Wednesday 9 October – Izmir Agora and Castles

On the day we were due to return home we decided to do a another walking tour of the city which would include a visit to the Ionian Agora (administrative centre and market place) and the hill-top castle.

The first place if interest was the Hanım Zübeyde ferry museum which we spotted whilst sipping out morning coffee on the coastal promenade. The Motor Vessel Zübeyde Hanım was built in 1987 and served as a ferry for Istanbul services on the Bosporous. It was named after Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s mother. After looking around the exhibits I asked for permission for us the visit the engine room, which was roped off and is normally out of bounds. We were delighted to be given a guided tour by the enthusiastic Captain of the four-man crew. He only spoke Turkish – and only very quickly I might add. Some of the vocabulary was a little challenging for me but he explained how the two diesel propulsion engines were started (using compressed air) and how the lubrication oil’s filtration system worked. Two diesel engine generators provided electrical power and there was a back-up unit too. The ship was fully serviceable even though it was used as a museum.

Listen to me lanky, there’s no way you work down here.”

We walked up to the agora via a pedestrianised area in the Konak district featuring the wonderfully ornate Yalı Mosque and the Moorish clock tower.

Yalı Mosque in Konak district

The Mosque was constructed in 1755 under the patronage of Ayşe Hanım, the wife of Katipzade Mehmet Paşa who governed İzmir at the time. The outer tiles were brought from Kütahya. It has a single dome and minaret and unusually for a mosque, only one entrance. The interior is lit by a chandelier by Ümran Baradan.

Clock Tower in Konak District

One of the city’s major landmarks, this Moorish-style clock tower with four fountains was designed by the Levantine French architect Raymond Charles Père and built in 1901 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Abdülhamid II’s accession to the throne. The clock itself was a gift from German Emperor Wilhelm II.

Passing through the fascinatingly dynamic Kemeraltı indoor market we soon reached the ancient agora.

Detail from the Arch Over Liman Caddesi (Harbour Street)

Arcade Under the Western Stoa (Roofed Collonade)

Western Stoa (Roofed Collonade) of Agora

In more recent times part of the Agora site had been used as an Ottoman cemetery.

Ottoman Graveyard Stones and Tombs

The walk up the steep narrow streets and paths to the Kadifekale castle was interesting as we passed through some very under privileged housing, many of which were derelict or being demolished. We were quite an attraction for the small kids as they were confident enough to try out their basic English on use. One or two begged money from us too which we’d also experienced from some Syrian refugees in the city.

We never felt intimidated by the elder youths – though I’ve since read it’s not a place to walk through alone, especially after dark.

Mescit (to rear) and Cistern (foreground) in the Grounds of Kadifekale

Rug Weaving in the Castle Grounds

View of Izmir from the Castle Walls

Tuesday 8 October Izmir

Having now visited the league of six Ionian cites (plus another one and a Byzantine castle) and with the weather forecast deteriorating fast, we set aside today for visiting the main museums in Izmir.

The first one was the Museum of Archaeology which has some fantastic exhibits but most didn’t state which site they’d been found on.

Statue of Priest, Roman Period, Bodrum

Bronze Statue of an Athlete (50-30 BCE)

Stone Relief Carving (Unattributed)

The most impressive part of the collection was the Treasury which held many of the gold, silver and electrum (a gold and silver alloy) coins though photography was not allowed here.

We walked the two miles to the Museum of Art and History passing through a working district, where we stopped for köfte and pide, and then the wonderfully vibrant and lively Kemeraltı market.

Back Street of Izmir

There are three museum buildings here, the first used for sculptures, the second for ceramics and the third for precious objects, including coins. Fortunately we could take photos here.

Head of Hermes (Roman Period, Pergamon)


Neolithic Storage Jar

Silver Coins from Aspendos 380 to 375 BCE

We then strolled a long the seaside promenade and enjoyed a coffee as the sun began to go down.

Coastal Police Station

Another array of Meze beckoned us into Hayyal Mehanesi where we also enjoyed an Efes beer and continued our feast with lamb chops. We then enjoyed yet another selection of baklava and tea at Sıdkı Ustu Tatlıları.

Monday 7 October – Klazomenai and Erythrae

Klazomenai took a little finding due to poor sign posting but turned out to be a very fruitful visit. We first spotted the nearby Limantepe excavations which were fenced in and inaccessible, and seemed to have been suspended. We walked around its perimeter and were lucky enough to find a boat yard where some experimental archaeologists had and were reconstructing various sea going vessels and associated items such as ship loading cranes. One of the boats had been used to make a 57(?) day trip from here to Marseille.

