Every morning at the break of day, the fishermen of Eski Foca set sail from the small harbour of Kucukdeniz, wishing each other good luck and Godspeed. After a hard day's fishing, the boats return to the harbour laden with a bounty of fish and thankfulness.
Cobblestones and turquoise shores
Eski Foca (Old Foca) is synonymous with Mediterranean monk seals, turquoise bays and old stone houses. Since ancient times, Mediterranean monk seals have made Foca their home. Indeed, the name Foca is derived from the ancient Phokaia, which means "town of seals".
Appropriately enough, a statue of a seal in the town square is one of the first sights to greet you as you enter Eski Foca. Foca's quiet coves also attract their fair share of tourists. Before you set off to explore the town, pick up a few brochures from the tourist information office. From there, wander through the cobblestone streets of the market towards Kucukdeniz. With its ancient stone houses, fish restaurants and colourful fishermen's boats bobbing in the harbour, Kucukdeniz is the heart of Eski Foca. Take a moment to notice the interesting knockers on the doors to the stone houses decked with hanging flowerpots. Most of Foca's small hotels and pensions are in Kucukdeniz, only steps away from its charming beach and blue Aegean waters.
Swimming out from the beach, you get a wonderful view of Foca from the sea. The mountains behind the town are covered in olive groves. Foca is made up of two coves: Buyukdeniz (Big Sea) and Kuçukdeniz (Small Sea). Contrary to your expectations, Büyükdeniz" the larger of the two coves'is quieter and calmer than Kucukdeniz.
A good way to get a feel for the town is to walk from Kucukdeniz to Buyukdeniz. Foca's landmarks include Beskapilar"the boathouse of the Ottoman Castle"the Ottoman City Walls and the Kibele amphitheatre. One of the best views of the town and outlying islands is to be had from Yeldegirmen Tepesi (Windmill Peak).
Legend has it that the Siren Cliffs on Orak Island off the coast of Foca were once home to the Sirens of Greek mythology. With their beautiful songs, the Sirens would lure sailors to their death on the cliffs that surrounded their island home. In ancient art, the Sirens are often depicted as mermaids. Perhaps the mythical Sirens were none other than Foca's playful monk seals! Daily boat tours sail from Kucukdeniz to Orak and other islands, stopping for swimming breaks along the way.
Fish, shrimp and artichokes
Old Foca's fish restaurants serve excellent fresh seasonal fish, octopus, shrimp, mussels and calamari as well as wild greens prepared with olive oil. In fact, Foca is renowned for its olive oil and yoghurt. ''Phokaia Zeytinhome'' sells a wide range of olive oils and scented olive oil soaps.
Foca's first and only boutique hotel is Focantique. It is housed in a restored stone house dating back to 1890 in a quiet corner on Foca's shore. Foçantique is owned and operated by the Alemdaroğlus, a charming couple who worked as tour guides for many years. The rooms are decorated with knickknacks they collected during their travels all over Turkey. The hotel's cafe is located in a well kempt garden. Enjoy fresh seafood and artichoke rice accompanied by the sound of Mozart, the taste of a glass of wine and the sight of seagulls melting into the sunset over the navy blue waters of the Aegean.
How to get there
By air: THY and Onur Air have daily flights between Istanbul and Izmir's Adnan Menderes Airport. Buses to Eski Foca leave on the hour from Izmir's bus station. THY Tel: 4440849. Onur Air Tel: 0212-663 07 73. By road: 40km before Izmir on the Istanbul-Çanakkale-Izmir road, turn at the Foça sign. Eski Foça is 26km down the road. Eski Foça is 630km from Istanbul. On the Istanbul-Bursa-Manisa-Izmir road, take the Canakkale road from the centre of Izmir. Eski Foca is 70km away.
* Phokaia Zeytinhome sells a wide range of olive oils and scented olive oil soaps. Tel: 0232-812 32 60
* We recommend that you stay at the Focantique Hotel, Foca's first and only boutique hotel. Bed and breakfast accommodation in a standard double room is 140 million TL while a room with a private Jacuzzi will set you back 170 million TL. Tel: +90 232-812 43 13. Make sure to try Guler Hanım's orange cookies, cakes and artichoke rice.
* Enjoy fish cooked in milk and skewered anglerfish at Kenya&Leylek. Tel: 0232-812 62 16.
* Make sure to take a boat trip to the beautiful Siren Cliffs on Orak Island.
* Enjoy the view of Foca from the Temple of Athena.
* Ice cream lovers should head to Giritli Nazmi Usta for some traditional Turkish mastic gum ice cream.
* Have a cup of ground Turkish coffee at Kozbeyli Koyu.
By The Gate Magazine
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