A Short Visit to Seaside Izmir

An ancient sarcophagus, one of the treasures uncovered in the Izmir area and now on view at the Ahmet Piristina City Archive and Museum in Izmir.

As we traveled the city, our guide Mesut talked about the modern Izmir, which has a population officially reported at 3.5 million, but “we know it is more,” he said. Mesut also said this west coast city, which once had sizeable Armenian and Greek

populations, is more European oriented and more secular in

A beautiful sculpted head, one of the treasures uncovered in the Izmir area and now on view at the Ahmet Piristina City Archive and Museum in Izmir.

outlook than other parts of Turkey.

As for the earthquakes — a risk that has not abated over the millennia — he said the government now is examining buildings for their resistance to earthquakes and will knock down those that are not sufficiently resistant. That could have some drastic effects on the city.

Back on Ataturk Street, we were dropped off at the Hookah Cafe — an irresistible name — for a little time on our own. In this location, we apparently were at the hub for the city’s cafe culture and nightlife, but it did not matter in the afternoon.

One of the street entertainers seen on a walking street in Izmir.

Some of our small group strolled on a long and wide pedestrianized street called Cumhuriyet, which parallels Ataturk Street. There were ad hoc entertainers and a few street vendors, plus sidewalk cafes.

For reasons I cannot begin to defend, I agreed to join our hosts and other journalists at one outdoor eatery to sample desserts, as if we weren’t eating enough of those at regular meals!

After this, we did not even attempt to walk back to the ship, which had been the original plan.

Although our Izmir visit was focused on the metropolis itself, other cruise itineraries allow more time at Izmir because the city is one of the ports typically used for access to the ruins at Ephesus. (Kusadasi is the other gateway to Ephesus.)

One of numerous mosques in Izmir.

Also, there are other alternatives for a short in-town visit such as ours, including the Kemeralti bazaar, several mosques, museums (Archaeological Museum, Ethnography Museum and Ataturk Museum), a 17th century caravanserai, plus a trip to Kadifekale for broad views of the city.

Izmir boasts internationally known beach areas, too, but North Americans can get good sand and sun closer to home.

Camel wrestling is another thing.

I spent several days in Izmir in 1977, attending a travel industry conference. I remember little about the city except that all delegates were invited to see camel wrestling, the first time this traditional diversion had been staged in Izmir in more than a quarter century. Local officials talked then of attracting tourists to see such events in the way tourists may seek out bullfights in Spain.

The camel fights haven’t achieved that kind of notoriety, but Selcuk, in Izmir province, now hosts Turkey’s largest annual camel wrestling event.

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