Izmir (pop. 4 million), formerly ancient Smyrna, has risen from a tumultuous past to become Turkey’s third-largest city and second-largest port. Reputedly the birthplace of Homer, Smyrna gained prominence in the 9th century BC and thrived before Lydians from Sardis destroyed it about 300 years later. In 334 BC, Alexander the Great conquered the city and refounded it atop Mt. Pagus, now called Kadifekale. During the Roman and Byzantine periods, Smyrna reemerged as a prosperous port. The diversion of the River Hermes protected the harbor from silting up, saving Smyrna from the landlocked fate of its stagnating neighbors. In 1535, Süleyman the Magnificent signed a treaty with France, bringing trade to Smyrna. Beginning with the influx of Christian and Jewish merchants, the city had become a haven for migrants from mainland Greece by the 19th century.
After the Ottoman defeat in World War I, the Greek army occupied Izmir in hopes of uniting the area with mainland Greece. Turkish nationalist leader Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) defeated the overextended Greek forces who had exhausted themselves in the Anatolian heartland. Greek troops left Smyrna on September 9, 1922, when the city’s minority quarters burned. The Asia Minor Disaster, as the events of 1922 came to be called, spelled the end of Greek presence in Izmir.
Along the waterfront, Izmir is a cosmopolitan city with wide boulevards, plazas, and plenty of greenery. Fast cars, luxury hotels, and other signs of conspicuous wealth distinguish the coast. Away from the water, however, much of Izmir is a bleak, factory-laden wasteland; on the outskirts, poverty and uncontrolled industrial expansion combine to produce heartbreaking urban squalor. Still, the city is worth visiting for a few days, especially in June, July, and August, when it hosts the International Izmir Festival, attracting world-renowned musical, dance, and theater performers. Unlike most Aegean towns, summer in Izmir is low season, as many of the city’s well-to-do leave town for beach resorts like Foca and Dikili.
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- Flights: Airport Adnan Menderes, 20km south of Izmir, connects Turkey to most major European cities. To get to the airport take the Havaş bus from the tourist office (30min., 12 per day 4:15am-8:30pm, $2). Many major airlines serve the airport, but Turkish Airlines (airport office ®274 24 24 or 274 28 00; fax 274 20 33) often has the cheapest flights. The sales office, Gazi Osman Paşa (info 484 12 20, reservations 445 53 63; fax 483 62 81), is just up from the tourist office toward the sea. Open M-Sa 8;30am-8pm, Su 8:30am- 5:30pm. To Ankara (1hr.; $75, students $60) and İstanbul (45min.; $75, students $60).
- Buses: For major intercity travel, head to the modern Yeni Garaj. Times and prices vary, and buses head just about everywhere. Major destinations on Kamil Koç and Pamukkale include: Ankara (8hr., 12 per day 9am-lam, $9); Antalya (8hr., 17 per day 4am- lam, $9); Bodrum (via Selçuk, 4hr., every hr., $5); Bursa (5hr., 10 per day 9am-lam, $6); Istanbul (9hr., every hr., $11); Kuşadası (1hr., 7 per day 8:30am-7:30pm, $2); Marmaris (5hr., every hr. 8am-9pm, $7); Selçuk (take a Bodrum-bound bus and ask to be let off at Selçuk; 1hr.; $2). For more local destinations including Manisa (lhr., every 30min. 6am-9pm, $1.60) and Sardis, go to the upper level of the terminal to purchase your ticket and board the bus.
- Trains: From Basmane station to: Ankara (13hr.; 6:15, 6:55pm; $8); Denizli (6hr.; 7am, 3:15, 6:35pm; $2.50); Söke (3hr., 7:08pm, $1.50). Trains stop en route in many other towns. No trains currently run to İstanbul.
- Ferries: (464 88 89 or 464 88 64; fax 464 78 34), at the Yeni Liman. One ferry per week to İstanbul (20hr.; Su 2pm; from $11, students $9). There is a weekly ferry to Venice, Italy (3 days; one-way from $172; in winter $145; 15% student discount).
- Car Rental: Niyazoğlu Turizm Company, 1/E Gazi Osman Paşa Bul., down from the tourist office (483 93 00; fax 483 17 00), rents to those 21 and older. From $21 per day. Call or email for reservations.