Experimental Archaeologist’s Marseille Voyage Boat

New Build in Progress

We then went over the road to the Klazomenai site where we introduced ourselves and were treated to a guided tour of the dig by Volkan – one of the archaeologists. He didn’t really speak much English and my Turkish isn’t good enough for the topic but we learned which periods the excavations had revealed (from around 1000 BC) and what some of the finds were: a few gold and silver coins, amphorae, alabastron (small oil containers), pithos (large earthenware jars) and other types of pottery. A few remnants of human bones had been found.

Klazomenai Excavations

Drink Vessel at Klazomenai

  • We were then escorted down to another site where some experimental archaeologists had recreated two ancient wooden olive presses over a set of stone olive vessels which had been discovered in the ground. The Ionions that lived here did a lot of trade in the export of olive oil.
  • Ancient Oil Press Recreation

    In the afternoon we made our way over to Erythrae which is about a 45 minute drive to the west of Urla. . Here we explored the Haroon (Hero’s temple), theatre, Church of Matrone and Temple of Athena Polias. Enjoying the amazing views from our vantage point on the hill we could see about six large excavation pits below on the flat land to the north us. Later we went to the excavation site centre but were not give permission to have a look around them, unfortunately, as they weren’t open to the public.

    Theatre, Erythrae

    Matrone Church, Erythrae

    Matrone Church, Erythrae

    This city has a reputation for exporting millstones. Unfortunately not much is left of the Temple of Athena Polias.

    Old House in Ildır, near Erythrae

    Enjoying Meze at Ömre Bedel Yemekler in Urla, after a hard day of amateur archaeology.

    Sunday 6 October – Theos

    We had a great night’s sleep at the Antik Hotel which is located at the side of the old castle walls of the town of Sığacık … but breakfast was a a disaster. We hadn’t been told what time to come down and hadn’t seen any signs but we though 8:15 was reasonable on a Sunday morning. We waited in the hotel reception but there was no one around. At 8:30 I sent a message to the owner … no reply. At 8:45 I called him. No reply … but I could hear a phone ringing from a guest’s room where loud snoring was emanating from. We called through the open window and eventually received a grunted reply. A disheveled looking man appeared (who we assume was the owner or manger), took one look at us but never spoke a word. He went to another room and soon the young receptionist appeared looking in a similar disheveled state. By this time though we’d made a reconnoitre if the kitchens as decided that the hygiene standards were too poor for us to be able to stomach what ever they were going to present. We negotiated a discount on our rate and made a speedy retreat. We soon found aN excellent local bakery where we enjoyed a wonderful classic Turkish breakfast.

    Breakfast in Sığacık

    Refreshed, we had a quick tour of the old town and Sunday market and the set off on our walk up to Teos. As we entered the site from a side track and not the official entrance we caused a bit of a stir with some other visitors as the security guard felt he needed to shout at us to come to the ticket office to pay.

    The Archaic Temple

    The site has been investigated by archaeologists several times over the last hundred and fifty years and Ankara University is now putting a lot of effort into excavating the site and rebuilding the theatre.


    Council Forum (Bouleuterion)

    We made our way down to the old Ionian harbour where we chatted to a couple of fishermen, one of whom had been raised in Germany.

    “Güten tag me owd flower! Caught owt?”

    Looks like Noah has popped in for a refit …

    Dinner at Beğendik Ali Lokantası, Urla

    Saturday 5 October – St John’s Basilica, Selçuk Castle and Lebedos

    There was a vivid lightning storm accompanied by high winds, just after we went to bed, followed by a violent down-pour which kept me awake until after 2 am. Then just after 6:30 the pension owner woke us as the market was setting up. So not the best of nights. The market was impressive though – particularly the fresh fruit and veg and we availed ourselves of some fresh walnuts.

    We walked up to the Selçuk castle which is entered by some monumental arches that lead into the St John’s Basilica. None of us were aware of the scale of the church building or just how important to the Christian world it is. This St John was the youngest of the 12 apostles and escaped the martyrdom that his brother James suffered under the hands of King Herod.

    Burial Site of St John, St John’s Basilica

    This church, was enlarged and altered over the centuries and became a very important site for pilgrims. At its most expansive it would have been the 7th largest in the world.

    St John’s Basilica

    Above the basilica lies the largely complete and restored Selçuk Castle walls and inside these there are a few water cisterns (one made from a converted basilica where St John had done a lot of his writings), a partially restored mosque and soldiers accommodation. The southern walls afforded fantastic views of the original bay which was adjacent to the inhabited Ephesus and now is very fertile agricultural plane.

