Small, quiet, and attractive, Foca is the North Aegean’s other summer resort, rivaling Kuşadasi and Ayvalık as the non-Bodrum summer escape. With its large fishing fleet and clear, blue waters, the more-refined Foca offers a welcome variation on Aegean resort towns. Its strategic location near the gulf of Izmir has made the town both a popular resort and a large military center. The navy controls the land south and the jandarma training school hugs most of the land on the interior.
In antiquity, Phokaia, as it was called, was a major trading and seafaring center. Herodotus reports that Phokaian shipbuilders built 50-oared galleys capable of ferrying 500 people across the Mediterranean and Black Seas. On trips like these, they founded both the French city of Marseilles and Samsun, on the Black Sea coast. Recent archaeological excavations have revealed segments of the massive walls Herodotus described. Though Foca has declined in importance, it remains true to its ancient character in at least one respect: in ancient Greek, “phokia” means “seal.” The town still has a close relationship with its small population of endangered Monk Seals, who have earned Foca’s landscape of scree-covered hills and rocky coastline official protection from development. They have become the town’s mascot, their black eyes keeping watch from posters, pamphlets, and T- shirts. Some scholars say that the legend of the Sirens, the tantalizing sea nymphs whose songs lured sailors to their deaths, derives from the barking of Foca’s seals.
Buses: From the Foca otogar, buses run to Izmir (1hr., every 30min. 6am-11pm, $1.50), some of which stop along the way in Yeni Foca (30min., every hr. 8am-8pm, $.75). Hanedan-bound dolmuş service the beach/camping area to the north (every 15min. 8am-midnight, $.25). To reach Foca from the south, catch the direct bus either from Izmir or en route. Approaching from the north, you’ll be dropped off at the Foca junction, where either a dolmuş ($.75) or a coach from Izmir can take you the last 20km. The bus/dolmuş stop at this junction is located on the road that runs perpendicular to the north-south highway.
Bike Rental: (®812 19 69), at the “Motor-rent” sign across from the bus station. Bikes $5 per day; motorcycles $15 per day. Open daily 8am-11pm.
ORIENTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION
Foca lies 20km west of the north-south highway connecting the North Aegean (Canakkale, Ayvalik, etc.) with Izmir. The town is divided into two main sections: Eski (old) Foca and the less attractive Yeni (new) Foca, about 10km north, a big resort town, complete with Club Med. Eski Foca consists of a wide strip between the hills and the shore around two harbors the Küçük Deniz (Little Sea) and the Büyük Deniz (Big Sea). Most restaurants, accommodations, and other establishments are clustered near the Küçük Deniz, while many sights lie along the Büyük Deniz. Street addresses arc largely useless, as Foca numbers its streets rather than naming them. However, the main street, running through town from the otogar down to and along the right side of the Küçük Deniz harbor, does have a name: Küçük Deniz Sahil Cad. Leaving the otogar, you’ll see the tourist information office almost immediately. Küçük Deniz Sahil Cad. runs to the right of the office.
- Tourist Office: (®812 12 22), near the otogar end of Küçük Deniz Sahil Cad. Organized and well-run. Staff arranges summer boat tours, recommends sights, provides maps and pamphlets, and checks hotel/pension vacancies. Open M-F 8:30am-5:30pm.
- Boat Tours: About a dozen summer boat tours leave in the mornings from Küçük Deniz. Tourist office has info, about prices, schedules, and routes.
- Banks: Cirrus/MC/Plus/V ATMs are at Türkiye İş Bankası, on the left side of Küçük Deniz Sahil Caddesi as you walk from the otogar to the harbor, and at T.C. Ziraat Bankası, down from Türkiye iş Bankası. They’ll also exchange currency and cash traveler’s checks (for an exorbitant fee). Open M-F 9am-12:30pm and l:30-5:30pm.
- Pharmacy: Merkez Eczanesi (812 12 31), on the right side of Küçük Deniz Sahil Cad. as you walk toward the harbor, across from Türkiye İş Bankası. Pharmacist speaks French, Italian, and English. Open M-Sa 8:30am-8pm.
- Hospital: The main hospital (®812 14 29) is 30m beyond the Karaçam Hotel on Küçük Deniz Sahil Cad.
- Internet Access: Mouse Internet Cafe, just beyond Türkiye İş Bankası. Listen to American Top 40 hits while you email. $.75 per hr. Open daily 9am-1am.
- PTT: Across from the tourist office. Exchanges currency, cashes traveler’s checks (when currency is available), and offers Poste Restante. Metered phones inside and Türk Telekom phones outside for international calls. Open daily 8am-11pm.
Postal code: 35680.
Depending almost exclusively on summer tourism, Foca’s pensions charge according to the volume of business, and, in most cases, prices are somewhat negotiable. Foca’s hotels, all located on the waterfront, tend to have a higher opinion of themselves than they ought to, though most are clean.
