Izmir, the 3rd largest city in Turkey, is one of the very oldest sites of civilization in the Mediterranean basin, dating back 8,000 years. It was known as Smyrna until Turkey’s first president, Mustafa Ataturk decided to push the country into the 20th Century, updating mores, practicing cultural and religious tolerance and requiring the country to convert to the Latin alphabet–thus the name change; these people still revere him, nearly 100 years later, his picture is everywhere.
Walking the streets on a gleaming, cloudless day, we stumbled upon what seemed to be a fabulously antiquated ruin surrounded by a wrought iron fence, and many homeless dogs– which seems to be a feature of this city. We thought it was deserted until further investigation led us to a gate where we paid approximately $4.00 each for the experience of a lifetime! And for awhile, we had the entire place to ourselves.
This was the remains of a Hittite agora (marketplace) which was built and rebuilt –mostly due to wars and earthquakes–nearly 1 every century(and they are overdue, by the way). This is a true find if you yearn to wander a fresh excavation where you can see how patient archeologists painstakingly put together the puzzle, making the marketplace come alive in your mind–not so different than the commerce going on today just a few streets over, supplying the populace with fresh fish, local home-grown foodstuffs, and local products, handmade locally or imported from the nearby seaport. You can almost smell the fresh baked bread, the dried plums and figs along with the music that must have accompanied the throng.
And then the stillness almost choked me, reminding me of days gone by, and how the earth endures while our lives pass away.
As the day faded, we headed for the water’s edge for a dinner caught from the sea only hours before and greedily drank the beer made nearby.
Evening wrapped us within its warm embrace in this ancient land and I feel humbled and grateful to stand witness.