By Catherine Tsounis
“Do not go back to Tseme or Turkey,” admonished family relatives.” They will finish off what was left uncompleted in 1922.” Not one member of our family stepped foot in Turkey since the Asia Minor catastrophe. I come from a refugee family on my Mother and Fatherʼs side. Only one member, my grandfather Vlassios Tsounis, was born in Panagia, Limnos. Even prior to 1912, Limnos belonged to Turkey. Her islanders had Turkey written as their country of origin on their passports.
I decided in June 2007 to return to Tseme. For years, Chiotes have said it is easy to take a small ferry boat from Chios City to Tseme harbor. The internet is my communication and travel tool. I googled Greek Chios travel agencies and discovered Sunrise Tours. The establishment is located on 28 Kanari Street in Chios City near the telonio (customs office). It is one block from the waterfront. Their unique tours to Turkey have an extraordinary guide, Ali Payzanoglu. He is a Greek/Moslem from Cefalos, Kos. He is a lawyer/travel guide who knows what we want to see: Ionia from a Greek perspective.
Sunrise Tours to Turkey include: a one day excursion to Izmir, Vourla, Tseme; two day excursion to Tseme, Izmir, Ephessos and Kusadasi; and a three day excursion to Tseme, Pergamos, Aivali, Moshonisia, Izmir, Ephessos and Kusadasi. I have traveled to Ephesus twice and Istanbul once in 2002 and 2003, through a tourist agency showing the official Western European viewpoint in English, devoid of Greek influences. I wanted a different viewpoint: a totally Greek language tour describing Modern Turkey locations with their Greek names. The two day tour with Ali Payzanoglu, a smart businessman/intellectual, was a real adventure.
Argyro of Sunrise Tours, an attractive 23 year old woman, communicated with me on the internet and with international phone calls. The three major tour agencies of the island, Chios, Kanaris and Sunrise, cooperate in business. Argyro knew I was a middle aged woman traveling alone. She called in Chios to make sure all went well. Argyro communicated with us in Turkey on Aliʼs cell phone. I was mesmerized by Aliʼs description of Greek locations from the past which are in ruin or do not exist. One must use oneʼs imagination. She helped me acquire two Greek travel books on the Greek cities of Asia Minor that described all the sites visited. It is very rare to meet a person who goes out of her/his way to aide you. Argyro of Sunrise Tours is one of those caring persons.
When I thought I lost my cell phone at the 4 star Kayak Hotel in Izmir, Ali called Argyro in Chios for assistance. She was ready to have special delivery bring my phone to Tseme from Izmir. Fortunately, I found it in a different purse. This is what Argyro and Sunrise Tours is: excellent assistance to the client. Korean and Japanese groups attended the similar tours in their native language. Sunrise Tours operates the San Nicholas boat that operates a regular itinerary from Chios-Cesme-Chios route with safety and comfort.
Their website at www.sunrise tours.gr/company.asp claims to choose “the best hotels in Tsesme, Izmir, Aivali and Kusadasi…..at low rates.” The 4 star Kayak Hotel in the center of Izmir had excellent service. Their evening dining room managed by head waiter Alp Akgun. His grandparents were from Greece. His hospitality was excellent. “Our company was established….with knowledge and experience about tourism,” said Argyro. “Our first priority is to offer service to tourists and local Greeks. We are a family company and love what we do.” They offer tours to Chios Island. On my last night at Handris Hotel in Chios, she came to say farewell to me. “Kiria Katerina, I want you to remember us. Here is the bottle of the best masticha ouzo.” That is Greek hospitality at its best. For more information, visit Sunrise Tours, Kanari 28 Str., Chios 82100, tel: (+30) 22710-41390, fax: (+30) 22710-41391, email: info @ sunrise tours.gr.