285009.jpg

Aegean oasis: Discovering charms of Türkiye’s Foça

[ad_1]

When people think of a delightful vacation in Izmir, places like Alaçatı, Çeşme, Kuşadası and Ephesus often steal the spotlight. However, hidden like a precious gem, Foça, with its untouched beauty, historic stone houses and blooming bougainvilleas, has captured the hearts of many seeking a serene escape.

Nestled approximately 70 kilometers (43.50 miles) away from Izmir’s bustling center, Foça is like a time capsule, preserving the rich tapestry of its past dating back to the ancient Ionian civilization. The name “Phokaia,” echoing the legendary Siren Rocks and the Mediterranean monk seals that once inhabited its shores, lends an air of mystery and intrigue to this charming town.

Foça has a rich history that dates back to the Ionian era, and it is considered one of the most important settlements of Ionia. As you wander through the narrow streets, you will uncover the footprints of various civilizations, from the ancient Persians and mighty Romans to the great Alexander and the Ottoman Empire. Foça’s history unfolds like a captivating storybook, leaving you in awe of its resilience and cultural heritage.

Photo shows a sign dedicated to Turkish poet Nazım Hikmet's image that reads his famous line 'To live! Like a tree alone and free. Like a forest in brotherhood' as seen from the Foça harbor, Izmir, western Türkiye. (Photo by Emre Başaran)

Photo shows a sign dedicated to Turkish poet Nazım Hikmet’s image that reads his famous line “To live! Like a tree alone and free. Like a forest in brotherhood” as seen from the Foça harbor, Izmir, western Türkiye. (Photo by Emre Başaran)

However, I won’t inundate you with copious “Google or Wikipedia facts.” Instead, let me entice you to experience Foça’s allure yourself – to stroll along the clear blue waters, savor delicious local delicacies, and witness breathtaking sunsets that paint the sky with hues of gold and crimson.

As you embark on your Foça adventure, prepare to be transported to a tale of two halves. Foça, an ancient Ionian city brimming with captivating legends, boasts not only historical ruins and structures but also a natural sanctuary that shields its beauty. Due to strict regulations prohibiting construction in the historical area, a thriving living space emerged about half an hour away, giving birth to the charming division of Foça into two sections: Eski/Old Foça, a historical treasure under protection; and Yeni/New Foça, a vibrant hub where construction is allowed.

In this piece, I will predominantly focus on the charming beauty of Eski Foça, where most activities and sightseeing spots rival the beauty of old towns in Europe.

Foça, with its Mediterranean climate, offers an ideal holiday destination for those with flexible vacation plans. Thanks to its warm weather dominated by the Mediterranean climate, you can enjoy swimming in Foça’s temperate waters from early May to the end of September.

Whether you choose to drive or use public transport such as buses, minibuses, or the Izban, you can easily reach Foça. The coastal town is quite small, making it easy to explore the central area, filled with entertainment venues, restaurants, and cafes, as well as the beaches. You can easily access anywhere by bike or on foot. However, if you decide to stay in Foça and especially in a central location, be aware that accessing the narrow streets by car might be a bit challenging.

A stone house in Foça district, Izmir, western Türkiye. (Photo by Burcu Başaran)

A stone house in Foça district, Izmir, western Türkiye. (Photo by Burcu Başaran)

Foça casts a spell with its authentic Greek-inspired stone houses, adorned with bougainvilleas, small fishing boats swaying gently in the colorful harbor, and sunsets that paint the sky in hues of romance, making it a heaven for both serenity seekers and nightlife enthusiasts. It’s a place that promises to fill your Instagram feed with captivating snapshots.

For an enchanting journey through the alleys of Foça, set your course toward the small harbor, affectionately known as “Küçük Deniz,” and follow the path of Reha Midilli Street. This vibrant street can serve as your anchor, being the heart and soul of the bustling Eski Foça.

While the cool waterfront showcases the charm of the town’s iconic stone houses, dare to wander into the parallel streets, each a treasure trove of unique delights. With every corner you explore, Foça reveals its true soul, leaving you in awe of its captivating allure.

