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İzmir is the third largest city in Turkey with a population of around 3.7 million with the second biggest port after Istanbul. Once the ancient city of Smyrna, it is now a modern, developed and busy commercial center set around a huge bay and surrounded by mountains. İzmirs broad boulevards, glass-fronted buildings and modern shopping centers are set amidst older traditional buildings with red-tiled roofs, an 18th century market and old mosques and churches. The city has an atmosphere more of Mediterranean Europe than traditional Turkey due to the influence the port has had on the city. Unfortunately, the Great Fire of 1920s created a relative lack of historical architecture in Izmir, especially when considering that the city of İzmir is more than 5000 years old. The town of Selçuk, a few hours by bus or train to the south of the city, is a town with many important historical sights including the nearby Roman city of Ephesus and the site of the last house of the Virgin Mary. The Vatican has declared it an official Catholic pilgrimage site. The cuisine of İzmir has certainly been affected by its multicultural history with numerous varieties of foods originating from the Aegean, Mediterranean and Anatolian regions. This together with the large area of agriculturally suited land surrounding the region growing a vast selection of fruits and vegetables. The combination European and traditional Turkish food preparation has created a unique cultural mix that may well define the cuisine of the İzmir region. In the end it is still very much Turkish, but with its own distinct preparations and ingredients.
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