Sunday January 20 , 2008

 

Today we visited the ancient city of Smyrna, now known as Izmir. Today we know Smyrna as the birthplace of Homer, author of The Iliad and the key to much of what we now know of this side of the ancient world. Of course, Izmir is also the home city of our guide Mehmet and our new friend Şaduman. Aside from producing great tour guides, Izmir is known for its lovely laid back atmosphere, beautiful people (Şaduman tells us that most of Turkey's model hail from this city), and of course, excellent beer. 
After a quick stop at Starbucks to satisfy the homesick amongst us, we were on our way. Today we were left in the capable hands of Şaduman, who guided us through the city quickly and safely, despite our wandering attentions and the sometimes overwhelming crowds. First of all, many of the roads are not so much streets as they are exceptionally wide sidewalks. The crowds only occasionally parted for the rare car or scooter. Make no mistake, the streets closer to the edges of the city and along the harbor are busy enough to discourage much mid-street foot traffic, but the shopping district streets are largely dominated by pedestrians. At one point the street was completely overtaken by a rowdy group of football fans getting ready for a big game. Later Saduman taught us a cheer for her team. I'll include it here just because it's so darn catchy (and also because they are big-time rivals of Mehmet and Yücel's team.hehehe): RE-RE-RE RAH-RAH-RAH GASA GASA GIN BOM BOM!!! (this is the phonetic spelling). 
Everyone we have seen on this trip so far has been very well dressed, and the citizens of Izmir are no exception. Clothing stores line the streets, and as we are, after all, a group of girls/women, we were inevitably taken in by the chic window displays and surprisingly persuasive manikins. For lunch some of us stopped at a great little restaurant that catered to both American and Turkish tastes. While those of us wanting a taste of home turned to the Turkish interpretation of burgers and fries (which were very good, from what I've heard), the rest of us ordered lahmacun. Lahmacun-pronounced lah-ma-JUN and officially this reporter's favorite Turkish food-looks a lot like a pizza and tastes a lot like heaven. Well, if heaven tastes like ground beef, lemon and parsley. In any case, this is one dish I'll be looking up back home. After lunch we headed toward the clock tower, a popular sight in Izmir. To get to the clock tower we walked down Kordon, the main street along the harbor. Up close the Aegean Sea is a deep green-black, and floating in the water are lines of balloons used as targets for shooting games. This side of the city is part San Francisco, part Boston. Fishing boats are tied up in intervals along the wharf and people are still bundled up for winter, but there are also palm trees and horse buggies and people sprawled out on top of newspapers and jackets on the wide stretches of grass facing the water. Along this walkway there were countless carts selling roasted chestnuts, paper cones of sunflower seeds, mussels, donut-shaped pretzels and something called kumru, a sandwich of fresh bread, cheese, tomato, and hot pepper. The cafés along the edge of the wharf were filled with people enjoying the light on water along with their Turkish tea. After taking pictures by the clock tower we made our way to a café Şaduman looked up for us, and we drank our coffee and apple tea facing the Aegean. All in all, Izmir is a gorgeous city, and we will all miss our time spent there.

Sarah Anderson