Where to stay

Unfortunately, we cannot say hotel tourism is highly developed in Foça. The accommodation options mainly consist of charming boutique hotels and small pensions. In addition to the boutique hotels by the sea, there are also pensions located in the high mountainous regions and private villas available for rent. With the increasing popularity of bungalows in Türkiye, Foça has also embraced this trend, offering more opportunities for bungalow vacations.

General night view of Palandız Bungalow City in Kozbeyli neighborhood of Foça district, Izmir, western Türkiye. (Photo by Burcu Başaran)

General night view of Palandız Bungalow City in Kozbeyli neighborhood of Foça district, Izmir, western Türkiye. (Photo by Burcu Başaran)

My husband and I love bungalow vacations, so we decided to give Palandız Bungalow City in Kozbeyli a try, and we were never disappointed. Palandız caters to those seeking an alternative to swimming in the pool while also delighting foodies like us with its delicious meals.

A noteworthy point is that the owners are a perfect embodiment of the typical Aegean hospitality, incredibly endearing and warm. They not only facilitate poolside events but also provide assistance in every aspect. During our stay, they even organized a successful marriage proposal.

However, those who wish to be close to the sea and coves or immerse themselves in history should opt for the hotels and pensions mentioned earlier. Choosing these options will also allow holidaymakers to experience the daily life of the town. Foça hosts a unique market called the “Yeryüzü Pazarı” on Sundays, where local producers from nearby villages sell natural and non-GMO products reflecting the local culture.

This market is a part of the “Slow Food” movement, which originated in Italy as a response to the fast-paced lifestyle and aims to preserve endangered local culinary traditions. Foça’s Yeryüzü Pazarı is the first representative of this movement in Türkiye.

Every Sunday, the Yeryüzü Pazarı is set up at Foça Pazaryeri, and it is indeed a producer market, just like the serene town of Sığacık. Here, you can find a wide range of organic products, from fruits and vegetables to bread, cheese, jam, and olive oil, all directly at consumers’ disposal from the producers.

If you wish to explore the market but can’t make it on Sundays, be aware that another market is held on Tuesdays. Nonetheless, let’s not forget to add Kozbeyli, the smaller, less popular, and perfectly preserved, stone-house village of Foça, to your travel plans.

Where to eat

Unlike hotel tourism, Foça offers a rich array of venue options. Surrounding the small harbor, you’ll find numerous waterfront places and charming cafes and restaurants hidden in narrow alleys. A word of warning: You’ll probably want to explore them all, and no matter which one you choose, your heart will remain torn between the others.

A restaurant in Foça's Marseille Square, Izmir, western Türkiye. (Photo by Burcu Başaran)

A restaurant in Foça’s Marseille Square, Izmir, western Türkiye. (Photo by Burcu Başaran)

Based on recommendations from Foça locals, I’ll suggest a few places that we tried ourselves. If you’re craving the flavors of Aegean cuisine, “Kuzina” is an absolute must-visit. I guarantee that their warm hospitality and delightful dishes will win your heart. My husband and I loved their variety of mezes, olive oil dishes, and “horiatiki” salad, but our absolute favorite was the thin and tender fried liver served with sautéed onions – a truly unforgettable dish.

Another gem I highly recommend is “Kirke,” known for its delicious pizzas and cheese plates, each named after Greek gods and goddesses. It’s also an incredibly cozy spot, perfect for romantic rendezvous.

Indeed, Foça is a seafood paradise, but these two places deserve special attention. While you can try Foça’s famous calamari at any restaurant near the sea, “Ada Balık” stands out as one of the best. Their crispy calamari and octopus platter make for a delightful evening snack.

Don’t miss the renowned “Girit Sakız Dondurmacısı Nazmi Usta,” the most popular ice cream place in Foça, where you’ll find a perpetually long line.

Apart from these, make sure to taste Izmir’s famous street delicacies, kumru sandwiches and stuffed mussels. For a French-style fast breakfast of croissants and coffee, Martı is a great choice. However, if you have come to Izmir to indulge in local Ege delights, “Sıcacık Boyoz Gevrek Fırını” will be your favorite. Fresh gevrek and boyoz paired with Izmir Tulum cheese and sliced tomato and cucumber served with no dressing can transform a quick breakfast into a sumptuous feast.

