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Izmir, Turkey

Modern City with Ancient Roots

By Chad PillaiPublished 3 months ago 4 min read
Waterfront Area of Izmir, Turkey (Photo Provided by Author)

I have always been a fan of history and geography since my childhood. When I was a teenager, I took my first overseas trip, where I began following the footsteps of Alexander the Great. Several years ago, I wrote and published stories about my trips to Greece, Iraq, Afghanistan, and India, all of which the famous Macedonian Emperor traveled and conquered. This January, I had the opportunity to travel to Izmir, Turkey, a beautiful city along the Aegean Sea.

In antiquity, Izmir was founded by the Greeks, as was known as Smyrna. Throughout the years, the city served as a commercial hub during the period of the Greek city-states. The city saw a significant decline until Alexander the Great re-established the city around 340 BC during his campaign against Darius III and the Persian Empire. On the hillside overlooking the city, you can see the ruins of the fortress built by Alexander and his forces.

Later, the city was incorporated into the Roman Empire and became an important site for Christianity. The location of the Roman marketplace (Agora) is still visible today. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the city remained part of the Eastern Roman, later renamed the Byzantine Empire. During the Medieval period, the city was fought over by Christians, Muslims, and Mongols until the Ottoman Empire assumed control in the late 1300s.

The Ottoman Empire retained control of the city until its defeat in WWI, which briefly saw an expedition by the Greeks, supported by Western European powers, to reclaim the city and area for Greece. However, the Greek expedition was defeated by the reconstituted Turkish army led by Ataturk. The establishment of the Republic of Turkey led to the official renaming of Smyrna to Izmir. There is so much history in Izmir that I would have to write a separate book, and even then, I would only be scratching the surface.

During my weeklong stay in Izmir, I witnessed a vibrant city with modern-day shops and restaurants. I noticed numerous wedding dress shops near the waterfront along the major commercial avenue. The waterfront reminded me of other places I have visited or lived, including Tampa, FL, and Barcelona, Spain. The most memorable element of my time in Izmir was the hospitality at the hotel I stayed at and the restaurants my friends and I visited.

I stayed at the Swiss Hotel close to the waterfront and had a great water view from my room balcony. Additionally, the 9th-floor suite had a great restaurant and bar where my friends and I enjoyed meals and cocktails. I enjoyed the deluxe cheeseburgers with avocado and egg and their “smoked old fashion” bourbon cocktails.

View of the Water from my Balcony

Nighttime View of the Water from my Balcony

The first restaurant we ate dinner at was Tavaci Recept Usta. The atmosphere and service were spectacular. Before anyone ordered food, the staff brought out a selection of Turkish appetizers, including a large helping of Dolma, an olive leaf stuff dish. I eventually ordered a grilled lamb and rice; however, I would have been content with the large selection of appetizers. We finished the night with dessert and Turkish tea. To my amazement, my dinner, which included drinks, appetizers, and desserts, cost less than $30.

My lamb with rice. The red pepper was really spicy!

The second restaurant we ate at didn’t disappoint. The atmosphere seemed less touristy, but the service and hospitality were equally good. Once again, my friends and I were given a large selection of appetizers, bread, and beer. I ordered a mixed grill with beef, chicken, and lamb on skewers. The servers then provided a delectable dessert, a warm cream-filled pastry with ice cream. All the food and drinks meant we had to walk slowly back to our hotel to burn off the delicious calories.

The selection of appetizers

My mixed grill platter

My dessert

During the day, I enjoyed walking by the waterfront. Though it was January, the air was mild, and it was a nice site to see the palm trees everywhere, people running, and families and their pets taking slow walks. Additionally, numerous water taxis were going back and forth between various destinations.

The waterfront

The walking path along the waterfront

It was a curious site to seem like stray dogs walking about, but I noticed they all had tracking tags on them. I am glad that I was able to go on another adventure where I could follow Alexander the Great's path. At some point, I would like to visit Macedonia, where his story began. Other destinations along Alexander's path that I wish to visit include Egypt and Israel.

I would highly recommend Izmir to anyone considering a week-long or weekend gateway. The hospitality was tremendous, the food was delicious, and the costs were much more affordable than I imagined.

Sadly, a week after I visited Izmir, Southern Turkey suffered a massive earthquake that killed thousands. Thankfully, Izmir was far from the epicenter of the quake and did to suffer damages.

travel advicetravel tipsmiddle eastculture

About the Creator

Chad Pillai

Military Officer, World Traveler, and Author.

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