Siren Pension, İsmet Paşa Mah. 161 Sok. (812 26 60; fax 812 62 20). Follow Küçük Deniz Sahil Cad. to the right of the harbor and take a right at the “Ensar” sign pointing inland. A large, well-kept family pension with a terrace view of the mountains and the sea. The owners of this mom-and-pop operation speak German and some English. Guest kitchen and most rooms with private bath. Free use of washing machine. Bar, TV, and A/C in living room. Open Mar.-Oct. Breakfast $1. $5 per person.
Ensar Pension, İsmet Paşa Mah. 161 Sok. (812 17 77; fax 812 61 59), next to and similar to Siren, but without the stunning view. Caters to families. No alcohol available. Rooms have carpeting and phones. TV room with sewing machine. 24hr. hot water and guest kitchen. Laundry service $3.25 per load. Breakfast $1. $5 per person. MC/V. Hotel Güneş (812 19 15; fax 812 21 55). More expensive than the local pensions, but additional amenities include fans, hair dryers, and shower curtains. Includes buffet breakfast. Singles $11; doubles $15.
Ferah Camping (812 11 42). No-frills camping on the beach. Travelers come to camp or swim. Electricity, showers (no hot water), and a little restaurant next door. Owners are very generous, especially to weary travelers with slender wallets. Take any “Hanedan” dolmuş from the Foca otogar and ask to be dropped off at Remzi’nin Yeri ($.25). Walk toward the beach; follow the signs. No English spoken. $2 per day.
There is no shortage of fresh fish restaurants along the harbor on Küçük Deniz Sahil Cad., nor of pide, kebap, or even pizza joints. At most harborfront establishments, you can browse the menu first. Be mindful to ask for prices when they are unlisted; once you’ve been served and given the bill, complaints are futile. The farther inland you go, the more economical the dining becomes.
Rıdvan Usta’nın Yeri (812 74 64), Büyük Deniz Cad., on your right as you exit the otogar and head toward the harbor on Küçük Deniz Sahil Cad. Classic Turkish dishes on shiny wooden tables. Döner kebap ($1.50), lahmacun ($.50), and especially delicious macar köfte (meatballs in a cheese sauce; $1.50). Open 24hr. MC/V. 0 Kordon Restaurant, 8 Küçük Deniz Sahil Cad. (812 61 91), in the pedestrian zone on the waterfront. A cut above the rest, Kordon offers foreign specials (chicken schnitzel $3) and fresh fish (priced daily) in an attractive setting. On futbol days, a TV is displayed in the front window for outdoor diners. Open daily 9am-lam. MC/V.
Venedik Pizza (812 64 14), Aşıklar Yolu Cad., just beyond Deniz Restaurant on the left side of Küçük Deniz. If you’re craving a slice of the West (or a close approximation), Venedik bakes pan pizzas to order. Varieties range from vegetable to sausage, tuna, or egg pizzas ($1.50-2). Open daily 8:30am-midnight or lam. V.
A Number of sights can be seen simply by strolling around Büyük Deniz. Start facing the tourist information office, turn left, and walk on Eski Adliye Sok., which is one block from the sea. You’ll pass a sculpture of Atatürk with two children on your left. The Fatih Camii appears next on your right. Built sometime between 1455 and 1570, this mosque has undergone extensive repair and thus no longer looks as it originally did. If you walk down to the waterfront and continue with the sea on your left, you’ll arrive at the Beşkapılar (Five Doors) and city walls, immediately in front of the Temple of Athena. These walls formed the earliest fortifications of Phokaia in the 6th century BC, and have survived intact because of repairs done first by the Byzantines, then later by the Genoese in the late 13th century, and finally by the Ottomans in the 16th century.
Up a small hill and to your right is the excavation site for the Temple of Athena, built in the early 6th century BC. Her temple’s location on raised ground, as well as her presence on ancient coins and in ancient inscriptions, demonstrates Athena’s importance to the Phokians. To the left on the small hill is the Kayalar Camii. This mosque has also undergone numerous renovations since it was first constructed in the 16th or 17th century and also lost much of its original appearance.
A bit farther along on your right is the Phokaia Port, containing the Kybele Açık Hava Tapınağı (the Cybele Open Air Temple), a sanctuary carved from stone and dedicated to the goddess Cybele in 580 BC. Cybele was the guardian of life and fertility, but, over time, she has come to be associated with having additional powers.
Apart from the Byzantine mosaics, a block from the Aydın Motel, which are currently under excavation and not visible, the rest of Foca’s sights must be reached by boat since they are in the military zone. The well-restored Dış Kale (Outer Castle) clings to the tip of the point occupied by the navy, and is more impressive than the fortress. The siren rocks are far1 off in the ocean near Orak Island. The castle, rocks, and island are all visited by boat tours.