Saturday, March 18, 2023

İzmir, Türkiye

İzmir is home to almost 3 million people making it the 3rd largest city in Türkiye.  It's an old city with more than 3000 years of recorded history but the area had been settled since the Neolithic period over 8000 years ago.

It's almost 100 km from Kusadasi which takes a little over an hour by car.
Prior to 1930, the city was known by its Greek name Smyrna (Σμύρνη).

Konak Pier is a seaside pier that was converted to a modern shopping, dining, and cinema complex.

Konak Square, designed by Gustave Eiffel, the same architect that designed the Eiffel Tour in Paris, is home to a few of the city's landmarks.

Konak Mosque, also known as Yali Mosque, was built in 1755.  It's known for its distinctive octagonal shape.  It was last renovated in 1964.

The clock tower was built in 1901 to honour the 25th anniversary of Abdülhamid II, becoming Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.

The First Bullet Monument is dedicated to the 1919 memory of a journalist and martyrs.

The city's first government office was located in the square but was demolished in 1869-1872.  They burned down in 1970 and were rebuilt according to the original plans.

The Izmir Archaeology Museum was established in 1924 on the site of an abandoned church.  It opened to the public in 1927.

The Izmir Ethnography Museum is currently closed for renovation.  The stone building dates back to 1831 when it was originally built as part of a hospital.

The 19th-century Church St Polycarp is the city's oldest functioning Christian church.  I understand the the church walls are adorned with frescoes but unfortunately the church was closed so we missed out getting to see them.

The Asansör is a public level street elevator that was built in 1907.  Prior to the elevator, residents needed to walk a long way and climb 155 stairs to reach the upper part of the town.  There are cafés at the top with nice views of the coastline.

The Hisar Mosque is one of the biggest in the city centre.  Construction began in 1592 and opened in 1598.

Izmir had a sizeable Greek population until 1923 where there was a population exchange between Greece and Türkiye.

In 1923, following a seven-month conference, the Lausanne treaty was signed that recognised new Turkish state following the end of the Ottoman Empire after WWI.  The treaty provided for the protection of the Christian minority in Türkiye and the Muslim minority in Greece.  I had never heard of the forced population exchange before but here's a short video I found about it on YouTube.

©Choices Program

Friday, March 17, 2023

Best of Ephesus Tour, Türkiye

We had booked the Best of Ephesus Tour for Monday which was great.  We were the only two who had booked so we actually ended up on a private tour with our guide Mehmet.  

Our first stop was at a big statue of the Virgin Mary. 

After that we headed to Meryemana, the House of the Virgin Mary, which is about 6 km (3.7 miles) from Ephesus and 17 km (11 miles) from Şirince.  The house is surrounded by pine and olive trees.  It's a Catholic shrine and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A bedridden Augustinian nun in Germany, named Anne Catherine Emmerich, had visions, about the Virgin Mary.  One was a description of the house that the Apostle John had built for the Virgin Mary where she lived out the rest of her life.  An author spent five years transcribing the nun's visions, before she passed away, and a book was published in 1852.

Two expeditions completed in 1891, discovering the match between the location and the nun's visions.  While the Roman Catholic Church has never officially proclaimed the validity of the site, multiple popes have given blessings and visited the house.  Each year on 15 August, pilgrims come to celebrate Mary's Assumption.  In 2004, Pope John Paul II beatified Anne Catherine Emmerich.

On the way to the shrine, you pass a key hole-shaped baptismal pool.

Outside of the house is a "wishing wall" where people write their wishes on paper or fabric.

There is a spring under the house which pilgrims believe to have healing properties.  There are fountains that people can drink from. 

I had to make sure to light a candle for my grandmother.  She would have loved that I came here. 

It was then on to Ephesus which was a city in Ancient Greece located 3 km (2 miles) southwest of Selçuk, 8 km from Şirince, 20 km (12.5 miles) north of Kuşadasi, and 70 km (44 miles) south of Izmir.

Ephesus was built in the 10th century BC.  It was one of the 12-member cities of the Ionian League and became part of the Roman Republic in 129 BC.  It's believed that the Gospel of St. John may have been written here.  

The city was conquered by numerous empires over the centuries and it was completely abandoned by the 15th century.  Ephesus is home to one of the largest Roman archaeological sites in the Eastern Mediterranean and the ruins were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015.

The most impressive ruin has to be the Library of Celsius.  It was built in around 125 AD in memory of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus who served as governor of Roman Asia.  He paid for the library from his own money and he is buried in a sarcophagus beneath it.  The library was the third-largest in the Greco-Roman world and was home to 12.000 scrolls.  

The library was no longer in use after 400 AD.  The facade was damaged by an earthquake in the 10th or 11th century but archaeologists re-erected it from 1970 to 1978.

