Returning to the coastline of Ancient Ionia

Returning to the coastline of Ancient Ionia

If there is what we call paradise, our village, Sirince, was a sample of it. Near God, we lived high in the midst of verdant mountains, and we were all over the plains of Ephesus, which were ours all the way to the sea, hours away, full of crows and olive trees, tobacco, dads, corn and sesame seeds…
Farewell Anatolia by Dido Sotiriou


This is how Dido Sotiriou describes in her novel “Farewell Anatolia” the village Kirkintze (in turkish, Sirince), and this is one of the many images I had in my mind as a child, reading books and listening to stories from my own people coming from the coast of Ionia. Memories and nostalgia that led me this summer to decide to make the trip and visualize it with my camera, passing them from my memory to the real picture of the memory card and to their present status.

My main concern was where to begin my trip and which places to visit first, as my choices and combinations seemed to be without an end: Nice, Ayvalje, Pergamon, Smyrna, Ephesus, Lebedos, Miletus and so many other places of photographic interest and with the intense Greek element to characterize the entire coastline, for at least three millennia…

So I decided to focus on the “images” I had in my mind from the short stories and the narrations and so Ephesus, Sirince, Temple of Teos and Smyrna were the first destinations in this photo tribute…

In the Archaeological Site of Teos

The first day I found myself arriving in the afternoon at the archaeological temple of Teos in the Sığacık area, on the coast opposite Chios. It was not the best time of day, at least for photography, but the rigorous program would not allow me to visit some other time or change routes. Entering the archaeological site, you immediately notice the perennial olives next to the excavation finds and a paradox that I at least meet for the first time near an ancient temple. Many small pens, in the surrounding area, which the Turkish state has not expropriated and are still functioning normally by their owners. So, when you visit the temple of Teos, between the ancient theater, the Boulefterion, the Agora and the Acropolis, do not overlook the sounds and the discreet group of poultry and sheep. Personally I found the whole scenery sufficiently surreal and certainly entertaining.

The return to Smyrna lasted about 40 minutes. The roads are quite large, with relatively slow traffic but not so good lighting for a big part of the route. However, since this was the only available day for a night walk in Smyrna, I took some nice shots from the sunset on the big pier in the city as well as some panoramic evening photos from Asansör, the attraction that is among those that theoretically is a “must see” for whoever visits city.

Photo Tips

  • Ideal hours of photography: The archaeological site is better illuminated in the morning, somewhere between 08:00 and 11:00
  • Appropriate season: Spring and end of Summer to Autumn (using a polarizer)
  • Interesting frames: Apart from the ancient monuments, the perennial olives, the small pens next to the ancient ones, as well as the panoramic view of the bay where the temple is located.


In Kirkintze (Sirince) of my childhood’s images…

The next day I started my trip to Sirince, the old Greek village on mountainous Ephesus, known for its rich vineyards and the beauty of its buildings. From the first moment you look at the settlement, its image enchants you and sweetens your eyes. Small paved alleys, white houses with tiles and their shunisia, with their beauty being due to the incomparable art of craftsmen from Karpathos. Yes, one guesses correctly. The dominant architectural style here, somewhere in small variants, is almost the same as in the beautiful villages of Pelion.

Exploring the village, I found Greek names of shops (“Dimitros”), small and beautiful outdoor markets with agricultural products and wine. Going higher, in the upper mahala, I found the old church of Agios Dimitrios, which now acts as a venue. For my good luck I also met the owner of a hotel, where he welcomed me and took me to the highest point of the village, in a traditional konaktower. From that spot I took perhaps the best panoramic photos of the whole settlement.

Throughout my stay in the village, the Greek element was always around me, in the old frescoes in the churches, in the Greek school (café now), in my attempt to recognize as many points as possible from the descriptions of D. Sotiriou’s book. A highly emotional visit, which I will remember for a long time …

Photo Tips

  • Ideal hours of photography: Morning hours for panoramic shots, noon for photo-shooting in narrow alleys.
  • Season: All times depending on the desired result (using polarizer at lunchtime)
  • Interesting frames: Panoramic views, traditional residences, outdoor bazaars, the forest over the village


