Taking it easy and seeing the city sites
09.28.2013 - 09.28.2013
On our next to last full day in Turkey, we decide to take it easy. I have developed a cold and cough, so perhaps a little rest is in order for today. Evren says it will actually be better if we change our planned itinerary around and see a bit of Izmir City today (Saturday) while things are open, and then go to Pergamum tomorrow (Sunday) before heading to the airport.
Izmir is Turkey's third most populous city (after Istanbul and Ankara) and is located on the site of the ancient city of Smyrna along the bay of Izmir. Current population for the metro area is around 4 million people. It is reputed to be more relaxed, liberal, and westward-leaning than Istanbul, and I certainly pick up this vibe as we travel around the city
We start out by going to Asansor, a 19th century elevator that was built to transport Izmir residents from near sea level up a sheer rock cliff to a largely Jewish residential neighborhood up above.
From there we head to Konak Square to view the clock tower that is the symbol of Izmir. The clock, built in 1901 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Sultan Abdul Hamit II's coronation, was one of 58 that were built to supposedly encourage Turks to adopt western time-keeping habits. Next to it is a tiny mosque built in 1755, decorated with beautiful blue Kutahya tiles. Swoon, swoon.
We then go for a walking tour of Izmir's shopping area, which in many ways resembles the shopping areas we saw in Istanbul. But unlike Istanbul, local people rather than tourists are shopping here. I actually enjoy people-watching in places like this as much as I do seeing what is for sale.
At one point Evren stops to buy some candy for us, and in paying for it, tosses the coin on the shop's front step. I've forgotten what he calls it, but there's a name for this "first money" earned by the shopkeeper each day, and leaving it on the doorstep is supposed to make it a prosperous day for the merchant. It's a charming tradition.
I'm interested especially to see what Muslim women wear in Turkey. As a secular nation, nothing is dictated or required in terms of dress for women. Since arriving I have seen both ends of the spectrum, from religiously devout Muslim women who have covered every inch of their skin except for their hands and a slit for their eyes, to women (whom I assume are Muslim, but might not be) who are wearing revealing clothing that almost makes me blush. The fully shrouded women have been few and far between (only a handful), but I observe that probably the majority of Muslim women wear a full head scarf and conservative clothing. Often this includes a long overcoat - even in very warm weather.
What really surprises and befuddles me is when I see very conservatively dressed Muslim women out walking arm-in-arm down the street with women friends who are not dressed conservatively as they are. And I have seen that on many occasions, and wonder at the dynamics of a relationship where friends have fundamental differences on issues such as appropriate dress. It's fascinating to me, but our male guides have not been able to shed any light on this topic for me.
On the topic of dress, while we are in the market, Evren points out this display, which is for swimming attire for Muslim women.
We continuing walking through the market and have lunch before heading to Izmir's ancient Agora.
Izmir's first Agora (bazaar) built on this site for Alexander the Great was destroyed in an earthquake in the 2nd century, but it was soon rebuilt by Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
Tiring of sight-seeing we decide to kick back and take the rest of the day off. Boarding a ferry, we travel across Izmir's bay to take in views from the water, the street scenes, and enjoy a cold beer.
Dinner that night is at one of the restaurants along the waterfront where many locals are gathering to watch their football (soccer) team play on restaurant and bar TVs. There is a bit of a chill to the night air, and restaurants have blankets readily available for patrons to bundle up in to keep warm. I enjoy a some pide (Turkish version of pizza) while Frank has lamb, and then we head back to the hotel to start packing for the trip home.