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Thoughts reverent and irreverent from the road in Turkey

THE İZMİR AQUEDUCTS

by in bloggingaboutturkey
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“Excuse me, could you tell me the way to the Asansör?”

I had emerged from İzmir’s Üçyol Metro station which was, according to the map, the one I needed to get to a tall lift that a 19th-century philanthropist had built to ease the plight of people living in the Karataş district who were faced with truly horrific climbs to get up to their homes.

The man I’d asked looked at me as if I’d enquired after the way to Jupiter and scuttled hurriedly away. I tried a middle-aged woman with a professional look about her. “Do you know the way to the Asansör?” I asked her.

“Oh dear,” she said. “You’ve come to the wrong stop. You need to go back to Konak.”

This was getting me nowhere. This was turning into a repeat of my efforts to get to Tepekule (see Desperately Seeking Smyrna). Exasperated, I tried again. “Well, could you point me towards the sea then?”

The woman pointed over her shoulder and I struck out hopefully in that direction. In a shop I tried again. “Oh yes, turn left, turn right, then go right again beside the school,” the owner said. Eureka! Five minutes’ walk. Doesn’t anyone notice anything about their city?

The Asansör is certainly impressive although I never have any luck with the eateries at the top. The restaurant that boasts a spectacular view of the bay has never been open when I visited (night time only, perhaps) while the cafe never deigns to serve any of the items on its menu. Miffed, I took the lift down to sea level again, diverted to admire the stately Beth Israel synagogue nearby, then strolled back to the town centre along Mithatpaşa Caddesi. My stroll coincided with school emptying-out time and I was astonished to discover that the İzmir school uniform for girls consists of mini-kilts in red and black which are worn this year with thick tights and the currently fashionable walking boots with heels. Very good they looked to, although I defy anyone from outside to believe that this was Turkey.

Later that day I took the shiny new İzban train to Şirinyer, switching seamlessly from the Metro at Halkapınar. This time I was in search of two aqueducts I’d seen in the excellent new guidebook Adım Adım İzmir ve Çevresi. With no idea where they lay in relationship to the station I opted for a taxi and agreed to a fixed price of 40TL to include waiting time. Actually, I could have walked it if it hadn’t been for the traffic fumes so the fare was way over the top, but, hell, the taxi driver was friendly and diverted along a dirt track so I could get close enough to photograph the structures.

“I’ve seen them from the road,” he said in passing. “But I’ve never been up here.”

Hmm.  The structures are certainly very impressive. Not quite the Pont du Gard, perhaps, but comparable with the much better known Aqueduct of Valens in İstanbul, and serving much the same function: helping to convey water from the countryside outside into a big city. They continued in use right into the 20th century, hence their relatively good condition.

The aqueducts straddle a valley, and you can walk right out on to one of them if you have a head for heights. The snag is the increasingly typical Turkish one, which is litter absolutely everywhere. Tourists never come here, and nor, it seems, do historically-minded locals which means that the Efes drinkers and the litterbugs have the aqueducts to themselves.

 

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