Izmit Tourist Attractions
Northwest Anatolia (Marmara region)Situation and ImportanceThis busy provincial town at the eastern end of the Gulf of Izmit (formerly known as the Gulf of Astakos) is a major industrial center with factories not only in the immediate vicinity but also in the nearby towns around the Gulf (automobiles, metal-processing, chemicals; Yarimca: ironworks, Ipraz oil refinery). The dockyards of Gölcük on the opposite side of the gulf combine with Izmit to create a military base and garrison of considerable importance.
As the town lies on one of Turkey's tectonic fault lines, it has often been affected by serious earthquakes and most of the buildings are modern.HistoryOnce the residence of emperors Hadrian and Diocletian, the town stands on the site of the Bithynian capital Nikomedeia, which was founded in 264 B.C. by Nikomedes I. A short distance to the northwest stood Astakos or Olbia, a city which was founded by the Megarans and later destroyed by the Thracian Lysimachos. An earthquake obliterated the old settlement in A.D. 358, but magnificent new temples and other public buildings which became famous for their statues adorned the rebuilt Nikomedeia. One life-sized ivory statue of Nikomedes was taken to Rome by Trajan. In 74 B.C., the city fell under Roman influence. Between A.D. 111 and 113, Pliny the Younger became the Roman governor of Bithynia and was resident here. In A.D. 259 after its destruction by the Goths, the city was rebuilt in its original splendor by Diocletian as the capital of his tetrarchy. Under Constantine it rivaled Rome or Alexandria in importance. In 1386 the city became a part of the Ottoman Empire.
The remains of the city walls of Izmit date from Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman times. The citadel ruins (acropolis) are of Byzantine origin. The Pertev Pasa Camii Mosque is the work of the famous Ottoman architect Sinan.
The 19th century provincial town of Adapazari is situated 20km/12.5mi to the east of Izmit and close to the River Sakarya at the western end of a wide low-lying area (Adapazari Ovasi). It has assumed increasing economic importance as the center of northwestern Turkey's industrial heartland. The surrounding agricultural land produces potatoes, tobacco and hazelnuts. The town grew out of a weekly market on an uninhabited site ("adapazari", island market) and there is little of interest in the town. On the southern outskirts of the town the Justinian bridge crosses a now dried-up tributary of the Sakarya (Sangarios in antiquity). Measuring 450m/492yds it dates from Roman times (A.D. 560) and has twelve arches.
To the northwest of Gevye, about 30km/19mi to the south of Adapazari, a well-maintained bridge built in Ottoman times under Sultan Bayazit (1481-1512) crosses the Sakarya. The town itself lies at the northern end of a 30km/19mile long, intensively-farmed valley, at the heart of which stands the small town of Pamukova, meaning cotton plain.
To the southwest of Adapazari, at an altitude of 40m/131ft, lies the Sapanca Gölü freshwater lake (47 sq.m/18 sq.mi). The bottom of the lake is 20m/65ft below the level of the Sea of Marmara. It is situated in a low-lying area (Sakarya-Bosphorus) which during the Ice Age linked the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. Shifts in the earth's crust led to a rise in the level of the surface and the land dried up. By the end of the Pleistocene (Ice Age) period, the Sea of Marmara had flooded the Izmit/Sapanca valley to form a bay into which the Sakarya flowed. The lake slowly silted up and separated from the Gulf, but the River Sakarya continued to flow into the Gulf of Izmit through Lake Sapanca. Finally, deposits from the Sakarya and its tributaries built up in the lake and a new outlet formed to the east, flowing into the Sapanca. As a result, the river's course was altered and it now disgorges directly into the Black Sea. Picturesque villages set in extensive fruit orchards can be seen on the south side of the lake, around the town of Sapanca. In the town itself, the Rüstem Pasa Külliyesi Mosque complex is worth a visit.
About 70km/44mi south of Adapazari stands the small, hillside village of Tarakli with its thermal waters. Since 1990 a large part of the town has been subject to a preservation order. There are many two to four story timbered houses built in Pontic style (e.g. the Town Hall). Other interesting sights include the Yunus Pasa Camii (also known as Kursunlu Cami, Lead Mosque), which was founded in the center of the town after a visit by the Grand Vizier Yunus Pasa and was built between 1512 and 1521. After returning from a military campaign in Egypt the general was executed on the orders of Selim I, as he had criticized the sultan.
Gebze was known in Byzantine times as Dakibyza. The town which is set back from the northern side of the Gulf of Izmit at the foot of the Gazi Dagi (305m/1,000ft) is noted for the splendid Orhan Gazi Camii with its tile decorations and for other Byzantine remains. Also of interest is the dome on the early Ottoman Coban Mustafa Pasa Camii, together with the polygonal türbe (mausoleum) of the founder. To the south of Gebze lay the coastal Bithynian town of Libyssa (ruins near Dif Iskelesi), where in 183 B.C. the Punic general Hannibal took poison as he found himself surrounded by the Romans and the Bithynian king Prusias wished to extradite him. An interesting curiosity is to be found in an industrial estate on a small hill beneath some cypress trees. Reputed to be Hannibal's grave, it was magnificently restored by Emperor Septimius Severus (A.D. 193-211), but it is now just a pile of stones. Excavations were carried out in 1906 by Wiegand. The village of Hünkar Cayre was also situated nearby. It was here in 1481 that Sultan Mehmet II the conqueror of Constantinople died.
On the northern side of the Gulf of Izmit lies the small town of Hereke in a valley 30km/19mi west of Izmit. Formerly known as Charax. The town acquired fame when Constantine the Great died in nearby Ankyron castle (now destroyed) in A.D. 337. The main occupation of the local population is carpet-making, which follows the traditional style of Istanbul and Bursa. Here in 1891 the first factory for the production of finely-woven silk and woolen carpets was established. The carpets produced in Hereke today are made according to the specifications of the Imperial court. The special patterns are skillfully copied from old designs.