Guide to SKOPJE

SEFERIHISAR – CALM CITY (CITTASLOW)

You want to spend your summer holiday in Turkey but at the same time you wish for a quiet and peaceful place to stay. Balkon3 presents a wonderful choice. Welcome to Seferihisar.

Time – 10:00 am. Place – Istanbul.

We are travelling to Seferihisar, the capital of “calm” cities in Turkey. In summer there are only two companies that offer direct lines to Seferihisar. During winter you have to travel via Izmir. For those who opt for a bus service the journey goes like this: take a ferry from Eskihisar to Yalova, than a coach at Bursa bus station, lunch break in Susurluk, a short visit to Akhisar the land of olives, and at 18:30 arrival at Izmir bus station. From there to Seferihisar the landscape is passionate, the roads are empty.

We finally arrive in Seferihisar at 19:20. Tourists visit the area mainly from May to September. It is also a place where many TV series have been filmed.

We start exploring the town the next morning. Our first destination is Sigacik fortress. It is situated at the entrance of town by the blue sea, dating back to the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent. You can see a yacht marina, fish restaurants, an enormous snail sculpture (Cittaslow) and a bust of Ataturk.

More enthusiastic tourists can book an organized tour to other bays where they can explore underwater beauties, dive and go spearfishing.

One day a week a street market is set up in Sigacik. It sells products manufactured by local artisans. It is a joy to see women taking an active role in trading their goods. We head on to the narrow streets of the fortress (Kale). We enter the fortress through a big wooden door. Narrow alleys, adobe single floor or two-storey houses greet us right at the entrance.

Perhaps it is the hot weather that drives people into their homes because we notice only a few old ladies sweeping the thresholds, or sitting by the windows, watching over the streets with a sad and lonely look in their eyes. I wonder where children are. And, is it acceptable to leave old women to fight through life without any help? I approach and greet one of them. “Who are you looking for?” she asks. Behind her blue eyes you can see the lassitude of her age. She is about 80 I suppose, with bad hearing so we literally shout at each other.

I tell her I’m a tourist from Istanbul who’s come here to do some sightseeing. “You’ve done well my child” she says “There are two main streets in the fortress. They both lead out of the fortress and there you will find the sea. If you leave through the door and go up the steps you’ll have a spectacular view of Sigacuk landscape… ”

I thank her for the instructions but my heart simply wouldn’t let me leave just like that. I yearned to talk with her. She accompanied me for a few steps, trudging behind me, so I couldn’t resist asking her “Granny, do you live alone? Don’t you have anyone?” I was about to hear a very sad story. She came from Izmir originally, lost her mother at a very young age and six months later her father married another woman. When she was only 15 her father married her to a 30-year-old man whom she had never seen before. She came to Seferihisar as a “child bride”. She has two children, her son lives in Istanbul, her daughter is in Izmir and her husband has deceased.  I could have sat there and listen to her for days.

Still, there are so many other places to visit, so I bid her farewell and head on to Sigacuk historical mosque.

Next on our list is the ancient city of Teos. You can drive or take a taxi, and it takes about 15-20 minutes to get there. Unfortunately, there aren’t many historical monuments left in this ancient city since a large number of lion and snake statues have been stolen in the past several years. Excavations have been intensified though, and we hope to see many antiquities in the future. Teos is one of the earliest settlements in the region. It is one of the 12 Ionian cities, first to   accept Christianity, an active religious centre and home to five Christian saints.

Old town houses and concrete buildings in the centre seem to give life to the town. As a symbol of Cittaslow there is a statue of a snail that wishes you a warm welcome into a peaceful world.

The building of the old City Hall has been repurposed as a village marketplace. Farmers are allowed to use the space without paying any rent. There is an exhibition of paintings and terracotta pottery. I find them to be exciting works of art. Luckily, it was market day. There are fresh and organic foods tempting me to fill my bags.

The next day I had the pleasure of meeting the Mayor of Seferihisar Tunc Soyer, a successful man of vision. His biggest investment is attaing the Cittaslow designation of a “calm city”. Seferihisar was the first city in Turkey to attain this status and currently there are ten cities in Turkey that are members of Cittaslow movement.

I spend the rest of the day on the hotel beach. There is a soft breeze, I listen to the sound of breaking waves and revel in the warm Aegean sun. At 22:00 hrs I take a coach back to Istanbul.

If you ever travel to the Aegean coast, Seferihisar is the place to visit. You’ll find hospitable people, breathtaking nature, wonderful sea, golden beaches, sun, wind, historical sites and very popular hot springs.

Gulsah Cengiz

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