Life aboard a gulet is mighty easy to get used to. We sail about half the day past picturesque coves and islands dotted with sail boats and other gulets. We lounge on the deck waiting for the next meal, chatting, reading and listening to our Ipods. And the other half of the day we get into the dinghy and go to shore and do something interesting.
Today we went to a ghost town called Kayakoy about half an hour drive from Fetiye, the largest town on the Turquoise Coast. Although the Greeks and Turks had lived together in harmony more or less, their relationship took a huge turn for the worse when they joined different sides during World War I. When the war was over the leaders of both countries decided that the border areas were tinderboxes waiting to explode and they each ordered their own people to cross the line on the map that marked the border and come to their own country. Although in terms of religion and language they were clearly Greek or Turk, they had lived in their ancestral villages for centuries even intermarrying at times, and to suddenly be uprooted caused great trauma and anguish. It took about two years for the two million Greeks and 1-1/2 million Turks to relocate. In theory the empty houses left behind by the Turks could be occupied by the Greeks and vice versa. Government officials tried to dole out homes appropriate for the size of the family. For reasons not totally clear to us, none of the Turks wanted to live in Koyakoy. This picturesque Greek village high in the hills stood empty. Turks from nearby villages stopped by to help themselves to things that were useful, an early sort of recycling. Even the wooden doors and window frames were taken away. Today all that remains are the crumbling ruins of the stone walls.
While it was interesting to see Kayakoy, our visit made me sad. As we walked among the weedy lanes and looked for remnants of color on the walls, it was easy to imagine the Greeks as they said their final good byes to their homes, never to see them again. While we can never be sure what would have happened if this massive relocation had not taken place, we have heard about horrible episodes of ethnic cleansing in other parts of the world. The relocated people may have been miserable, but at least they were alive.
There were about 1,000 homes here and since families were larger than ours are today, it can be guessed that there were at least 10,000 people here alone. We did not walk every weedy rock strewn street, but we saw two churches, marked with the Greek Orthodox cross on the walls. One was in pretty good repair. On the edge of the village, it had been used by the folks down the road as a mosque. They had covered over the Christian frescoes, which are quite visible today. Seeing vividly painted walls on the homes here and there was also a jolt to the eyes. One of the churches had a crypt were human bones are still very much in evidence. In the Greek tradition once a family grave is full, the oldest bones were gathered and stored near the church. Ancestors as well as homes were left behind.
In 1978 when we first came to Istanbul from Greece, the strained relationship was still very apparent. And the argument over Cyprus has gone on for years. But the ice was finally broken in 1999 when the Greeks were the first to arrive with help after an earthquake in Turkey. Within the year Greece had an earthquake as well and the Turks promptly reciprocated. As Rodney King famously said, “Why can’t we all just get along?”