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KEMALPAŞA

Population: 100,000

kp1House visited in 1922 by Atatürk after whom Kemalpaşa is namedOld names: Nymphaeion (Greek); Nif (Turkish)

If you're staying in İzmir and have some time on your hands you might want to pop out to Kemalpaşa, a town which really ought to be more appealing than it actually is, given that it sits in a valley backed by the fine rocky outcrops of Nif Dağı (Mt Nif) which are topped with the ruins of a castle.

Backstory

In the 13th century Nymphaeion became the favourite summer residence of the Byzantine emperors who had been exiled to Nicaea (İznik). A palace was built here by Emperor John III Dukas Vatatzes (c.1193-1254) who was buried in its grounds. 

The town became an archbishopric and Theodore II Laskaris and Michael VIII Paleologos were crowned in a cathedral of which no traces remain. 

Two important treaties were signed here in the 13th century. The second, in 1261, gave the Genoese major trading rights in Smyrna (İzmir).

In 1315 Nymphaeion was seized by Saruhan of Manisa and that was the end of the Byzantines here. 

About town

Coming into town from İzmir you should look out on the lefthand side of the road for a park with the ruins of the Byzantine Laskarisler Sarayı (Palace), also known as Kız Kulesi, at the back of it. A soaring stone and brick building, it is vaguely reminiscent of the Tekfur Sarayı in İstanbul. Unfortunately in 2014 it was completely hidden by scaffolding intended for its restoration, work which was due for completion but was presumably behind schedule.kp2

A little further up the road there's a junction marked by a monument in Roman style although it is probably new. From here if you take the road that runs uphill on the right you will pass a house visited by Atatürk in 1922 and come to what remains of the older part of town around the Çarşı Cami. Built in 1307, this appears to have used mainly stone and brick taken either from the castle or other older structures nearby. Otherwise it's not of any great interest although the hamam behind it was also being restored in 2014. 

In theory a walk through the Dere Mesire Yeri (Valley Picnic Grounds) should be an inviting prospect. In fact it's in a terrible state of offputting neglect with crass modernity intruding on what might have been wonderful nature had it been left alone. High up on the rocks to the right you can see the shattered walls of the castle.

kp3Ruins of castle just visible behind old hamamSleeping

You'll be much better off visiting on a day trip from İzmir than staying here.

Transport info

Very frequent dolmuşes connect İzmir and Kemalpaşa. You can pick them up either at the Otogar or at the Bornova junction beneath the overpasses near the Bornova Metro station. 

Day trip destinations

Nazarköy

 

 

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