Thoughts reverent and irreverent from the road in Turkey


by in bloggingaboutturkey
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At Alabanda, near Çine, I bump into a student from Aydın University. He’s clad in what seems to be the international national-park staff uniform of green sweatshirt and khaki Bermudas and we fall into conversation in front of a lovely old house, one of the few left in the village, that had been built from stone then given a delightfully carved wooden upper terrace.

“I don’t suppose there are many people living here any more, are they?” I ask looking up at it wistfully.

“Only the old people,” he replies. “The young are all gone. To Bodrum. To Aydın. To Muğla. They don’t come back. And when they want to get married, there aren’t any women who want to come and live here. There’s no work, only agriculture, and who wants to do that? There’s just one child left here, a five-year-old girl. The school bus comes for her every day to take her to Çine.”

It’s the same story that I hear repeated all over Turkey, a story that challenges the statistic that states reassuringly that 29% of Turks still live in villages. Instead it’s a story of the pell-mell emptying out of the villages turning them into glorified old people’s homes where the ways of the past are still being lived out in waiting rooms for an empty future.

“I stay here all year. In the winter, with the dogs and the chickens. I like it,” he adds with a rueful smile, which we both know acknowledges that most people would think him crazy.

He tells me dutifully about the ruins of Alabanda on top of which sits the modern village of Araphisar. They’re going to lay a path, he tells me, up to the top of the hill so that people can more easily visit the remains of the temple of Zeus. I bottled out of that one, I’m afraid, worn out by the effort of clambering down from the theatre at nearby Alında to explore the vast market building beneath it. 

Back by the road my taxi driver is keen to be on his way. He didn’t get out to look at the ruins either here or at Alında even though nothing he said to me suggested that he’d ever visited either site. History? That’s for old folks and foreigners. He has a life to live in Çine if only I’d let him get on with it. 

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