We were supposed to stop in Istanbul, but the day before we were to arrive there was a terrorist bombing in the central market. It was a little scary to think about because we were planning to visit that same area. The captain made an announcement at 10pm that we would be stopping in Izmir instead of Istanbul. Luckily we did not plan an excursion in Istanbul since we were just going to explore, so we were able to do the same in Izmir. I read that Izmir was the most like a Western world city and I could see the comparison as we took a taxi through the streets. If not for the different languages, it was similar to New York City. However, Izmir has the Agora of Smyrna in the midst of it.
Agora means gathering place. It was built in the 4th century BC, but destroyed by an earthquake in 178 AD. Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius rebuilt the the Agora and it went into decline in 7th century AD and eventually became a cemetery. Visiting the Agora reminds me of the ruins in Rome. You are in the middle of a modern city, but there is this big space with Roman ruins. There were very few people there when we visited. You wander around on your own reading about the history as you go. They are still working on excavations and a large section is blocked off from tourists.
I love these arches with the keystone. The water that flows into the Agora comes from systems put in place when the city was rebuilt. It’s amazing that they still run. Walking through the archways you can imagine people meeting there for the market and wandering the same pathways.
You will notice the parking garages and other modern buildings in the background of my pictures. It was a beautiful day to explore the Agora. After we finished, we walked through the market that runs through the city. There were so many shops. You could find whatever you needed and it seemed to be grouped by types of shops. We first walked through a lot of clothing and then it was restaurants and souvenir shops. We were looking for a mosque and when we arrived it was almost the time to call for prayer. The men were outside washing their feet and starting to gather in the mosque. The call to prayer came moments after we left the market area.
The mosque above was not the same one that we saw in the market area. This one was near the clock tower, which was the first picture I posted. I wanted to try some traditional Turkish food and heard a lot about Turkish delight, so I researched where to buy it. It was a chain store called Tugba. As I was looking through the display case, one of the clerks gave me a couple of samples. I had never tried it before and I thought it was delicious. It had a chewy texture and the sample one had pistachios in it, so it had a nice crunch too. I chose several varieties. My favorites looked like rolls. The chocolate one was the best. It was less chewy than normal taffy, which made it easier to eat. Some of the other ones that I tried had a bit of a jelly texture. Another favorite traditional Turkish treat was their tea. We made a point to stop at a restaurant just to enjoy a tea.
I was not very interested in the souvenir shops that we found. I did buy a few magnets, but everything seemed very cheap. We were going to stop for some lunch, but then we found this chocolate shop and thought dessert would be better. We were right.
I am sad that we didn’t get to experience Istanbul. I was not upset that they chose to stop the boat in another port, but I hope to visit Istanbul one day. One thing that I forgot to mention was transportation. We took a taxi from the port to the Agora and every taxi driver we heard said it was 10 euro. On the way back, Jef looked to see if Uber was possible. It was and it was a quarter of the price. Our driver was very excited to pick us up and begged us for a five star rating when we got out. I thought it was interesting how modern the city looked, but the Agora, market, and mosque areas made the city more exotic to me. I would definitely visit Turkey again one day.