I’ve been to İzmir quite a few times since that’s where Ferda grew up and where her parents still live. However, until my visit last month, the only sort of touristy thing I’d done in İzmir was climbing in Kaynaklar, a village in a pretty area a bit east of the city. How have I not written a blog about Kaynaklar??!! We’ve spent at least two weeks camping and climbing there in at least two different trips.
What I made time for this trip to İzmir was the extensive market area of Kemeraltı, the Roman Agora, the archaeology museum, and the Church of Saint Polycarp.
As with most good tours this one started with a bicycle to get to the center of the city. This is İzmir’s BİSİM system.
Kemeraltı in the center of İzmir might be the funnest market to visit in all of Turkey. How had I not spent more time in there before? It’s where İzmirites go shopping, but you can also find almost anything a tourist might hope to buy in Turkey. Indeed there’s even one small area dedicated to preserving handmade arts and crafts that are dying out in Turkey, like silk and felt (mixed together) textiles and detailed painting with amazingly small brushes. You can find those shops in the arcade under this mosque:
There are many ruined Roman cities in the area surrounding İzmir (I’ve added Claros, Notion, Metropolis, Kolophon, Teos, Erythrai, and Klazomenai to my list of places to see, and of course I’d already visited Ephesus and Pergamon). However, İzmir’s Archaelogy Museum is quite disappointing. Antalya, Ankara, and İstanbul all have good archaeology museums. Feel free to skip the one in İzmir. Next door there’s an ethnography museum that I didn’t have time for — something for my next visit.
The old Roman Agora, however, in the center of İzmir was an unexpected surprise. From the top it looks like a flea market for Roman columns. Check out these:
compared to the one we have in our garden in Antalya:
According to Wikpedia, İzmir’s “agora is now the largest and the best preserved among Ionian agoras.” There’s ongoing excavation work at the site, but you can walk down and visit some arched walkways backing up to what was a huge basilica.
I enjoyed walking around the site.
The last thing I had time for this trip was what’s billed as “İzmir’s oldest church”, the Church of Saint Polycarp (open for visits 3pm-5pm, every day except Sunday). However, it’s not so old (built in 1625) so maybe it’s İzmir’s oldest church still standing or oldest church “still in service” as I found in some tourist information. The highlight here are the frescoes on the ceiling, restored (or painted?) as recently as the late 19th century, I believe.
If bicycles are a good way to start a tour, then beers are a good way to end a tour. A Guinness at Varuna in Alsancak: