Pearl of the Aegean Sea

, CULTURE

Izmir in Turkey is a paradise of Turkish hospitality and architecture while its markets are laden with treats for shoppers and history lovers

“Please come inside and see my shop called Siddhartha named after Gautam Buddha,” Aron requested a group of people who were visiting Kizlaragasi Hani market in Izmir in Turkey. As the group saw incense sticks from Mysuru, prayer flags from Ladakh, Ganesha and Shiva statues and paintings, Aron recited a Shiva Mantra and told them that he was a Shiva and Ganesha devotee.

The group experienced first-hand the multi faith and multi-cultural legacy of over 8,500 years of Izmir as they were treated to Turkish hospitality in the form of Turkish tea.

KONAK PIER

zmir is known as the pearl of the Aegean Sea and the best way to experience this is at the Konak Pier, which borders the Gulf of Izmir. The pier with its pristine coastline sees joggers, cyclists, kids and even fishermen enjoying their day while visitors are thrilled to click selfies with the private yachts that dock near it.

Close to the pier is the Yali Mosque, which is also known as the Konak Mosque. The octagonal mosque has beautiful Kutahya tiles and was built by Ayse Hanim. During the First World War and again in 1964 it underwent restoration. In front of the Yali Mosque is the Clock Tower, which majestically stands out with its Moorish architecture. It was designed by Raymond Charles Pere, a French architect while its  four clocks were gifted by the German Emperor Wilhelm the Second.

LOVE STREET

Within walking distance from the Clock Tower is the palm fringed love street, which is lined with bookshops and gift shops. A statue at the beginning of this street is called love time while the street itself has 33 stars paving the street. The stars are a tribute to Turkish actors and actresses and are named after them.

KEMERALTI MARKET

Kemeralti is the historical market of Izmir that originally was confined around the street surrounding the shallow inner bay area. In the 17th century, it was filled with water and this led to the bazaar being expanded to a larger area. A couple of hours exploring its lanes is recommended. The aroma of Turkish coffee or Kahve as it is called in Izmir is tempting and one gets to see how Turkish coffee is made by pounding the coffee beans to powder in front of you in the machine.

One can sit in any of the cafes with carpet like colourful upholstery and sip coffee or tea just like the locals. Izmir is known for its dried fruits and nuts and apart from the usual almonds, hazelnuts, raisins, walnuts, apricots and dates, there are dried mulberries and dried persimmon fruit on offer. According to Solon, a statesman and poet of Athens, “The remedy for all life situations is the fruit of the olive tree.” And so as olive oil illuminated nights, bandaged wounds and was the secret to healthy and disease free long lives in olden days, in modern times it is used for nourishing skin and hair.

Apart from olive oil , there are green , brown , purple or black olives sold in Kemeralti which also has a number of synagogues and mosques. Kizlaragasi Hani was an Ottoman warehouse that was restored and is similar in appearance to the warehouse of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Souvenirs including soaps in colourful boxes, evil eye hangings, embroidered purses and knickknacks are sold here.

AGORA OF SMYRNA

Idil Yazicioglu, a veteran guide of the city adds, “The Agora of Smyrna was used for administration and politics. It also served as a judicial and commercial base. Its location was chosen because of its strategic position towards the bay and the harbour making it easy to defend and keep the harbor safe.” Even today one can see aqueducts, columns, inscriptions, porticoes, headstones and the basement. A Turpentine tree which heals 72 types of diseases and which has been sanctified for a long time greets visitors at the entrance.

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