Sunday, February 26, 2012

Indelible Izmir

A horse-drawn carriage along the Izmir boardwalk.
No matter how many trips you take in a lifetime, there are bound to be little things—memories—that really stick with you. At least, that’s always been the case for me. I wonder, have you felt the same way, too?

Long after I’d unpacked my bags from my visit to Izmir,Turkey, in May 2011, I’m still remembering so many of those little moments. At the time, I didn’t realize how much they’d linger with me—and how fond I’d be, so many months later.

Cesme could be a stand-in for the Caribbean, no?
Izmir is not as well known as Istanbul but, in my opinion it should be. This coastal city and province, which stretches along the Western coast of Turkey is warm and welcoming. There’s a genuine authenticity here that can be hard to find these days. What really fascinated me about Izmir was its ability to combine—ancient and modern; Greek and Turkish; beaches and cities—all into one another so seamlessly. In a single day, you could be walking through the ancient ruins of Ephesus and later lounging beachside at an ultra-modern resort. For me, however, what really sold me on Izmir was its people—their warmth and hospitality, and I think my photographs are proof positive of that.

So, here are just a few of my favorite memories of Izmir, Turkey.

That was one slimy octopus.
The overly excitable and joyful fishmonger at the wet market in Foça: I’ve never encountered someone so happy to show off his latest catch—it included a pretty gnarly octopus—to a complete stranger.

I loved her smile--and her hair. 
The dogs: There were so many adorable dogs throughout Izmir that the dog lover inside me just couldn’t resist.

Hello, Kitty, in Alcati
The cats: Same goes for the cats. They were pretty cute—and they tended to travel in serious prides.

Turkish coffee with dessert in Alcati
Turkish Coffee & Tea: The tea is a bit on the sweet side for my tastes, but it’s so refreshing. The coffee has the consistency of mud, but I love it.

Raki: It isn’t for everyone but man, it certainly packs a punch.

Photo (c) Jordan Dukov (an incredibly talented photographer )
The elderly lady who sold me a handcrafted wreath of daisies: Beneath her sweet demeanor was the steely resolve of a serious saleswoman, but I was so happy with that purchase anyway.

Spirituality: During my visit, I went to a synagogue, a church and a mosque and each house of worship left an indelible impression on me.

At the synagogue in Izmir
The Wall of Prayers outside the House of the Virgin Mary
A Catholic church that was converted into a mosque in Cesme
The food: It’s delicious, from the freshest of fish to the gummiest of ice creams.

Fish, fresh from the boat
Turkish ice cream almost defies gravity.
Simit, a Turkish pretzel bread covered in sesame seeds
Breakfast is served
Remarkable Ruins: No matter how many times I’ve traversed the sites of ancient ruins, those feelings of awe never go away. That was especially true for me at Ephesus and the ancient ruins of Smyrna.

The agora of Smyrna
The sense of national pride: I saw so many beautifully draped and displayed Turkish flags during my visit—my guess is that it probably had something to do with Youth and Sports Day on May 19. Regardless, the flags were a beautiful sight to behold.

Along the boardwalk in Izmir
The friends I made along the way: One of the best byproducts of traveling, in my opinion. I hope you'll agree.

Bundled up during a chilly night of outdoor dining.
Now, it's your turn. Let me know what some of your favorite travel memories are...I’d love to hear them.

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