by Bozhidara Georgieva; photography by Anthony Georgieff
When planning a holiday on the Turquoise Coast of Turkey, Izmir is rarely the first choice. Or the second. Or the third. In fact, it is not even on the Wikitravel suggestion list for Mediterranean Turkey. The idea of postponing even for a day the bliss of swimming in the crystal waters of Fethiye, to name just one major resort not too far away, for the dubious pleasure of being stuck in the congested traffic of Turkey's third biggest city is indeed far from tempting. What is more, if you discount the villas in the Karşıyaka neighbourhood, there is hardly any old architecture in Izmir.
So, most tourists skip Izmir altogether, or land at its airport and head to the resorts in the area. Izmir is left to its citizens, about four million of them, and to the odd Greek on a pilgrimage to the birthplace of ancestors who left the region after the Greek-Turkish War
Izmir, however, has a peculiar charm, as you discover on arrival. It is easy and pleasant to spend a whole day here. You can begin with a long morning walk along the promenade with its posh cafés, beautiful people and the Gustave Eiffel pier, now a trade centre. You can finish your day gazing at the glorious sunset from the top of Asansör, the historic 56-metre-high elevator. It was built in 1907 up one of Izmir's many hills. The idea and the capital came from a wealthy Jew who decided to make life easier for his elderly neighbours by relieving them of climbing the 155 steps to reach their hill-top houses.
When darkness descends and the city glows with millions of lights, head to the Konak central area. It is packed with lively and non-touristy restaurants and with probably the most secular crowd in Turkey.
What to do in between? Izmir is full with possibilities. The ruins of the ancient Smyrna agora are close to the centre, and the castle on Kadifekale is yours to explore. Its walls are medieval but the foundations were laid out in Antiquity, on the wishes of Alexander the Great himself.
You can spend a good deal of time just sitting in Konak Square and looking alternately at the crowd – talking, flirting, munching sunflower seeds – and the splendid Saat Kulesi, or Clock Tower. It was built in 1901 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Sultan Abdülhamid II's accession to the throne. The mechanism was a gift from Kaiser Wilhelm II.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers