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Izmirís twin city Karsiyaka
2003 / JULY

I do not wish to fuel the flames of rivalry between Izmir and Karsiyaka, but it is nevertheless true that Homer is supposed to have been born at Bayrakli, which lies in the latter. Here is to be found an ancient ruined tomb said to belong to King Tantalus of Phrygia, according to myth the son of Zeus and Pluto (not the god of the underworld, but the daughter of Hermantes). The same myth relates that Zeus fell out with his son and hurled him to his death in a ravine on Mount Yamanlar, at the foot of which today is the district of Karsiyaka. The crater lake of KaragŲl on the summit of this mountain may be the original site of this ravine. Tantalus was the only mortal admitted to the table of the gods, but paid heavily for the privilege. Excavations at Tepekule in Bayrakli began in the 1950s, revealing the traces of an ancient settlement dating back to 3000 BC. The former name of Karsiyaka was Cordelio, and many legends are told concerning the origin of this name.

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Izmirís twin city Karsiyaka
2003 / JULY

The best known and most widely accepted is that it was named after the renowned crusader king Richard Coeur de Lion (the Lionheart). Although Richard himself never set foot in the place, the name is supposed to have been given by a loyal band of his soldiers who set up camp in the forest here, and decided that this beautiful spot on the Aegean coast was worthy of bearing the name of their beloved leader. Over the centuries the name was corrupted by a series of mispronunciations and creative guesses into Cordelio. The modern name Karsiyaka presents no such difficulties, but means merely 'Opposite Shore' in Turkish, since it lies on the other side of the bay from Izmir proper. Karsiyaka is the twin town on the other side of this stretch of water which glistens on moonlit nights. This name has been used by the Turks since 1081, when Izmir was conquered by the Seljuk admiral Emir «aka Bey. The first Turkish settlement in the region was SiralikŲy at the foot of Mount Yamanlar, which dates from the 15th century.

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Izmirís twin city Karsiyaka
2003 / JULY
Until a century ago this stretch of the coast was a place of woods, orchards and olive groves and was a popular excursion place for the people of Izmir, but today these have been swept away to make room for expanding suburbs. Western travellers in past centuries described the delights of Karsiyaka in glowing terms. One of these was John Hamilton, who relates how he hired a boat and crossed the bay to visit Cordelio. The construction of the railway in 1865 marked the beginning of change for Karsiyaka, which until then had been a tranquil village and summer resort. Then in 1884 ferry services began operating between Izmir and Karsiyaka, and the one-time village gradually expanded. Indeed, it flourished to such an extent that it came to be regarded - half jokingly - as Izmir's rival. As in the case of Izmir and other port cities in western Turkey, this expansion was of a dual character, the Levantine and foreign merchants building grand houses in large grounds along the coast, while the Turkish quarter at Sogukkuyu spread inland.
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Izmirís twin city Karsiyaka
2003 / JULY

Bostanli, a neighbourhood of Karsiyaka formerly known as Papa Scala or Papas Village, grew up around the harbour where melons and watermelons grown in Menemen were loaded onto ships. One of the most prominent figures in the growth of Karsiyaka during the 19th century was «Ųmezzade Haci Mehmed Efendi. The establishment of municipalities was initiated by the large European colonies in the port cities of the eastern Mediterranean and these administrative bodies responsible for urban planning and infrastructure soon spread elsewhere. «Ųmezzade Haci Mehmed Efendi became the first mayor of Karsiyaka, and as part of his plan for the district he built Sogukkuyu Mosque in 1874.

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Izmirís twin city Karsiyaka
2003 / JULY

New building along the shore of the bay and along the route of the railway eventually linked Karsiyaka to Izmir, and the district as we know it today began to emerge. Only a handful of historic houses now remain on the waterfront at Karsiyaka, but despite all the changes, strolling through the narrow side streets, along the broad main roads lined by pines, or along the waterfront, you will not find it difficult to understand why the settlers of antiquity and the crusaders found it so pleasant. Izmir car registration plates begin with the number 35, and the inhabitants of Karsiyaka refer to themselves as '35 and a half' in a gentle hint at their superiority. Karsiyaka Sports Club, one of the first in Turkey, was established in 1912, and is supported by local people with the same passion they feel for their district. The reasons for this feeling are hard to pin down, but lie more in the atmosphere of the place.

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Izmirís twin city Karsiyaka
2003 / JULY

In this article I am perhaps seeking to understand why, when we played truant from school as teenagers, we headed straight for Karsiyaka in search of excitement and the sight of pretty girls - as everyone knows, the girls of Karsiyaka are famous for their looks. There is always a cheerful bustle in the streets, and the shore has its own unique moods in winter and summer. I send an armful of nostaligic greetings to Karsiyaka, Izmir's twin across the water.

* Baris Dogru is a freelance writer

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