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The city, known as "Beautiful Izmir", lies on the shores of a large bay furrowed by ships and yachts and encircled by mountains. The climate is a mild one and, in summer, the heat is tempered by the constant and refreshing sea breezes. Behind the palm-lined promenades and avenues, the city gently ascends in terraces on the slopes of the surrounding hills. Today, it is the third largest city in Turkey and the port is second only to Istanbul. A lively place at anytime, it is even more so during the International Arts Festival (June/July) and the International Fair (August/Sept).

The original city was established in the third millennium BC (at present day Bayrakli), and at that time it had, with Troy, the most advanced culture in Western Anatolia. By 1500 BC, the city was subject to the influence of the Hittite Empire of Central Anatolia. In the first millennium BC, Izmir, then known as Smyrna, was one of the important cities of the Ionian Federation. It was during this period, which was one of the city's most brilliant, that the legendary Homer lived here. The conquest of the city by the Lydians, around 600 BC, brought this period to an end. It was then again conquered by the Persians in the middle of the 6th century BC. In the 4th century BC, a new city was built at the instigation of Alexander the Great on the slopes of Mt. Pagos (Kadifekale). The city's Roman period, from 27 BC saw a second brilliant time in its history. This was then followed by Byzantine rule in the 4th century, and Seljuk domination from the 11th century until the city became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1415 under Sultan Mehmet Celebi.

The ancient remains that can be seen today are a small reminder of the city's rich past. The Roman agora possesses some well-preserved porticoes surrounding a central esplanade. Kadifekale, the "Velvet Fortress" situated on top of the ancient Mt. Pagos, dominates the city. Built in the 3rd century BC, it has been restored many times since. From this fortress, a magnificent view of the city as well as the Gulf of Izmir can be seen. At Konak, there stands the Clock tower and nearby you will find the lively, narrow streets of the Kemeralti Bazaar where there is an infinite variety of antiques, jewellery and clothing as well as local produce.

In the centre of the city is the huge Kultur Park (Culture Park) where the annual International Fair takes place. Close to Konak Square is the Archaeological Museum containing a marvellous collection of antiquities dating from early Western Anatolian civilizations. Izmir's elegant Kordonboyu, the long promenade lined with cafes, restaurants, bars and shops is the ideal place to relax after an exciting day of sightseeing.

A ferry boat trip across the bay will take you Karsiyaka, ancient Cordelia, where you will find the park beside the open-air museum which is scattered with ancient statues. There are many restaurants and cafes.

Art And Culture

The city's cosmopolitan character has contributed to its reputation as a cultural centre. The Izmir Cultural Centre hosts performances of opera, ballet and concerts, and the city is the home base of the Aegean (Ege) Philharmonic Orchestra. In addition, there is a thriving theatrical scene. The highlight of the year is the Izmir International Festival, with international and Turkish artists giving performances at various venues in Izmir, Cesme and the ancient, grand theatre at Ephesus.
On the road to Cesme is Balcova one of the largest thermal centres in Turkey. Know as the Agamemmnon Baths in ancient times, it has excellent facilities in beautiful surroundings.

The seven churches mentioned by St. John in the Book of Revelation are in Turkey and are conveniently near Izmir. They are Izmir (Smyrna), Efes (Ephesus), Eskihisar (Laodicea), Alaşehir (Philadelphia), Sart (Sardis), Akhisar (Thyatira), and Bergama (Pergamum). Some of the sites are in a better state of preservation than others and tours of 1-4 days can be arranged to see several or all of them.

The Cesme Peninsula

The small port of Cesme is dominated by a fortress and is much frequented for its thermal baths and those of Ilica, on the outskirts of the town, where there is a vast sandy beach refreshed by summer breezes. The Altin Yunus Marina Complex, the excellent hotels and other tourist accommodations make it a pleasant place to stay. At Ildiri, northeast of Cesme is the important ancient port of Erythrai. From the acropolis there is a beautiful view of Ildiri Bay and islands.

On the road from Izmir to Çesme there are two pleasant detours. First is Urla (Clazomenae) Iskelesi, a peaceful place to stop for a fish dinner overlooking the sea. The view of the area from Güvendik Hill, where you will see islands dotting the bay, may tempt you to take out a boat in order to swim on their sandy shores. After Urla, turn north and you will pass lovely bays and peaceful landscapes on your way past the fishing villages of Balikova and Mordogan to Karaburun. At Karaburun there is a beautiful unspoiled setting of mountains and bays of clear, clean water. You can find nice hotels, tea gardens and fish restaurants. Drive to the top of Manastir Mountain for an unforgettable view of the Karaburun coastline. On the southern part of the peninsula is Seferihisar, where there is the small picturesque marina of Sigacik, an important yachting centre surrounded by Genoese fortifications. From here it is easy to visit the antique site of Teos, noted for its Temple of Dionysos and the lovely beach of Altinkum. At Gumuldur, there are beautiful beaches, excellent restaurants and hotels. At Ahmetbeyli (Claros) are the Apollon Temple and the remains of the colossal statue of Apollo, also there is a delightful beach with pleasant fish restaurants.

On the way from Ahmetbeyli south to Pamucak Beach is a winding, panoramic coastal road to Efes.

Efes (Ephesus)

A visit to Efes, an important city of antiquity, is one of the highlights of any visit to Turkey. The city, which had many splendid buildings, was dedicated to the Goddess Artemis, whose temple was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The town of Selcuk, close by, is dominated by a Byzantine citadel close to which is the basilica of St. John, built in the 5th century, on the site of the tomb of the Apostle. Next to the basilica is the Isa Bey Mosque with its typical Seljuk portal. The Archaeological Museum should not be missed. It houses an impressive collection of works recovered during the excavation of Ephesus. The Ephesus International Festival is held annually in May.

It is recorded that St. John brought the Virgin Mary to Ephesus after the death of Christ, and that a small house (Meryemana Evi) was built for her on Bülbüldagi (Mt. Nightingale) where she spent her last days. This house is now a popular place of pilgrimage for Christians and Muslims, and has received the official sanction of the Vatican. Every year on the August 15th a commemoration ceremony is held.


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