Some weeks ago, I
visited Izmir, the ‘Pearl of the Aegean’, a prosperous port
city, with deep roots in antiquity – 8500 years of history as a human settlement
since the Neolithic period, allegedly established by Amazonas – the
women warriors, re-established by Alexander the Great, birth place of Homer, ruled
by Lydians, Persians, Romans, Ottomans.

Izmir is the third
largest city in Turkey and densely populated Izmir province counts over 4
million inhabitants. Due to its geographic position, Izmir has been NATO’s
headquarters for southeast Europe, one of largest ports in the area, the
stronghold of industry and trade.

İzmir is full of
museums, cultural centres and packed with events, exhibitions and festivals, crowned
by more than 80-year-old International İzmir Fair.

“Izmir is like a princess with the most beautiful hat.” , Victor Hugo

It is a busy place, a
crossroad. Still, it has unusual grounding and calmness, something special in
the air – hava, something so
appealing to me. I felt like I was travelling back in time. While in Izmir, I
experienced several déjà vu, remembering blissful moments from my childhood and
youth in Mostar, and my student days in Barcelona.

Izmir has a lot to
offer, but its beauty comes from the inside. Sometimes it feels modern,
energetic, pimped up – like Alsancak; sometimes old, slow, wrinkled – like Kemeraltı;
sometimes unpredictable, curious, tense – like Basmane; or just moody – like Karşıyaka;
or calm, joyful, romantic – like Kordon.

Hisar Cami – the largest and the oldest mosque, next to historical kemeralti bazaar

Food is so delicious,
either you are vegetarian, pescatarian, meat-lover or sweets-junkie. Apart from
tasty coffee and salep – a warm milk drink, I got addicted to ada çayı.

In Izmir, I came
closer to understanding the meaning of being present in the moment. It is about
three simple things:

joy (keyif) – doing something you enjoy often and regularly

sharing is
caring – a silent moment, a meal, a problem or just time

being useful –
to yourself and others involves discipline and feels so good

I remember so well,
the smiley face of guy at Merdane Borek Ustasi, where we ate breakfast almost
every day, fresh orange and pomegranate juice and tasty boreks, eggplant borek
– becoming my new favourite.

Or amazing baklava at Hisarönü
Tatlıcısı, where I fall for diverse chestnuts’ sweets. Despite a lack of language
fluency, mixture of Turkish, English and Bosnian, the master – usta, knew
exactly my preferences – he read it from the joy in my eyes.

Even before I landed
in Izmir, I was lucky to meet two gentlemen sitting next to me on a plane, with soft eyes and genuine intention to make sure I would go to the right place to
pick-up my luggage.

I must mention an
adorable meyhane in Konak where I eat
the best sarma ever. It is a neighbourhood
restaurant, also a book shop. I remember a warm welcome and calm, cosy
atmosphere. I just felt at home.

a loose dog
covered with blanket

The blissfulness I was
experiencing was about the sea, the sun and the people. I love so much the feeling of a genuine human
contact, just a smile or simple chat. Strolling around and randomly involving
in chit-chats has always inspired me.

Izmir is contemporary
and relaxed. It has always been there, and it will always stay there, watching
over the Aegean.

Teşekkür ederim. Görüşürüz!

IZMIR, December 2018