Nicknamed “ghost towns,” abandoned villages exist in many countries across the world. With not a soul to be seen, citizens deserted their homes, never to return, leaving posessions and their old lives to crumble along with the houses in which they once lived.
Reasons for the desertion vary including famine, war, economic or climate change and in recent years, the advancement of urban planning and trend of living in big cities simply forces the population to dwindle down as new generations slowly drift away.
Turkey is no exception in this case, and following a recent visit to an abandoned village in Cappadocia, I had to wonder how many villages like this existed from the east to the west of the country. I could not find hard stats listed in any publication but there are a few villages that are famous for their “ghost like” status.
The Abandoned Villages of Turkey
Kayakoy on the Mediterranean coast is definitely the most famous ghost village of Turkey. Situated near the bustling and cosmopolitan city of Fethiye, it was up until 1923, a Greek and Muslim town where citizens lived side by side.
Unfortunately, Greece and Turkey fought on opposite sides during World War One and the Turkish War of Independence. In 1923 governments of both countries signed a population exchange treaty, fearing retribution attacks on their citizens.
Greeks were forced to return to Greece and vice versa but the Muslim Turks returning to Kayakoy could not settle and slowly over the years they drifted away. A subsequent earthquake a while later, caused any remaining citizens to flee as they feared for their safety.
Today, it is one of the top visited tourist attractions of the Mediterranean coast and in 2014, locals expressed dismay at plans to rent out part of the abandoned village to hotel corporations. The saga is still continuing.
Other villages do not have as much fame and notoriety as Kayakoy. Sazak, on the Aegean coast of Turkey has more or less the same story but it was never featured in a best-selling book. Kayakoy was rumoured to be the setting for a famous book by Louis de Bernieres called Birds without Wings. It is logical to assume, it can take part of the credit for the village’s fame.
In the eastern region of Kars, Ani is not a village but instead an entire abandoned city dating from the Armenian Kingdom. Excavation funding is limited and not many tourists venture into that side of Turkey, so it still remains unknown to most of the world, despite the importance of its historical timeline.
It is also important to note, how many villages are on the verge of abandonment thanks to younger generations preferring to live in big cities. In Cappadocia two such towns exist. Mustafapasha and Ibrahimpasa both have the same Greek background as mentioned before and walking around the old cobbled streets, peering into abandoned houses is like a window into the story of people’s lives.
Doors were rotting and window frames hung onto the hinges. Rooms were overgrown with weeds and in many cases, walls and roofs had started to crumble. Many locals say the younger generations of their family have moved away. Nostalgia prevents them from following.
In Soganli village, apparently just one old man still remains. The government moved most citizens into New Soganli when concerns grew because of falling rocks from the domineering hill that looms above it. The old man refuses to go, insisting it is his home and nothing will move him.
The Future of the Abandoned Villages
As mentioned before village migration is a new trend so it is likely we will hear more stories of abandoned villages. Should we assume their future is one of doom and gloom and they are likely to be banished to the history books and then forgotten?
Maybe not, because one trend that could buck these turns of events is the purchase of holiday homes by foreigners and wealthy Turks from the large cities.
Property Investment by Turks
Prior to 2007, mortgages did not exist in Turkey. Most families rented property or stayed within the confinements of their family homes which often housed three or more generations. With the introduction of mortgages, more Turks became house owners and in some cases, purchased a second family property in Turkey for investment purposes. While most Turks are choosing to buy their second home in seaside locations, there is a slow growing trend for village houses.
Likewise can be said for foreigner investors, who having spent their life in cities, are now looking for villages and towns with the small community appeal so they can enjoy a laid back lifestyle devoid of the rush and fast pace of urban places they have grown up in.
One such village seeing a rise in popularity is the old part of Cavusin in the Cappadocia region of Turkey. Old cave houses are now being renovated into modern living spaces with all amenities and facilities that we have come to expect of these times.
So, we should keep an eye on the old villages of the past. Let’s not write them off yet, because as proven in the past, new property trends are born every day.
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