Tan­taliz­ing Turkey

For those who wish to ven­ture through Turkey’s un­ex­pected won­ders, there’s a dy­namic tri­an­gle of dis­cov­ery within easy reach of Is­tan­bul

Business Traveler (USA) - - CONTENTS - By Lark Gould

Dy­namic dis­cov­er­ies be­yond Is­tan­bul

Most trav­el­ers to Turkey head to Is­tan­bul and for many of these trav­el­ers the an­cient city of some 15 mil­lion souls is quite enough. The heart of the city, once Con­stantino­ple, stood as the bea­con of power in the early cen­turies AD and showed its force in build­ings still stand­ing as mar­vels in the an­nals of ar­chi­tec­ture.

To be sure, trav­el­ing to and ex­plor­ing Is­tan­bul is its own re­ward. But be­yond the pasha palaces, the re­li­gious iconog­ra­phy, the an­cient bazaars and the thriv­ing arts and fash­ion scenes of Is­tan­bul are des­ti­na­tions of won­der, each bring­ing in its own stun­ning sur­prises.

Eye on Izmir

Just an hour’s flight (or four- to five-hour drive) south of Is­tan­bul is Izmir, the gate­way city to Ala­cati, the Çe me beaches and Turkey’s cel­e­brated wine and food re­gion. Izmir is wor­thy of a day on its own. For­merly old Smyrna, the port city of four mil­lion peo­ple dates back to the days of Homer, who is said to have been born here in the 7th or 8th cen­tury BC.

Now, Izmir has a won­der­ful walk­a­ble (and bike-able) 25-mile strand along the coast of one of recorded his­tory’s old­est port cities, which is flanked these days by top ho­tels and restau­rants. The bazaar of Izmir’s Old City brings the usual an­cient stone build­ings, nar­row pedes­trian cor­ri­dors and sunny café court­yards as the cen­turies play out in bustling mar­ket places and un­pre­ten­tious shops. Find all man­ner of tex­tiles here – from mod­ern wed­ding dresses to tra­di­tional cel­e­bra­tion cos­tumes to flashy, trendy bou­tiques sell­ing fancy, de­signer pasha pants. It is not hard to find hid­den stalls sell­ing pos­si­bly the best cof­fee on the planet.

For those in search of dy­ing cul­tures, a smat­ter­ing of 17th cen­tury syn­a­gogues in­habit the Old City. A thriv­ing Jewish pop­u­la­tion found safety in these quar­ters dur­ing the Span­ish In­qui­si­tion. A few syn­a­gogues are still in use to­day and may be vis­ited, start­ing with a small make-shift mu­seum that tells the tales.

Out and About in Ala­cati

From Izmir, Ala­cati is a quick 45-minute drive through moun­tains lined with wind farms and pine forests. The vil­lage was once a Greek fish­ing vil­lage and most of the homes and shops – dat­ing from the mid-19th cen­tury – still stand, but now they are re­mod­eled, re­painted, re­vived and if you don’t pinch your­self you think you have wan­dered into an ac­ci­den­tal cor­ner of Greek Town in Walt Dis­ney World.

The nar­row, pedes­trian stone lanes that de­fine the town’s charm are a labyrinth of blue and white domi­ciles flecked with the oc­ca­sional red or pink gera­nium box. Shops, cafes and pre­cious auberges line the streets that are mostly given to stray dogs that every­one owns, and old men play­ing domi­noes and backgam­mon on olive tree­shaded ta­bles.

In the sum­mer, the cob­ble­stones are packed with tourists pre­dom­i­nantly from Turkey, but also Europe and the Mid­dle East. Eat­ing is the thing to do in Ala­cati; ice creams, pas­tries and cof­fees are laced with

Right: Sell­ing at the bizarre in Izmir

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