The Great Theatre could hold an estimated 25.000 spectators and dates back to the Hellenistic period (3rd-1st century BC) with extensive renovation during the Roman period.  It's believed to have been the the largest theatre in the in the ancient world.

As it was just the two of us, our guide Mehmet used the opportunity to show us everything in great detail.  It would never have been possible with a larger group.

Ephesus was famous for the Temple of Artemis which was nearby.  The temple was completed around 550 BC and it was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  The temple was destroyed by 401 AD.  The only thing left of the temple is a single pillar.

The Basilica of St. John, or rather what's left of it, sits on the slope of Ayasluğ Hill, in Selçuk, about 3,5 km (2.2 miles) from Ephesus.  It was built in the 6th century but was damaged when Turks invaded in 1090.

Many believe that the basilica was built on the tomb of the apostle.  

There's a fortress on the hill above the cathedral but we didn't visit it.

From the basilica you can see the İsa Bey Mosque.  The mosque was built from 1374-1375.  Unfortunately it is currently closed for renovation so we only got to view it at a distance.

Temple, mosque, basilica, and fortress

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Şirince, Türkiye

Saturday was a full travel day to Kuşadasi, Türkiye.  On Sunday we set out to explore the city.  While checking out the sites, we hired a local taxi driver to take show us around his home village of Şirince.

Şirince is a small hillside village of about 600 people.  It's about 8 km (5 miles) from Ephesus, and 26 km (16 miles) northeast from Kuşadasi.  It used to be a Greek village and the local area dates back to the Hellenistic period from 323-31 BC.  

In 1923, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and the end of the Turkish War of Independence, Greece and Türkiye agreed on a population exchange.  The Greeks living in Türkiye went to Greece and the Turks in Greece went to Turkey.  Şirince was populated by the Turks who were living in northern Greece.    

Şirince means "pleasant" in Turkish.  Prior to 1926, it was known as Çirkince which means "ugly."  The story goes that the village had been settled by freed Greek slaves who wanted to deter others from coming here.  I guess it's the same as how Iceland is nice while Greenland is cold.  Regardless, it's a nice little tourist village. 

The Church of St. Dimitrios was built in the 19th century.  There's been some restoration but quite a bit more is needed.  There are a number of frescoes inside worth seeing.  Outside of the church are nice views of the area.

The Church of St. John the Baptist was built in 1805.  This church has has undergone more restoration than St. Dimitrios.  There was a photography exhibit going on when we visited.
Besides olive oil, the village known for its fruit wine.  Almost every flavour is available - apple, apricot, blackberry, mulberry, melon, orange, peach, quince, cherry, strawberry.  Some were just too sweet for me but the pomegranate wine was nice.

In front of a cafe is a wishing well topped with a statue of the Virgin Mary.  You're supposed to drop a coin in the water and hope that it falls in a certain spot in order to get your wish. 

Our guide Mesut used to work at the cafe, where his brother and cousin work, and introduced us to some good Turkish coffee.  The coffee was prepared in hot sand and served with lokum which is Turkish delight.  The coffee was good and here's a short video I took.

We enjoyed our visit to Şirince and then headed back to Kuşadasi to check out some more of the local sights.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023


Tchibo, pronounced CHEE BO, is one of Germany's largest retail chains.  The stores are interesting.  It's a café where you can get a good cup of coffee and something sweet.  Of course, you can also purchase coffee beans and accessories.  

Then there is everything else that you can buy there such as clothing, household items, electronics, appliances, and sometimes even furniture.  You never know just quite what they will have when you go there because the non-coffee products change weekly.  In Germany, the company's slogan is Jede Woche eine neue Welt, "Every week a new world".  In Czecland, it's každý týden nový svět

Today is the 70th anniversary of the Tchibo Coffee Company.  It was founded in 19149 in Hamburg where it still maintains its headquarters.  The company founders were Max Herz and Carl Tchilinghiryan and the name Tchibo came from the abbreviation of Tchilinghiryan and Bohnen (coffee beans),  The company started off as a mail-order service for roasted coffee beans.

In the early 1990's the company started to expand outside of Germany.  There are about 550 stores in Germany and over 300 stores in Austria, Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland, and Türkiye.  

The company also operates "depots" in various supermarkets have a Tchibo section of shelves selling its coffee alongside non-food items such as clothing, sporting and household goods.

Tchibo Praha, spol. s.r.o., was established in 1991 and today there are 38 stores in Czechland.  In 2021, the company expanded its distribution facility in Cheb, near the German border.  The new facility is over 102.000 sq.m. (+1 million square feet) and services seven European countries.  

Here are a couple of Czech television commercials from about five years ago that I found out on YouTube.

©Tchibo Česká republika

©Tchibo Česká republika

Here's also a short, three-minute video I found that talks about the history of the company.  It's only in German but it's still pretty easy to follow the story.

©Irgendwas mit ARTE und Kultur