    Mosque in Selçuk Castle Grounds

    St John’s Basilica

    Lebedos was something of a disappointment. Although it was one of 12 cities of the Ionian League it was the least important. Nothing remains now but some foundation stones and a low wall. The promontory that the city sat on has a few derelict old buildings on it which have become quite an eyesore.

    So far no archaeological works have been carried out in the area. It is believed that there was a theatre for the Artists of Dionysus in the city, but its location remains a mystery.


    Friday 4 October – Ephesus

    Last night we had our kebabs in the Köfteçisi across the road from the Vardar Pension where we are staying in Selçuk. We love this little town! It’s a bit touristy of course, as it’s the nearest place of any size to Ephesus, and it has its own Byzantium castle so it’s got lots of restaurants, cafes and tourist shops but it’s still maintained a very Turkish feel to it unlike so many other resorts. Later we found a superb little shop selling a variety of baklava which we sampled with great indulgence of course.

    Being very hard core walkers (arf, arf) and wanting to fully experience the environmental setting of this phenomenal site (but not really wanting to pay car parking charges) we decided to walk into Ephesus from the town. This gave us the chance to see the impressive Seven Sleepers cave where in 250 AD some young Christian men fell into a deep sleep after escaping from a sacrificial ceremony.

    Seven Sleepers Cave

    We had to pass through airport type security to get into the main site. I explained to the security guards that I was carrying a small knife (ok was a 4″ lock knife!) as we were camping (slight exaggeration but we did have rucksacks). Show it to me, he said. “Hmm,” came the reply. He said I’d have to leave it with him and pick it up on the way out. But we’re leaving by the other entrance, I said. And what do you really think three old men are going to do with it anyway way? He laughed out loud at that – and whilst complimenting me on my Turkish he waved us through.

    The Biggest Fonts (of all knowledge?) at St Mary’s Church, Ephesus

    The Temple of Hadrian

    St Mary’s Church

    It might be more like one of my construction site photos with that crane but this amphitheater, whilst not as big as Rome’s Colosseum, held 25,000 people and is the largest in Anatolia

    Library (left) and Agora Entrance (right)

    Library Statue

    After we’d feasted on sardines and sea bream we made our way back to Ustem Baklava where Furkan sells his home made baklava and antep ice cream. Some of the best I’ve ever tasted – and I’ve sampled quite a few!

    Furkan, the Best Baklavacı in Turkey

    Thursday 3 October – Kolophon and Claros

    The city of Colophon was founded by Ionian settlers in the 9th or the 8th century BC, on a very fertile plain watered by numerous streams flowing from five hills that surrounded it. Another advantage of its position was the location on the shortest route connecting Smyrna with Ephesus and Notion. Archaeological excavations have shown that the earliest settlements in the area date back to prehistoric times.

    Kolophon took a lot of finding and even and some of the locals had never heard of it. There isn’t a lot of remains to see and though at one time it was a very affluent city it seems everything has been robbed or buried. There were some signs of archaeological excavations and a map had been produced but it was almost impossible to identify and proper structures. There was quite a bit of bush whacking, climbing and scrambling required to get around the site so I’d only recommend it if you like a good physical challenge and have a lot of imagination.

    It must be here somewhere! Site of the Kolophon Acropolis

    We enjoyed a lunch of lentil soup, moussaka and tea at the local Ay Lokantası and some made our way down to Claros.


    This well-kept site was guarded and though it was free entry we were told that we could not take large bags onto the site. A few copies had been made of some of the statues and its clear that archaeologists ate still digging here. There are plenty of information boards in English and this site is well worth a visit.

    Temple of Apollo, Claris

    In ancient times, people attached great importance to the words of the oracle that foretold the future, gave advice and warnings. In the Greek world, apart from the most famous oracle at Delphi, there were many other prophetic centers, of local or wider significance. One of them was the oracle of Claros.

    Ancient Sundial Shenanigans

    The oldest piece of information about the function of the Temple of Apollo in Claros dates back to the time of Alexander the Great. According to the Greek historian Pausanias, in his dream Alexander was told that he would set up a large new city at the base of Mt. Pagos (Kadifekale). After this dream the, king consulted the Apollo oracle at Claros and asked him to interpret the dream for him. He set up the new Smyrna after the oracle gave him the go-ahead to proceed.

    Massive Bust Carving