Izmir: The Agora and the Synagogues

Izmir
Turkey
08 November 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

I have decided on a final itinerary for my remaining time in Turkey: Selcuk – Izmir – Bergama – Canakkale – Edirne – Karacakoy – Istanbul. Now I need to pick up the pace and cut back a bit on my strolling and wandering.

The first decision is how much time to spend in Izmir (pop 2.6 mil). I decided, very little. Big cities have become less attractive to me. But Izmir, the ancient city of Smyrna, is known for its large Jewish community and I did want to see the old synagogues.

I left my luggage at the Izmir bus station and hopped on a city bus to downtown. There I hired a taxi to take me up and around the hills. We found several abandoned synagogues. I wanted to visit the interior of Bet Israel but the guard posted there told me it was closed. I tried my best smile but no luck. He asked if I was Jewish and did I speak Hebrew? I said yes and no. The guard spoke Hebrew. He was once the bodyguard of the Turkish Ambassador to Israel.

Perhaps this sounds silly but I have learned to trust taxi drivers, mostly. So when my driver insisted I visit the Agora here, I agreed. This was also a good decision.

"The ancient Agora built for Alexander the Great was ruined in an earthquake in 178 CE, but rebuilt by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. Colonnades of reconstructed Corinthian columns, vaulted chambers, and arches give you a good idea of what a Roman bazaar must have looked like." *

Back in the taxi, back to the bus station, a quick lunch, and back on a bus to Bergama.

"When I read about your recent travels, I am breathless" wrote one of my friends. Today, I am breathless too.

Cheers and toda raba,

Jan


* "Turkey." Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd. 2009 pg 224.

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