Izmir’s principal boulevards radiate from roundabouts, called meydan. Cumhuriyet Meydanı, on the waterfront, is the city’s financial center and the home of travel agencies, fashionable restaurants, consulates, and the PTT. Many budget hotels and inexpensive restaurants, along with several bus company offices and the Basmane train station, surround 9 Eylül Meydanı, the center of the Basmane district. To get there from Izmir’s new intercity bus station (Yeni Garaj), head to I lie ground level, where city buses and dolmuş depart. Take city bus #601, 605, 50, 51, 53, 54, or 60. All of these pass near or through 9 Eylül Meydanı, but the best way to make sure you get off in this square is to sit near the bus driver and tell him you want “Basmane Meydanı.” Buy bus tickets from the kiosk before boarding ($.25). To return to the Yeni Garaj, purchase your bus tickets in one of the bus company offices in 9 Eylül Meydanı and take the company shuttle to the station. If the bus company does not provide service to your destination, they will still allow you to use their shuttle. Locals often give directions based on district. Beyond the Basmane district, more ııp-scale Alsancak is to the north, near Yeni Liman, and Konak is, predictably, the area near the Ivonak Clock Tower.
TOURIST AND FINANCIAL SERVICES
- Tourist Office: Tourism Information Office, 1/ID Gazi Osman Paşa Bul. (445 73 90 or 489 92 78; fax 489 92 78). From 9 Eylül Meydanı, walk down Gazi Bul. to the next round about, then turn right onto Gazi Osmanpaşa Bul. Look to your right, about 30m up from the Izmir Hilton Hotel. Some English spoken. Great free maps and other Info. Open daily 8:30am-5:30pm. İstanbul and Cappadocia. Also assists with airline tickets and Izmir tourist information. Open M-F 9am-7pm, Sa 9am-4pm, Su 9am-lpm. Opal Travel Agency, 1 Gazi Osman Paşa Bul. (445 67 67; fax 489 88 65), is in the basement of the Büyük Efes Oteli. Daily tours to Bergama, Efes, and Pamukkale. Open M-F 8:30am-7pm, Sa 8:30am- 4pm. Bintur
- Consulates: UK, 49 Mahmut Esat BozkurtCad. (463 51 51; fax 421 29 14), in Alsancak. US, 13 Kazim Dirik Cad., Flat 805 (441 00 72 or 441 22 03; fax 441 23 73).
- Banks: All national banks and a number of foreign banks have large offices along the waterfront. Smaller banks have offices around Basmane, including a T.C. Ziraat Bankası, on the left side of Gazi Bul, when walking east, just before 9 Eylül Meydanı. Includes a Cirrus/MC/V ATM and currency exchange. Open M-F 9am-12:30pm and l:30-4:30pm. it’s worthwhile to compare rates with the Efes Döviz (exchange bureau) on the other side of Gazi Bul. further from 9 Eylül Meydanı, since they are often more favorable. Open daily 7am-6pm.
- American Express: 270 Atatürk Cad. (463 65 93; fax 422 67 20). In Pamfilya Travel Agency, 15min. from Cumhuriyet Meydanı. Open M-Sa 9am-noon and l:30-6:30pm.
English-Language Bookstore: Net Bookstore, 142/B Cumhuriyet Bul. 142/B (421 26 32), at the intersection of Cumhuriyet Bul. and 1375 Sok., north of Cumhuriyet Mey danı. Decent selection of novels and tourist books on Turkey. Open daily 9am-7pm.
Hamam: Hoşgör Hamamı 360 Sok., No. 10 (484 03 26), in the Mecidiye district south of Basmane. The hamam is shown on the detailed map distributed by the tourist office. Somewhat far from the Basmane area, but walkable (30min. from 9 Eylül Mey danı). Foreigners are advised to make an appointment. Mixed gender groups welcome. Bath and massage $20. Open daily 7am-llam for both genders, 5pm-midnight for men, 11am-5pm for women.
EMERGENCY AND COMMUNICATIONS
Pharmacies: On almost every corner in the downtown area. Aşıkoğlu Eczanesi, 103 Gazi Bul. (483 79 63), on the corner of Gazi Bul. and 1362 Sok., 3 blocks west of 9 Eylül Meydanı. Open M-Sa 8am-8pm.
Hospitals: Ege Üniversitesi Tıp Fakültesi (343 43 43), in Bornova. 2 state hospitals: Alsancak Hastanesi (463 64 65), on Talat Paşa Bul., and Yeşilyurt Devlet Hastanesi, a.k.a. Atatürk Hastanesi (243 43 43), Gazeteci Haşan Tahsin Cad., Yeşilyurt.
