Thursday, September 18, 2014

Haunted by history, ripe for tourism?

There are few places in Turkey more visually intriguing and emotionally resonant than Kayaköy, a Mediterranean hillside village formerly inhabited by Anatolian Greeks, and left empty after its residents were forced to relocate to Greece under the population-exchange agreement of 1923.

This mass deportation was part of the beginning of the end of the much-vaunted religious tolerance under Ottoman rule, and of the old cosmopolitanism of Istanbul (though that city's Greeks were exempted from the exchange) and the coasts. Its lingering effects can still be felt today in parts of Turkish life ranging from nationalist politics to lost or dying culinary traditions and craftsmanship.

With more than four times as many people relocated from Turkey to Greece as the other way around, no one ever repopulated the "ghost village" of Kayaköy, where plants crawl up staircases, trees grow between crumbling walls, and ceilings of churches gape open to the sky. With few amenities nearby, its abandoned pathways can generally be explored in near-silence, alone with thoughts of the mastic trees no longer tended, the rebetiko songs no longer sung, the Istanbul Greeks attacked by Turkish mobs in 1955, and the few remaining minority-run businesses in Turkey's largest city today facing closure due to rising rents and gentrification.

Turkish authorities, however, seem to think that history and its echoes are best contemplated (or, more likely, best forgotten) from a table in a tea garden or the balcony of a five-star hotel room. Last week, the country's Culture and Tourism Ministry announced plans to auction off the rights to rent and develop Kayaköy, potentially a 30 million TL construction and tourism project that local officials boast would turn the town into an "international brand." Surely the Mango outlets and Mado shops won't be far behind.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A girl walks into a bakkal

Sweaty girl walks into a bakkal (corner store) after a long run:

"Would you like water?"

"Yes, please. And what kind of juice do you have?"

"All kinds."

"What do you have with no added sugar?"

[The shopkeeper thinks for a moment.]