Some weeks ago, I visited Izmir, the 'Pearl of the Aegean', a prosperous port city, with deep roots in antiquity - 8500 years of history as a human settlement since the Neolithic period, allegedly established by Amazonas - the women warriors, re-established by Alexander the Great, birth place of Homer, ruled by Lydians, Persians, Romans, Ottomans.
Izmir is the third largest city in Turkey and densely populated Izmir province counts over 4 million inhabitants. Due to its geographic position, Izmir has been NATO’s headquarters for southeast Europe, one of largest ports in the area, the stronghold of industry and trade.
İzmir is full of museums, cultural centres and packed with events, exhibitions and festivals, crowned by more than 80-year-old International İzmir Fair.
"Izmir is like a princess with the most beautiful hat.” , Victor Hugo
It is a busy place, a crossroad. Still, it has unusual grounding and calmness, something special in the air - hava, something so appealing to me. I felt like I was travelling back in time. While in Izmir, I experienced several déjà vu, remembering blissful moments from my childhood and youth in Mostar, and my student days in Barcelona.
Izmir has a lot to
offer, but its beauty comes from the inside. Sometimes it feels modern,
energetic, pimped up – like Alsancak; sometimes old, slow, wrinkled – like Kemeraltı;
sometimes unpredictable, curious, tense – like Basmane; or just moody – like Karşıyaka;
or calm, joyful, romantic – like Kordon.
Hisar Cami - the largest and the oldest mosque, next to historical kemeralti bazaar
Food is so delicious, either you are vegetarian, pescatarian, meat-lover or sweets-junkie. Apart from tasty coffee and salep – a warm milk drink, I got addicted to ada çayı.
In Izmir, I came closer to understanding the meaning of being present in the moment. It is about three simple things:
· joy (keyif) – doing something you enjoy often and regularly
· sharing is caring – a silent moment, a meal, a problem or just time
· being useful - to yourself and others involves discipline and feels so good
I remember so well, the smiley face of guy at Merdane Borek Ustasi, where we ate breakfast almost every day, fresh orange and pomegranate juice and tasty boreks, eggplant borek – becoming my new favourite.
Or amazing baklava at Hisarönü Tatlıcısı, where I fall for diverse chestnuts’ sweets. Despite a lack of language fluency, mixture of Turkish, English and Bosnian, the master – usta, knew exactly my preferences – he read it from the joy in my eyes.
Even before I landed in Izmir, I was lucky to meet two gentlemen sitting next to me on a plane, with soft eyes and genuine intention to make sure I would go to the right place to pick-up my luggage.
I must mention an adorable meyhane in Konak where I eat the best sarma ever. It is a neighbourhood restaurant, also a book shop. I remember a warm welcome and calm, cosy atmosphere. I just felt at home.
a loose dog covered with blanket
The blissfulness I was experiencing was about the sea, the sun and the people. I love so much the feeling of a genuine human contact, just a smile or simple chat. Strolling around and randomly involving in chit-chats has always inspired me.
Izmir is contemporary and relaxed. It has always been there, and it will always stay there, watching over the Aegean.
Teşekkür ederim. Görüşürüz!
IZMIR, December 2018