This past week I have been daydreaming about being elsewhere. Some place surrounded by rolling green hills, hugged by the gently lapping waters of the nearly-clear, blue-green mediterranean sea, with the echoing sounds of a combination of folk-music, clapping and laughter in the background. All of this infused with the wafting aromas of aubergine and lamb grilled on open fire, snapshots of families flying kites, old olive-skinned ladies picking herbs, and lovers picnicking on the roof of an abandoned Greek house, overgrown with mushrooms and wildflowers. I have been daydreaming about being back in Kayaköy.
Kayaköy is a small abandoned Greek village in the South West of Turkey, a short 18km of sharp mountainous switchbacks from the popular resort destination of Fethiye. I’m cheating with this blog post a little bit, since our cat, Tibs, wasn’t actually at my mom’s house when we did a week-long road trip in Turkey – he was back at our place in Cape Town, being cat-sat, because our mom and her fiancé were in Turkey with us! Woohoo!
We stayed in Fethiye for two nights after visiting Pamukkale and on our way to Ephesus. Fethiye is a really amazing Turkish summer destination – white sands, mediterranean seas, etc. However, in April it was too cold to swim and nearly deserted, all but for us and some British people ordering bacon off the breakfast menus. The coast is still beautiful, and we took a slow drive along its jagged edges, squeezing past old, dilapidated cars and stopping often for photos.
When I suggested visiting a greek ghost town a couple of k’s away, there was mild interest by the other members in the car, and we decided to check it out since it was our first day of the trip where we had time to kill.
The face that greeted us on the other side of the mountain was more than welcoming. Along the foot of the mountains, the abandoned and broken Kayaköy rose up before us like a ghost from the grave – and at its feet was a small group of Turks, Greeks and other expats, dancing around to some Greek music, surrounded by artisans and cooks, selling locally made goods and that lamb and aubergine I can’t stop thinking about. The atmosphere was wonderful and perfect and we made our way into the maze of overgrown bricks to explore, leaving the sounds of the market behind us.
Kayaköy was built in the 1700s and was the area where the Byzantine inhabitants of nearby Gemiler Island fled to when pirates approached. It was abandoned after the Turkish-Greco war (1919-22) and the larger persecution of Ottoman Greeks and Christians, and it now serves as a site where families from the nearby village meander away their weekends – flying kites, picking herbs, and having picnics. We later found out that the market was held to raise awareness of the ‘Save Kayaköy’ campaign, which attempts to resist the government’s recent plans to develop the village and turn it into a full-on tourist attraction.
We hope that the campaign persists and that Kayaköy stays the peaceful, tucked-away, hotel-less, wonder of a place that it is right now. It is a special spot, and I would gladly make the 10-hour trek from Istanbul straight to Kayaköy just to amble around the ruins again.
(Also, it’s in a new Russell Crowe movie, so…that’s good!?)
(Also, it’s a great place to go if you’re just tired of seeing really old ruins all over the place, and want to see just mildly old ruins.)
Go go go, go to Kayaköy!