Thursday 12 May 2011

Nobody home

We've been bone idle for a week on holiday, soaking up the sun, positioned happily at the water's edge. Every morning the sand on the shoreline was raked, although not by Dick Diver. (My holiday reading was 'Tender is the Night'.)
We took a day off from the exertion of doing nothing and hired a car.
Everywhere we went there was nobody home.

This Story

Beyond the ticket seller's stall
no one was in the town at all.
Dark poppies grew
and yellow-throated marguerites
in cracks and crevices about our feet.
Blue wash on walls and windows empty stare,
the houses spread out spaciously for air,
churches abandoned,
images like smoke,
no sign remaining of the banished folk.
A harsh cry from the pulpit roof,
the sound of wings.
This is no blessing and no angel sings.
But in one house, a photo on the wall, 
a wedding group, the bride in twenties style,
a man plays music and the children smile.
Where are they now, the vanished, banished ones?
Such a formal word to mask emotions deep
and leave these houses fast asleep.
No footsteps sound upon the street
but ours.
Why leave abandoned such a lovely place,
the fertile valley, houses on the hill,
churches and schoolrooms,
all this well-lived life?
The fear was retribution,
poisoned wells,
leaving the silence that this story tells.

Kayakoy, May 2011.

Kayakoy was a thriving town with over one thousand houses. It had two cathedrals, fourteen chapels and two schools. It was populated by Greeks who had lived happily with their Turkish neighbours for generations until the Turkish Greek conflict of 1919-23. In 1923 the town was deserted overnight when all 25.000 inhabitants were repatriated to Greece. 
It must have broken their hearts.

This is the only house that still has its original decorative wooden doors and interior fittings. A photograph of the Greek family who once lived here is pinned to the wall.

Our hire car was tinny and the roads rough. It was noisy, and as we traveled up the hillside to visit the Lycian town of Tlos a shower of hailstones bouncing off the roof was deafening. The tombs carved into the hillside did not look inviting,

and the Roman amphithearte was in a spectacular state of collapse.

Car hire maps leave a lot to be desired and we traveled along a deserted unmade road in search of Pinara, Himself fearful of a puncture and being marooned in the middle of nowhere whilst I was certain that we were lost and that the road was too narrow for us to turn around. But eventually we arrived at a turning point and an abandoned ticket box.
The journey had been worth it, for on a grassy plateau we found this small Roman amphitheatre, beautifully positioned facing the remains of the town and the hills above, studded with Lycian tombs.
There was nobody home.

Only this rather evil-smelling flower growing in a crack between the seating.

Dracunculus vulgaris
dragon lily.

After such a hectic day it was good to get back to doing nothing at all.


  1. What an amazing place - if melancholic. It reminded me of Ephesus a bit. In that case, the sea just disappeared making it pointless as a port.

  2. oh rosemary i'm so jealous. i can't imagine you ever wanting to leave your home. next time you go on vacation i'll babysit your house for you ok?


  3. Hello Rosemary:
    What an absolutely magical place and how very strange to find one house left with furniture after all of those years. Man's inhumanity to man appears to know no bounds.

    The Roman amphitheatre is amazing and something we should love to have seen. We can readily understand the feeling of isolation you must have had, rather far from the familiarity of the hotel and pool.

    It was so very nice to have your comments on our two most recent posts. Thank you so much - we have left replies!

  4. I've walked through many deserted villages, Tom. They all have the same quality of silence, but the history of Kayakoy is especially tragic.

    Dear Janet - September?

    Dear Jane and Lance, just some fitted, carved wooden furniture remained and the roof patched - a dwelling to bear testimony to the past.
    We were at the start of the season, (as evident at the hotel, where preparations went on all about us!) and had the benefit of discovering these places unspoilt by other tourists.

  5. Stunning. The story about the town was heartbreaking. I can't imagine someone showing up on my doorsteps and forcing me to move elsewhere.
    Thanks for the history lesson and beautiful photos.

  6. Dear Life, I'm happy to have shared the experience and, like you, cannot imagine what it must be like to be forcibly removed from my home and community. Tragic to think that this sort of thing still happens.