Friday, 4 February 2011

Friday, 28th January 2011 Izmir (TR)

A day to remember...

The boat with Turkey’s flag departed at 08:30 from Chios to Çesme. Passengers were Korean tourists, Greek and Turkish businessmen. I arrived in Çesme after an hour where Seher and Doganay came to pick me up for an Izmir province ride.

From Çesme to Izmir there is an international highway with a big grass lane in the middle and numerous wind mills on the sides producing electric energy. You need something more than an hour to reach Izmir. Searching on the radio you can find Turkish and Greek radio stations and the signal in the mobile phone is constantly changing between GR and TR.

20 km outside Ismir is Menderes district. First stop was Menderes city hall to meet the mayor Ergun Ozgun and supporter of the YiA programme*. He asked several questions and agreed on helping us. When he found out I was coming from Thessaloniki, he told me that he originates from an Ottoman family of Selanik. He keeps in his office a jar with soil that his grandfather brought with him.

We followed the local road, along the seaside, and we passed by Yoncaköy - Klaros, Notion, Maydonoz Koy (parsley village). Just after Maydonoz Koy there is a beautiful wetland that lies between the road and the sea...but between the wetland and the coast series of houses are built.

In Selçuk, in the EFES – Selçuk Belediyesi we were offered a book titled ‘Ephesus in old postcards’ as a gift. They offered us also tea and when they heard I was Greek they mentioned the “twin city” status of Selçuk with Dion in Greece. Some metres away stands the museum of the city where we asked them to provide us with a group free entrance as donors to the program. The responsible officer disappointed us by saying that that is not possible because the museum runs under a private company...

Going up the hill, following a road full of olive trees for around 6 km, lays Şirince village. According to the story Şirince was settled by freed Greek slaves who named the village Çirkince (meaning ugly) to deter others from following them. The village's name was changed to Şirince (meaning pleasant) in 1926. Şirince forms the setting of Greek writer Dido Sotiriou's —a native of Şirince— book 'Farewell Anatolia'.

On the way back, Ali joined us and brought with him the CD of Yasmin Levy to listen to. Yasmin Levy, a ladino - Sephardic music singer, says in her “Una Ora en la Ventana” (One Hour at the Window) song:

Ah! No t'alves ke sos blanka (Ah, don’t brag about yourself that you are white)

Blanka komo el yasmin (White as the jasmine flower)

Ke ay morenikas en el mundo (For there are dark-skinned in the world)

Ke kemaron, ke kemaron (Who have burnt, have burnt)

medio Izmir (Half of Izmir)

After a 2 hour traffic jam on the ring road of Izmir we reached Alsancak and the promenade and joined a lovely youth group. Among them there was Derren, a descent of an Ottoman family who left Mitilini and nowadays lives in Karsiyaka (Kordelio). I was really lucky to be hosted that night by her and drink tea next morning to one of the most beautiful views I ever seen in my life.

* YiA programme “Twice a stranger” is an action 1.1 bilateral youth exchange between Greece and Turkey. “Twice a stranger” (being and feeling different in each period before and after the exchange of population in result of the Lausanne Agreement in 1923) is the title of Bruce Clark’s book. He mentions about the treaty: ‘it was concluded when colonial empires were still intact and the right of powerful nations to dictate the destiny of small and powerless ones was broadly accepted’ that had as a result the: ‘complete division of the geographical and cultural space in which peoples, languages and religions had previously co-existed’. From 28th to 30th of January 2011 the advanced plan visit took place.

All photos @

Yasmin Levy - Una Ora En La Ventana (One Hour at the Window)

Bruce Clark - Twice A Stranger: How Mass Expulsion Forged Modern Greece and Turkey