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  • To the heart of the Aegean

    With its ancient legacy, its towns, its seashore and its highlands, the Aegean is a colorful and extraordinary itinerary where a surprise lurks round every corner.

    Starting from Bergama 100 km north of Izmir and stretching as far as the resorts of Alaçatı and Dalyanköy on the Çeşme peninsula, the Aegean itinerary promises an incomparable journey for adventurous travelers. Besides its ancient heritage, Bergama (ancient Pergamon), where the first medical complex was founded and the first bound books produced, is perhaps the most colorful town along the route with its old town texture, its carpets and its highlands. Çeşme’s hidden treasure, Dalyanköy is famous for its ‘murmaid’ and its fish restaurants, and Çeşme’s beaches are a favorite now as every summer. Alaçatı on the windswept coast is ready to
    steal travelers’ hearts with its crystal-clear sea reflecting every tone of blue and green, its traditional Aegean spirit that has inspired poets and its original stone houses.

    The most colorful quarter
    Our first stop at Pergamon, where the paper known as parchment, made from animal skins, was invented, is the acropolis. On the Upper Acropolis is the theater, which has the steepest seating of any theater in the ancient world. The Asklepion (Aesculapium), to the west of this city of so many ‘first’s in the field of health, is where the entwined snake figure symbolic of pharmacy and medicine was first observed. But ancient ruins are not Bergama’s only attraction. There are two quarters that stand out in this town whose back streets are chock full of surprises: the quarter of Talatpaşa consisting of old Greek and Ottoman houses that spreads as far as the foot of the Acropolis, and the quarter of Atmaca where the Romani people famous for their musical genius reside. With its cobblestone streets running up the hill and its gaily painted houses, it is a virtual mirror of the recent past. Opposite the Red Courtyard, the buildings occupied by the shops selling Bergama carpets and antiques have been restored by the Culture Ministry. The Girls’ Occupational High School, Küplü Bath and the Papaz or Priest’s House are among the region’s most noteworthy structures. Taking the road to Kozak from the city center, the highland villages scattered through the woods will strike you as so many landscapes painted in oils. When you leave Bergama, you will first encounter a view of an historic aqueduct as the road climbs higher and higher between black pines and picnic grounds until the Kozak Highlands at 900 meters are spread before you like a pool of yellow and green.

    Fertile and carefree
    The highland villages scattered among the pistachio pines along the road to Kozak are like picture postcards. Extending as far as Ayvalık, this road is a must-see for nature lovers. Among the Kozak villages, Demircidere stands out as particularly suitable for highland tourism, while Aşağıcuma and Yukarıbey draw attention for their natural riches. The pistachio pines especially have brought great prosperity to the local landowners. The Kozak highlands offer visitors opportunities for nature walks, photography, bird watching and plant observation.

    Windy village
    One of Izmir’s best-preserved secrets, Alaçatı is a place where sitting down to a glass of tea in a tea garden on the village square is like a ritual that instills the sense of calm this town inspires. Kemalpaşa Caddesi with its boutique hotels, cafes, bars and gift shops in whitewashed Greek houses with blue shutters is Alaçatı’s main thoroughfare. On weekends the pebbled area in front of the Pazaryeri Mosque at the town center turns into an antique market shaded by lemon trees. A lemon tree planted by the mosque’s imam and a Greek priest who visited Alaçatı at the start of the 1990’s is the symbol of a future filled with peace. On Saturdays another market is set up here, bursting with fruits and vegetables of every kind, Aegean herbs, textiles, country cheeses and wood-carved souvenirs all brought in the from the neighboring villages. Once located on the shore, Alaçatı is now two kilometers inland. A small coastal village until the 1980’s, Alaçatı first made its name heard in connection with surfing. Today it is a surf center, world-famous for its perpetual winds, its one and a half meter wide shallow coastal strip and its surfing schools. Undergoing rapid change in the last few years, Alaçatı is extremely meticulous when it comes to preserving its unique texture of cobblestone streets, stone houses and terebinth trees.  Summer and winter, you can find the famous ‘sakız’ (gum mastic) ice cream at Alaçatı along with fresh fish and other seafood, and there is even a ‘kumrucu’ for those who don’t fancy fish. A type of sandwich, the ‘kumru’ (literally, turtledove) is made by putting various fillings between slices of a special bread made with chickpea flour. It is a staple not only of Alaçatı but of the entire region.

    Çeşme’s straits
    A corner where nature has been extremely generous, Dalyanköy will greet you with a statue of a murmaid with her face turned towards Sakız Adası, aka the island of Chios. Although it may appear on maps as a district of Çeşme township, this is actually a fishing village some four kilometers from the city center. Like a natural filmset, Dalyanköy is missing perhaps only one thing in comparison with Alaçatı 10 kilometers away, namely, the historic town atmosphere created by the old Greek houses. You might even think you are on the banks of a river or strait at Dalyanköy, which is situated at the edge of a long, narrow cove north of Çeşme. Despite being eminently calm and quiet in winter, the population here rises to 5 or 6 thousand in summer. In addition to the private beaches of the hotels, two blue-flag beaches, Bostan and Kocakarı, are among the most popular sites for summer tourism. With its terraced villas perched around the cove, its yachts anchored at the marina, its gaily painted fishing boats and its fashionable fish restaurants, Dalyanköy is a picture-pretty Aegean treasure. A Greek village by the name of Palaskevi until the mid-1920’s, after the departure of the Greeks Dalyanköy’s new owners lived in the stone houses left by the Greeks until the 1970’s when the village’s unique fabric fell victim to a spate of summer house construction. Today the old Greek houses are so few as to be countable on the fingers of one hand. For a close-up view of the region’s unmatched architecture you need to delve into the back streets. To experience the Aegean once again, to your heart’s content...