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Izmir in the news, unfortunately

I often think that Izmir deserves more attention than it gets among American travelers, and today is unfortunately a case of bewaring what you wish for, with the earthquake and tsunami damage now making the news here.

Times change and national sovereignty is very important and so on, but I also often think that if we still called the city Smyrna it would have a much higher profile in travel discussions and 'bucket lists'.

Posted by
10333 posts

We used Izmir as a base to visit Pergamon and Ephesus. Sorry to hear about all the damage and lives lost there.

Posted by
1278 posts

Sad news from Izmir, certainly, but do you think it should be a major destination for trans-Atlantic tourists? In common with many Britons (and the Germans), we've been (the airport is (or was, pre-Covid), a major one for low cost airlines), and the province around is a super-duper, popular beach holiday destination. But I thought the city Izmir itself was a bit "blah". Okay for a couple of days (or more with day-trips), but not brilliantly interesting in terms of its own sights compared to, say, Istanbul (an unfair comparison, I accept). But, perhaps we missed the real highlights? Always open to a return visit!

Posted by
1457 posts

We have only been to the Izmir Airport when visiting Selcuk. We were never able to spend time in Izmir itself. It seems Selcuk also felt the quake as well as at least one Greek island. That seems to be an earthquake area. We can only hope there was not much loss of life or damage.

Posted by
3961 posts

Yes, the earthquake was terrible. Heard from friends who were traveling in Turkey last year. They visited Selçuk, the archeological sites, Ephesus Museum and departed from the Izmir airport. Their daughter lived in Selçuk a number of years ago while a student at Ephesus. She has friends who own a shop in Selçuk. She was able to contact them and they reported- "got through the quake in good shape."

Thinking of the residents in the area and hoping for the best.

Posted by
2348 posts

@Nick, I've mentioned this before w/r/t the eastern coast of Spain, that what intra-European tourists consider to be beach opportunities outshines the historical treasures that can be found if you have the eyes to see, and take off the sunglasses
(How's that for mixing Biblical metaphors?)
The city of Smyrna competed with Ephesus (and often won) for most important center of Roman Asia, and is a trove and a half of key cultural and religious relics, but the combination of appealing to get-away tourism and the reluctance of Muslim conservatives to draw attention to the rich cultural heritage of the region results in another kind of whitewashing.

Posted by
31 posts

We stayed in Izmir several years ago on a Rick Steves tour. So sad to hear about the earthquake. Rick, have you heard if Mert is okay? He was our guide and Izmir may have been his home. Hope he and his family are okay. Thanks.

Posted by
5103 posts

Rick, have you heard if Mert is okay?

Rick doesn't frequent these boards,

Posted by
18819 posts

However, some of his staffers do and might be able to answer if they see this.

Posted by
2348 posts

@Nick, I can't resist sharing more about the history of Smyrna/Izmir -- here's a smattering of info about just the Jewish Quarter
and that source is itself a bit biased [embarrassed] to bring up a very important personage,
Shabbetai Tzvi,
who was the second- or third- most important Messiah claimant after Jesus
In the 17th century this particular Messiah caused as much, or more, trouble within Mediterranean and European Jewish communities as Jesus's followers and Bar Kochba had caused more than a millennium earlier.

This Messiah, Shabbetai Tzvi, was a rabbi from Smyrna/Izmir who was even more into Kabbala than the singer Madonna is in our day. He moved from Smyrna to Istanbul as his popularity grew, and eventually he became too popular, and was forced to convert to Islam. Some of his followers followed suit.
He ended his life in Montenegro, or maybe it was Albania -- so much of what we can know is mythologized or contested or both.

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2348 posts

On February 9th there is a lecture, available over zoom, on the late Ottoman Jewish community in Izmir ;
info about registering is here:

"Dina Danon (SUNY-Binghamton University) in conversation with Karen Barkey (UC Berkeley)

Synopsis: This lecture will tell the story of a long overlooked Ottoman Jewish community in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Drawing extensively on a rich body of previously untapped Ladino archival material, the lecture will also offer a new read on Jewish modernity. Across Europe, Jews were often confronted with the notion that their religious and cultural distinctiveness was somehow incompatible with the modern age. Yet the view from Ottoman Izmir invites a different approach: what happens when Jewish difference is totally unremarkable? What happens when there is no “Jewish Question?” Through the voices of beggars on the street and mercantile elites, shoe-shiners and newspaper editors, rabbis and housewives, this lecture will underscore how it was new attitudes to poverty and social class, not Judaism, that most significantly framed this Sephardi community’s encounter with the modern age.

Bio: Dina Danon is associate professor of Judaic Studies at Binghamton University. She holds a doctorate in History from Stanford University. She is the author of The Jews of Ottoman Izmir: A Modern History (Stanford University Press, 2020)–finalist for the National Jewish Book Award in Sephardic Culture. She was recently a fellow at the Katz Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where she began work on a new project on the marketplace of matchmaking, marriage, and divorce in the eastern Sephardi diaspora. "