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Seferihisar happy to become a 'slow city'

SEFERİHİSAR, İzmir - From wire dispatches | 12/2/2009 12:00:00 AM |

Locals in the coastal Aegean town of Seferihisar are very excited about the approval of the town’s application to the 'Cittaslow' network.

Locals in the coastal Aegean town of Seferihisar are very excited about the approval of the town’s application to the “Cittaslow” network.

Seferihisar, located approximately 50 kilometers west of the center of İzmir, was declared a “slow city” Saturday after a Cittaslow International Coordination Committee meeting held in Italy.

Seferihisar is the first town in Turkey to have been declared a “slow city,” and the 121st in the world.

Cittaslow, or Slow City, is a movement founded in Italy in 1999 aiming to improve the quality of life in towns while resisting “the fast-lane, homogenized world so often seen in other cities throughout the world.”

Locals in Seferihisar have both high economic and cultural hopes following the decision. Many think the new status will help preserve the unique historic and cultural structure of the town. Shop owners, meanwhile, are hopeful that the number of tourists to the town will increase, thus boosting business.

Özlem Ayten Ulus, a member of Seferihisar Municipal Council, told the Anatolia news agency that being the first “slow city” in Turkey would make a great contribution to the town’s promotion.

She said there would be visual changes in the town center, the exterior of all houses will be painted, smaller signs for shops will be used and a new arrangement will be made for slower traffic.

“The major advantage of this will be the decrease in the jobless rate,” said Ulus. “All this work to be done will create new jobs. In addition, foreign tourists will notice our town, which is already popular among local tourists. Disappearing crafts like basket weaving will be popular again.”

Ulus said the municipality has informed shop owners about the conditions of being a “cittaslow.”

Nihat Apayadın, a cafe owner in Seferihisar, said he obtained a “slow food” certificate after attending an education program organized by the municipality on healthy nutrition.

“I think that it will be good for business,” he said. “Foreign tourists prefer places with a ‘slow food’ certificate. It’s been great for promotion; Seferihisar will be known all over the world.”

Another shop owner, Fahri Eşin said the town would be able to preserve its uniqueness. “Seferihisar is no longer an ordinary coastal town, tourists who visit popular destinations around, like Çeşme and Kuşadası, will create time to visit our town.”

The town has been making preparations to be named a “slow city” since it applied for the label in June. Seferihisar Mayor Tunç Soyer, a member of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, said education programs for shop owners included slow food, tourism and hospitality.  

A market has been set up in the town center for farmers from eight nearby villages. “The villagers sell their own produce at the market,” said Soyer. “All vendors at the market are themselves farmers. The aim is to help the producers meet consumers directly to sell their organic products.”

Soyer said the market also includes ceramics, handcrafts and paintings. “The village market was one of the main criteria to be known as a ‘cittaslow.’ It is very important to protect local producers. We strictly follow the criteria. The market has also helped villagers financially at a time of economic crisis.”

The logo of “cittaslow” is a snail, noted Soyer, and getting the logo was a milestone for the town. The municipality will now work quickly to give a facelift to Seferihisar.

“We will start restoration work to preserve historic places,” said the mayor. “The gate and walls of Sığacık Castle and Düzce Madrasah will be restored.”

Soyer said vegetable gardens would be established at schools aiming to educate students on organic production. In addition, a children’s market will be established where the students will be able to sell the vegetables they produce.

Furthermore, a handicraft market will be established to give Seferihisar women a chance to sell their works.

“I am sure that Seferihisar will be the nicest ‘cittaslow’ in the world,” said Soyer.

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