29.09.2015

TWO DAYS IN IZMIR

TWO DAYS IN IZMIR, Emir Can Kılıç | 29.09.2015

Izmir is one of the biggest and most important cities in Turkey. It is also known as the "Pearl of the Aegean," and I had the chance to visit the city in 2014 for the first time. I have to admit I had limited information about the city back then. I had heard of the clean beaches in the surrounding areas, the delicious "kumru," and the Clock Tower, but little else.

In order to make a quick journey of discovery, I flew to Izmir for a two-day vacation in June. From Adnan Menderes International Airport, I arrived in the city center by shuttle bus in approximately 1 hour. You can also get there by subway in a similar amount of time. Once I checked in to my hotel, I went out to begin my sightseeing trip immediately.

First, I walked from Alsancak to the Konak neighborhood on the seaside promenade called Kordon. From there, you can see  the Karsiyaka district and also take a nice walk on the beautifully landscaped street, breathing in the clean air and the smell of the sea. 

When I arrived at the center of Konak, I was welcomed by the well-known Clock Tower, the symbol of Izmir. Built in 1901, the tower truly is magnificent. Konak Square, in which the Clock Tower is situated, is a nice spot to catch your breath and watch the world go by.

One of the first things to do in the city is to take the ferry, which is just a short walk from the Konak Square, to the Karsiyaka district. On your way, you get to witness the spectacular Alsancak-Kordon and Karsiyaka views, while breathing in the clean air of the gulf. The seagulls flying around the ferry and the beauty of the gulf makes the journey very pleasant. When you get to Karsiyaka, you can either walk on the coastline, or wander in the crowded market.

When I got back from Karsiyaka to Konak, my first stop was the Hisar Mosque. After visiting this nice mosque, which was built in the 16th century, I went straight to Kemeralti. This district, where the historical Kemeralti Bazaar and Havra Street is situated is an open air market, and you can find many household goods and groceries here.

After Kemeralti, I visited the Umran Baradan Toy Museum. Although it is a short distance from the Konak Square, I took the bus to get to the museum, since it is situated at the top of a steep road. Speaking of transportation, I recommend buying at least a three-ride transportation pass, so that you can both take the subway and get to many spots by bus. The museum is not that big, but I was surprised by the collection inside. While looking at the toys in the museum, I was reminded of my childhood and felt like I had traveled back in time. If you are visiting Izmir as a family, you must make time to see this pleasant museum.

Next, I jumped on the bus again and went straight to Konak Square, then took another to reach my next stop, the Elevator. More than 100 years old, the Elevator, along with the Gulf of Izmir, is the place to experience the best aerial view of the coastline (Alsancak-Karsiyaka) and to take many pictures. While you're there, make sure to take the elevator and take a low-angle shot of the tower. When you come down, you also get to see and take a picture of the statue of the famous Algerian artist, Enrico Macias.

I wanted to explore more historical places, so after visiting the Elevator, I went to the Agora Open Air Museum. The Ancient Smyrna and the Agora of Smyrna is preserved in the area of the museum. You can also see a large number of columns, statues, and stone structures dating back to the Ancient Greek and Byzantine periods. This place really is a historical treasure, and archaeological excavation works are still in progress. You can take amazing pictures of the basilica ruins in the museum area.

On my second day, I began with a delicious boyoz, which is exclusive to Izmir. After a simple breakfast with boyoz and tea, I hit the road to see Cesme, one of the most popular places among tourists. You can get to Cesme from Izmir by bus, which takes off from the Uckuyular station situated in the southwest of the city. The trip to Cesme took about an hour.

The sea and beaches of Cesme are amazing, but my first stop was Cesme Castle. The castle is more than 500 years old and is an important structure in Ottoman military history. You get a great view of Cesme and its surroundings from the castle. After strolling around the castle walls, I visited the Cesme Archaeology Museum. It is a beautiful museum, home to many historical artifacts discovered during archaeological excavation works. Close to the Cesme Castle, you can see the statues of the Giray Khan I, the Khan of Crimea, and Hasan Pasha of Algiers.

My last stop in Cesme city center was the Kumrucu Sevki, where I stopped by to eat and the Rumeli Bakery to have some mastic ice cream. Kumru is a kind of sandwich exclusive to Izmir, and contains different breakfast ingredients. Mastic ice cream is again very popular in Cesme district, and has quite a different taste and texture compared to regular ice cream. The city has many places to have kumru or mastic ice cream to satisfy any hunger pangs. Lokma, a kind of dessert, is also popular in the region, and is definitely one for real fans of gastronomy.

There are also a large number of beaches near Cesme, which are ideal for those keen on swimming and sunbathing. I was eager to take a dip in the sea and catch some sun, so after grabbing a bite, I went to Altinkum Beach. You can get to Altinkum quickly by bus, departing from Cesme center. After a short ride, I arrived at Altinkum. I knew that I made the right decision when I saw the golden sands and the crystal clear sea.

After I spent the whole day enjoying the sun and the sea, I went back to Cesme, and then to Izmir to head to the airport. 

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