For those with a sweet tooth like me, “Libum” is a must-visit for their fresh pastries and homemade chocolates with unique flavors.

As for the evenings, live music is practically everywhere. Since my partner and I have outgrown our clubbing days, I recommend “Foça Çapkını” and “Gatsby.” Gatsby, along with “Gramafon,” appeals to literature enthusiasts, and you might even come across famous actors and singers during poetry readings and artistic performances at Gramafon in the evenings.

During the day, you can enjoy coffee, and after dinner, head to Gramafon for live music. The decoration at Gramafon has an authentic touch, with excerpts of poems from prominent Turkish poets inscribed on its stone walls and wooden pillars.

At the end of the coast road, the sparkling “Kavala Cafe” offers a mesmerizing spot to watch the sunset over the sea. Away from crowds and noise, Kavala Cafe is the perfect place to savor handcrafted desserts.

People enjoy the sunset near the sea in Kavala Cafe, Izmir, western Türkiye. (Photo by Burcu Başaran)

People enjoy the sunset near the sea in Kavala Cafe, Izmir, western Türkiye. (Photo by Burcu Başaran)

To unwind after a day of exploration, we sat under the ivy-covered canopy of Foça Dibek Kahve, where Mehmet Ağabey prepared unique and delightful coffees in the old-fashioned stone mortar. Some places are simply irreplaceable, and “Foça Dibek Kahve” is undoubtedly one of them – a charming and nostalgic little coffee shop. Mehmet Ağabey’s knowledge and stories about Foça surpass those of most other local shop owners, making the experience even more special.

Must-Do activities

Let me briefly mention some must-do activities. First and foremost, I recommend waking up early one morning and enjoying a delightful stroll amid the historical buildings while the town awakens.

Another suggestion is taking a night walk on the magnificent illuminated bridge of Beşkapılar Castle.

In Old Foça, after passing the square and fishermen along the shoreline, you might think, “There’s probably nothing left to see.” However, right at that moment, you’ll encounter the area with its walls and Beşkapılar Castle.

In ancient times, Beşkapılar Castle protected this area and covered the space where the Athena Temple once stood. From Küçük Deniz, you can easily spot the castle on the left. You can explore the castle from the inside, but we find its exterior view more captivating.

As you walk toward the castle, you’ll see the five gates that gave the castle its name and once served as the entrance to the city. Don’t forget to capture the sunset with your cameras.

A sign that reads 'Foçaşk' (a play of words incorporating Turkish noun for love and Foça) as seen from a beach in the namesake district in Izmir, western Türkiye. (Photo by Emre Başaran)

A sign that reads “Foçaşk” (a play of words incorporating Turkish noun for love and Foça) as seen from a beach in the namesake district in Izmir, western Türkiye. (Photo by Emre Başaran)

During the summer, you must visit the beaches and coves. Swimming in the clear waters of the Aegean is an unparalleled pleasure, but I should mention that the beaches around Foça are rocky.

However, you can opt for day boat tours to enjoy the turquoise sea. By joining these boat tours departing from Foça, you can revel in swimming in the open sea. For those seeking a more cultural experience, you can observe the Mediterranean seals up close by going on tours to the Siren Rocks, which were mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey and are one of the four homes of the adorable Mediterranean seals.

A local coffee shop in Foça, Izmir, western Türkiye. (Photo by Burcu Başaran)

A local coffee shop in Foça, Izmir, western Türkiye. (Photo by Burcu Başaran)

Nestled on the shores of the enchanting Aegean Sea, Foça beckons adventurers and dreamers alike with its irresistible charm. Embrace the day with an exquisite breakfast, a symphony of flavors derived from nature’s bounty, and let the wonders unfold. As the sun descends, casting hues of gold and crimson across the horizon, prepare for a magical dinner accompanied by the mesmerizing dance of the sunset. Dive into the crystal-clear waters, where serenity embraces your soul, and immerse yourself in the scent of history that weaves through the ancient stone houses. Foça, a canvas of tranquility and allure, awaits those who seek the ultimate escape in this delightful fishing town on the Aegean.

[ad_2]
Source link

Comments are closed.