By Shereen Shabnam
In search of the perfect summer holiday destination while being homesick and not being able to go to Fiji, Izmir came up in my emails coincidentally from a dear friend who suggested a few days on the Aegean shores surrounded by sea that comes in every shade of blue would make me feel like I was back home and explore a completely new destination in one of my favourite countries.
Izmir turned out to be serene where you can smell the scent of sea in the morning and walk amongst ancient ruins in the afternoon. The city is dotted with thermal spas, bustling bazaars, Bazaar, traditional restaurants and cultural elements influenced by Persians, Ancient Greeks, Assyrians, Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans civilizations that the city has hosted in the past.
Having an 8.500-year history, İzmir hosts the ancient cities of Ephesus and Pergamon; the remains of the Temple of Artemis which is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World; the House of Virgin Mary and many other historical treasures evident in the local museums, art galleries, exhibitions, historical sites and historical structures.
The villages and towns we visited in Izmir are charismatic and photogenic with cobbled streets, cozy stone houses and cute tea gardens. Walking along the villages and markets we came across an abundance of agricultural products such as olives, figs, grapes, local herbs, olive oil and the delicious cuisine with fresh ingredients.
The following day, our visit to Cesme revealed bustling markets, crystal clear sea, clean beaches and dive and sailing centres, picturesque bays, healing thermal resources and sports activities. Çesme is one of the most ideal places for surfing and our visit to the Alaçatı Surf Paradise gave us insights into the local passion of the sea among the youth and adults.
We had dinner by the beach at the Radisson Hotel Cesme, which proved to be a foodie’s delight. İzmir cuisine has largely been affected by its multicultural history and is influenced by Cretan, Greek, Balkan and of course Turkish specialties.
The fertile land as well as the surrounding sea of İzmir provides the city with abundance of fresh vegetables and seafood and İzmir and Aegean cuisines have become much more popular in recent years with the increasing demand for healthy food.
We then toured the House of Virgin Mary and visited Ephesus, one of the most famous cities in antiquity, which was founded on the harbor and where many famous historical figures lived. The structures and artifacts in the ancient city of Ephesus whose ruins are visible today are still majestic and we were mesmerized by the amphitheater of the past era.
When you are visiting İzmir and it is the summertime, know that you have made a sensible choice. The sun is out most of the year and the beautiful coasts, coves, Blue Flag beaches means you can participate in all kinds of sea and water sports year round.
Within the natural environment of İzmir; you may either want to spend a peaceful holiday at a pleasant and tranquil county or enjoy the sun and sea during the day while also enjoying the nightlife in the many hip and happening venues around the city. The choice is yours to make!