Kayakoy, ghost town of Turkey.
We entered that secondary road on the outskirts of Fethiye, on the South Western Coast of Turkey, looking for a bit of adventure and maybe one of those solitary beaches not included in the guide books and just used by locals. It took only few minutes’ drive among the Mediterranean flora to find the first village.
Somehow it had a strange atmosphere; a couple of restaurants at the entrance were all we could notice. It was calm and silent, almost in a shocking way, compared to the hustle and bustle of Fethiye with its tacky souvenir shops and its noisy touristy restaurants. Only a few extra meters and the hill on our left disclosed the desolated panorama of hundreds of abandoned houses.
We suddenly decided that the beach could wait and stopped for a walk. It was late morning on a late July day and it was desperately hot. The cicadas were screaming loudly all around nonetheless the place was very quiet. No tourists, possibly most of them were refreshing by the sea on one of the stunning beaches of the region. The only locals around were a couple of goats and some lizards. A sign was indicating the name of the village: we were in Kayaköy, or Levissi, as the community of Greek merchants, living here almost a century ago, used to call it. In 1923, at the end of the Turkish-Greek war, they were forced to leave the village and move back to Greece as part of an interchange program. But no Turkish liked this place where the land was to dry and infertile to be cultivated, so the village was left abandoned.
We entered the ghost town, now protected as a museum, after a development company tried to convert it in a full optional holiday village. We walked up our way through the narrow unpaved roads until we approached the first houses.
Most of the roofs had gone. The walls were taken by the ivy and vegetation was wildly spreading around. Inside the houses, the fireplaces, still intact with their unique Greek style, were the last indication of a normal family life.
The air was filled of the aromas of the Mediterranean herbs. The prickly pears and figs were ripening.
We reached the main church. It was imposing and inside we could still retrace the richness of its frescoes. For a short moment we imagined the place lively: the hubbub of the Sunday mornings, the village inhabitants celebrating the day of God and the children running and playing in the courtyard.
And then we looked at the hills rising all around, scattered with thousands of abandoned buildings, the square stone houses, the old school and the little chapels and the sense of desolation grew even stronger.
While lost in our thoughts we noticed an old woman walking on the road. We silently started following her at a certain distance. We knew it wasn't a ghost but we could not stop thinking how unreal she looked in her colourful traditional dress among all that emptiness.
She gently carried us away from that place where we had lost ourselves suspended in time and guided us to the modern part of the village where a couple of houses have been refurbished and brought back to the life they had known a century ago.