A small town alongside a long, deep lake. Mountains around the lake, a Roman wall around the town. An ancient amphitheater rises from a field of rubble, a brick Byzantine church crouches in the center of town (the Nicene Creed was written here), and 16th century kilns recall the Ottoman era.
This is Iznik, formerly Nicea. For me, the best town in Turkey.
I grew up near lakes, some small, others so big their bays were lake-sized, and I love them. I love shorelines that curve out and away from me and then turn and meet in the middle. I relish piney lakeside smells and the pungent fish and weeds at water’s edge. I enjoy calmness and serenity, the natural state of most lakes.
I did not grow up near mountains, but gazed reverently at them in pictures and on vacation trips. Their crevasses seemed to hold stories of times passed, and they filled me with longing.
Expatriates long for connection. Without knowing quite why, I fell in love with Iznik. Later I realized it had to do with childhood memories and longings.
Other cultures, other desires. Turks don’t consider Iznik remarkable. A few simple hotels line the lakeside promenade but the town has no tourist cabins, few summer homes, no pleasure boats. You see, Turkey has five thousand miles of seashore. Aegean beaches and Mediterranean beaches and even Black Sea beaches. To people from a sizeable mountainous country, seascapes have long been exhilarating.
But still, if you plopped Iznik down in my part of the world, it would be a major attraction.