Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Exploring Izmir: The Hike To Kadifekale




We'd been in Izmir for four days and still hadn't made it to one of the sights on our list of Izmir Must-Sees - Kadifekale (the Velvet Castle). Racing around, bagging sights is never really top of our agenda when we go somewhere new - but Kadifekale sits on top of a hill (of the same name), overlooking the city. Surely the views had to be pretty decent...but could we really be bothered to heave ourselves up there when ambling along the Izmir seafront was so pleasant - and easy?

Every day, we said, "We'll see. It's not the end of the world if we don't make it. We've seen the views of Izmir from Asansör." But just look at the photo below. See the Turkish flag in the distance? That flag is flying from the top of the castle walls of Kadifekale. Every day, it billowed in the stiff breezes, reminding us that we hadn't yet conquered it's slopes - and you can see this flag from many areas of the city centre. It was starting to get annoying. We could have taken the bus, jumped in a taxi...but for us, that's cheating not conquering!
Kadifekale From Izmir Seafront
Kadifekale can be seen from many parts of coastal Izmir
Day 5 and we set off to wander around Izmir's ancient agora. We'll write about the agora in another post, but for now, for relevance to this particular tale, you just need to know that the ruins are at the foot of Kadifekale. The flag beckons, "You're here now. You might as well climb up to see me." Between us and the castle is a maze of a neighbourhood sitting precipitously on the hillside. Just keep heading upwards, that's all we can do.
Entrance Gate To Kadifekale, Izmir
Looking back to the sea through the arched entrance to Kadifekale
This neighbourhood is a different world to where we're staying in upmarket Alsancak. As soon as you leave the main road, impossibly steep hills are lined either side with tightly packed homes. Parents sit on the steps while children run around in the streets and steal a free lift further up the hill by jumping onto the rear bumper of any vehicle that makes the journey up there. They've got the right idea! 

"Hello, hello." Then giggles and whispers. We're quite obviously a source of amusement for the children here. Maybe not many idiots like us make the hike up these streets - streets that seem almost perpendicular to the sea! We stop occasionally to smile, and catch a breath, and glug back water we've bought from one of the many markets that seem to sit on every corner. 
Kadifekale, Izmir
We just had to climb the steps to the castle turrets.
Suddenly, our view ahead changes from street junctions and alleyways to a large, grassy knoll. But where's the flag? A man walks past and, after a quick greeting, Barry manages an out of breath, "Bayrak nerede?" (Where's the flag?) A wry smile from the man. He points us off in the right direction. Another incline, and bingo! There's the flag. And what about the views of Izmir?
Izmir Views From Kadifekale
Izmir
Impressive enough - if just to show yourself how high you've climbed over such a short distance. We're looking out over the Gulf of Izmir, over high rise office blocks, luxury Izmir hotels, a cruise ship in the harbour.
Izmir Harbour View From Kadifekale
Izmir from Kadifekale
This view, this world below, is a completely different world to the one we have just climbed through in order to reach our goal of standing atop Kadifekale. That's cities! 

Kadifekale: Further Information
  • The walk from the agora to the top of Kadifekale is about 1km and took us around 20 minutes. It's STEEP! 
  • If you don't fancy the walk, the Izmir City Tour Bus goes up there. There's also a municipality bus, or you can take a taxi.
  • Entrance to the area is free (Sept 2012). There are a few stalls selling textiles and a Byzantine cistern.
  • We've dated this because there was construction of a large car park in process when we were there. Looks like things are set to change for this Izmir viewpoint... 

8 comments:

We were up there last year. A fabulous view of Izmir.

@ omentide: It is a great view isn't it, and much higher than it looks when you look at the top of the hill from ground level. so glad we made the effort though or else Kadifekale would have haunted us, I think. :)

The view is fantastic but I'm amazed at how big the cruise liner looks.

Amazing view, well done for persisting and making it - greatly enjoyed the post!

@ BacktoBodrum: Wow, the cruise liners in Izmir were huge. Too big for our liking but each to their own. :)

@ Ozlem's Turkish Table: Yes the strugglw was worth it for the views - and actually, the Kadifekale neighbourhood was really interesting, too. We definitely saw a glimpse of the not so glamorous side of İzmir.

I've 'been in' Izmir many times, but only at the airport. Suspect I'm not the only one. Never thought much about exploring the city, but it looks very worthwhile, so thanks for writing this.

@ Sophie: That was exactly the same as us except we'd been many-time visitors to Izmir's otogar, always en-route to elsewhere. We decided it was time to give the city a chance to see if it could shine for us - and it did. :)

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