The ancient Ephesus

My next stop was the important archaeological site of Ephesus, for which I needed three visits to be able to say that I had photographed him adequately, at least for my own standards. The impressive structures of the Theater and the Library of Celsus are the ones that instantly draw your attention at the entrance. With a history that begins in the 8th century BC., almost all major civilizations have passed and are distinguished in the archaeological site, from the Greek styles to the Roman constructions and the post-Byzantine period to the Turkish domination in the region.
Ephesus is a place of great interest, especially for those who enjoy archaeological photography. Apart from the large structures that I already  mentioned above, there are many arches of various styles and eras, Greek and Roman inscriptions, rich archaeological details for photographing with almost every available focal length and certainly macro lenses.
It is rightly considered to be one of the most impressive surviving Greek cities of Ionia with particular archaeological interest, regardless of the fact that contemporary Turkish tourist and archaeological services refer to Ephesus as an “ancient Turkish city” and the multitude of Greek inscriptions that adorn it as ” Phoenician alphabet”…

Photo Tips

  • Ideal hours of photography: It may be illuminated a little more correctly during the morning hours, at least as far as the main attractions are concerned, but it will also offer plenty of material during the afternoon.
  • Duration: Two daily visits at least
  • Season: Spring and Summer to Fall (using a polarizer)
  • Interesting shots: Celsus Library, Theater, Voulefterion, Terrace Houses, use of wide-angle lenses and frequent use of telephoto or macro lenses for details.


Izmir, the metropolis of Asia Minor

The last day I kept for a first walk in Smyrna, since I definitely plan to return during my other trips to this city. It is a large city of about 4 million inhabitants, which now reminds nothing of what was the metropolis of the Aegean until its bloody destruction in 1922. The impressive traditional buildings of the rich Greek, Levantine and Jewish former inhabitants no longer exist, as few of these have been saved and restored.

Smyrna, after its destruction and succumbing to the need of the newly established Turkish state to house the settlers from Anatolia and the Muslims who had come from Greece with the exchange of populations in 1923, left the city without its characteristic “perfume” and “colour”, resulting in uncomfortable houses – cans and slums to sprint from the ashes of fire. Few luxury homes were rescued and passed into possession of wealthy Turks. This is the essential reason for their existence yet, to remind them of the sophisticated Smyrna of the old age. At the harbour, however, you will see beautiful Turkish monuments and architectural structures worth visiting and photographing.

My wish from the beginning of my trip was to visit the new Orthodox temple of Saint Foteini, the patron saint of Smyrna, which is located in the former Holland Protestant cemetery in the city centre. I had the joy and honour of hospitality by the temple priest and the leader in the effort of the Greek Orthodox population in Smyrna, the Bishop of Erythrae, Father Patriarch Cyril, and the opportunity to discuss about the 250 Greek Orthodox (three of whom are still alive since the 1922s and did not leave the city) the problems and difficulties they face. Following the efforts of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Turkish state (despite the fact that the Greek Orthodox minority is not recognized in the Treaty of Lausanne) has permitted religious freedoms and several concessions. As characteristically mentioned by Father Cyril, showing me proudly the canaries he has brought from Greece, “even this little thing is a point of reference for us. God has other plans… ”

Before I began my long journey home, I had a little time and visited the big bazaar of Smyrna, the Kemeraltı Çarşısı for some few shots after I coincided with prayer time at the nearby mosque and many shops were closed for prayer for the owners and employees. A nice fresh coffee, though, was absolutely worth it. On the next trip I promised myself that I would find more time for Izmir as it is a big city with interesting places worth photographing.

I also find it advisable and helpful to mention that at no point in my journey did I feel uncomfortable or in danger. People are extremely friendly and at the sound of my Greek origins their smile grew bigger. I would highly recommend Smyrna and, in general, the areas I have visited so far, as a destination for a photo visit or organized holiday.

Acknowledgments: To help with this project, I want to thank my good friend Gözde Kazmanoglou in Turkey for her valuable help and company in guided tours and information. The Greek Consulate of Smyrna and the Turkish embassy in Athens for the kind service and provision of information.

Shooting with:

  • Camera: Sony RX10 IV  | Sony A7R mark II | Sony RX100 Infrared
  • Drone: DJI Mavic Pro
  • Lenses: Sony-Zeiss FE 16-35mm F4 | Zeiss Batis 18mm F2.8 | Sony FE 85 F1.8
  • Filters: Hoya ND & CPL | Benro Filters
  • Tripods: Benro
  • Backpack: Benro
  • Outdoor Clothing & Hiking Gear: OutdoorWay


1st Publication: Photonet Magazine EISA, issue 199 (in Greek) – You can order a copy here! 

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