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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 20 February 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 20 FEBRUARY 2016 21 TRAVEL mastic and music ish metropolis full of contrasts, homogeneous and devoid of its once hallmark cosmopolitan flair. The call to prayer mixed in with pop Turkish music; hip tattooed Turks walking side by side with burqa-clad women; apartment buildings much flashier than those in modern Athens line the main boulevards and close by are miserable slum suburbs. Not much of the Greek past remains today, apart from in the surrounding villages and towns, with their historic Greek churches and neighbourhoods now depressingly devoid of a Greek population. Smyrna's proud and grand Greek quarter was destroyed in the great fire of 1922. In the new city, there is an interesting mix of the old and the new Turkish. One can easily get lost in the Grand Bazaar, sample the doners and baklava on offer and drink yoghurt drinks that everyone seems to drink with their meals. Many shopkeepers speak some Greek. Until the Greek economic crisis, hordes of Greek tourists visited daily. Now only the Turks seem to visit Greece. SO CLOSE, YET SO FAR Chios and Smyrna - once so similar and so connected. Now the contrasts are more discernible than the similarities. Nearly 200 years ago, the beginning of Greek nationhood commenced in Chios. One hundred years later the millennia-old Hellenic presence a few kilometers away in Asia Minor came to an abrupt and horrifying end. Today the narrow straits separate the lost from the retained Hellenic lands. The Asia Minor Greek spirit lives on in Chios. Many of the refugees from Smyrna and elsewhere in Asia Minor sought refuge in Chios. On our final night in Chios we ate smyrneika soutzoukakia, mastelo cheese, drank the local ouzo and listened to the haunting voice of Glykeria with her interpretation of the Smyrnean traditional songs - the smyrneika. I wondered if the old lands were close enough to feel, taste, smell and hear their lost Hellenic spirit like we were able to on that magical summer night looking at the Asia Minor shore. It looked so close and familiar, but alas it is now a foreign land. Mavra Volia beach. Smyrna before 1922.
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