, the stone walls, which are almost a metre thick in some areas, and the arches provide a strange sense of isolation and comfort to me. The eye-catching vaulted chambers, pillars on the first level and cisterns in the basements of the two basilicas show how it would have looked in its heyday.

The Agora ruins of Ephesus
The Agora ruins of Ephesus

I close my eyes for a moment as I take in the massive extent of these ruins at Agora, imagining it to be a bustling marketplace; it could have been filled with Toga-clad Romans going about their daily work. Well, a history grad can only hope for so much. It was time to head back to the present era and catch my flight back to Istanbul.

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry

Comments:

Izmir, a city by the bay

0 comments

Write the first review for this !