Internet Access: Seçkin Internet Cafe, 16 Mimarkemalettin Cad. (482 14 37), on the left side of the street near the intersection with Cumhuriyet Bul. (walking toward the water). New computers with reliable, if slow, connections. To avoid an inflated fee, make sure to set the price and starting time on arrival. $.75 per hr. Open daily 9am- 10pm. The PTT also has 3 computers with Internet access ($.60 per hr.).
PTT: in Cumhuriyet Meydanı. Open M-F 8am-llpm. 24hr. currency and traveler’s check exchange and sale of phone cards.
Postal Code: 35000.
FOOD AND ENTERTAINMENT
Güzel Izmir Lokantaları, 1368 Sok., No. 8/B (445 05 31), at the Basmane end of the 1369 Sok. Along with 9 Eylül Et Lokantası, Güzel Izmir is the best lokanta in the vicinity, offering traditional dishes in a clean setting. Excellent moussaka at cheaper-than-aver- age prices. Meat dishes $1, vegetable dishes $.75. Open daily 7am-11pm.
9 Eylül Et Lokantası, 9 Eylül Meydanı, No. 5/B (445 05 31). A popular spot offering exceptionally flavorful meat dishes ($1-1.50) and vegetarian options. Try the taze fasu¬lye (green beans in tomato sauce; $1). Outdoor tables with a view of the buzzing square. Open daily 5am-llpm.
Basmane Kebap Salonu, 157/A Fevzıpaşa Bul. (425 50 19), a few doors down on the right as you walk away from the train station. A display case at the front of this res¬taurant holds the meats from which you create a şiş mix (chicken şiş $2; mixed meat $2.50). The specialty is içli köfte (meatballs with deep-fried batter; $1.50 each). Köfte and şiş come in normal or hot “acılı” form. Open daily llam-11:30pm. V.
Sera Cafe-Bar Restaurant, 190/A Atatürk Cad., Alsancak (464 25 95). This trendy hot spot offers a relaxing sea breeze and a refreshing harbor view. The eclectic decor combines Egyptian and Renaissance motifs. Turkish, Continental, and American breakfasts ($1.50-1.75). Burgers $1.25. Cocktails $2.50. Live Turkish and foreign music every night 9pm until closing. Open daily 7am-3am.
Bolula Hasan Usta, 141/B Cumhuriyet Bul. (464 67 26 or 464 67 93), a few minutes north of Cumhuriyet Meydanı. A Parisian-style cafe offering tempting Turkish desserts, including ekmek kadayıfı ($.80) and krem karamel ($.80). Open daily 7am-midnight. O Kültürpark (446 14 56). Entrances at 9 Eylül Meydanı, Montrö Meydanı, Lozan Mey¬danı, the southern end of Ziya Gökalp Bul., and the western end of Akıncılar Cad. A great center for day- and nightlife, especially during the International Fair (Aug. 15-25). Features various attractions including numerous restaurants, tea gardens, a zoo (open 9am-6pm; $.15), an amusement park (open 1 lam-midnight), a disco, and a casino (both open 9pm-5am). Crowds are most vigorous on weekends. Open 24hr.
Izmir’s agora (marketplace) was built in the 4th century BC, destroyed by an earthquake in 178 AD, and subsequently rebuilt by Emperor Marcus Aurelius. The mediocre remains of ancient columns and more interesting tombstones can be reached by walking south on Gazi Osman Paşa Bul. and turning left on Anafartalar Cad. At the time of publication, the ruins were closed for restoration, but if you’re lucky,
you might be able to find someone with a key to let you in. Above the city at Mt. Pagus is the Kadifekale. Alexander originally built it in the 4th century BC, but var¬ious conquerors frequently altered and restored it. The park within the walls of the Kadifekale is intriguing, yet may be unsafe after dark. Dolmuş marked “Mezarlık” leave from in front of the agora entrance on Anafartalar Cad. and ascend the mountain, offering a thrilling panorama of the bay ($.25).
Strolling along Anafartalar Cad. from its origin at the Basmane station, you’ll pass evidence of a less-industrialized Turkey çay salonu (tea houses), men smoking nargile, children and vendors filling the air with their cries, and colorful streets that eventually turn into Izmir’s full-fledged bazaar as you cross Gazi Osman Paşa Bul. The bazaar runs at a feverish pace, crowded with shoppers and determined hawkers. Leather, jewelry, and name-brand knockoffs are the most abundant offerings. (Open M-Sa 9am-8pm.)
For a more subdued experience, Izmir’s Archaeological Museum, near Konak Square, offers what is probably the finest collection of statuary outside of Istanbul. Among finds from Ephesus and other local sites are elaborate sarcophagi and extraordinary statues. (Open Tu-Su 9am-5pm. $1.50, students $1.) Directly across from the archaeological museum, the Ethnographical Museum displays early Otto¬man weapons and traditional folk art, mostly from the last century, including kil- ims, costumes, and furniture. (Open Tu-Su 9am-noori and l-5pm. $.75, students $.35) In the center of the Konak district lies Hisar Camii, Izmir’s 400-year-old treasure. Decorated with beguiling floral tiling and fantastic Turkish caipets, this mosque is the most renowned site in Izmir. It is located in the konak itself, the late Ottoman clock tower that looms over the intersection of Cumhuriyet Bul. and Atatürk Cad. The annual highlight, the International Izmir Festival, best reflects the city’s cosmopolitan character. Held from mid-June to early August, the festival brings a variety of Turkish and international acts to Izmir, Çeşme, and Ephesus. For tickets and information, call the numbers listed in the back of the Izmir Festival brochure from the to mist office. Considering the quality and reputation of many of the performers, tickets are cheap ($7.50-15).
DAYTRIP FROM İZMİR: SART (SARDIS)
To reach Sardis from Izmir, take a bus bound for Salihli from the upper floor of Izmir’s Yeni Garaj(every 45min. 7am-8:20pm, $.75). Ask to be let off at Sart. You will be dropped near a yellow “Sart Temple of Artemis” sign, amidst the shops and tea houses scattered along the highway. The yellow sign points the way to the Temple of Artemis. The gymnasium, synagogue, and baths are about 50m ahead on your left. Buses back to Izmir run with the same frequency, but cannot be caught along the same road. Turn left instead of right at the yellow Temple of Artemis sign. Follow it to the right as it splits until you reach another highway. Catch the bus on the wide, pull-off area on the other side of the road.
Sardis (Sart to Turks) was the capital of the Lydian Empire, which dominated Aegean Ionia from 680-547 BC. The Lydians embraced and embellished the existing Hellenic culture, giving the world dice and coin minting. Sardis was also an important satrapy (administrative center) in the Persian empire and home to one of the seven churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation. Apart from the remains of the Temple of Artemis, most of the ruins at Sardis are Roman or early Byzantine. Though small, Sardis stands out as perhaps the best-restored site in Turkey: it is often difficult to distinguish the replacement marble from the original.
After entering the cluster of ruins on the left side of the highway, proceed to the right along the West Road (a.k.a. Marble Way), winch is lined with a row of Byzantine shops. At the end of the Marble Way, turn left to enter the synagogue, donated by the Roman authorities to the town’s Jewish inhabitants. The patterns of the synagogue’s 3rd-century mosaic floors are strangely juxtaposed with the Corinthian and Doric columns above. Beside the synagogue lies the mined Palaestra, where wrestling matches and other sporting events were held. The imposing and magnificently restored two-story structure is the gymnasium, the site of a Roman bath house, whose towering columns overshadow a long-deserted swimming pool.
Cross the street and enter Mahmutbey Cad., between the Akay market and a tea shop, for a wonderful view of Anatolian landscapes. A 1km trek up the paved road brings you to the Temple of Artemis. Today, only a few colunms remain of the 4th-century BC edifice, but their scrolled capitals are exquisite. Even more impressive are the intricately carved, floral-patterned column bases. On the way to the temple, about 100m up on the left, are the remains of an ancient Roman city wall. 50m farther on the right, catch a glimpse of the ancient Lydian gold refinery and a dome from a 12th-century Byzantine basilica that was built atop a 5th-century church. On the left, about 800m ahead, you will find a trail to the pyramid tomb. Located in the area northwest of the acropolis, the earliest of these tombs dates from the 6th century BC, but it has since been buried by landslides. (Old city, including the gymnasium, baths, and synagogue, open daily 8am-6pm. $.75, students $.40. Temple open daily 8am-5pm. $.75, students $.40.)