We love the Aegean, Turkey's west coast. With its strong winds, rocky shores, olive groves and sundowners overlooking Greek islands, it is so different from the Mediterranean coast. Aylin has spent 4 months every summer for 20 years on this coast; she feels she belongs there. Bruce concurs. We currently spend all our summer holidays on this coast, where we dream we will tie our sailing boat one day :) However, besides having a beautiful nature and being home to many civilizations, the Aegean also has a sad chapter in its history: the Turkish-Greek population exchange mandated by the Lausanne "Peace" Treaty in 1925. There are many villages on both sides of the Aegean today with long abandoned houses with fallen roofs and padlocks on their doors.
One such village is Kozbeyli, situated on a hill overlooking Candarli Bay. From Izmir-Pergamon highway, you take the turn-off to Foca (Phoecia) and then look out for the sign to Kozbeyli. This narrow road takes you into the hills and as you drive into the village, you are welcomed by villagers selling their produce and handcrafts in their stalls in the village "plaza". We parked our car there and went into the coffee-house to have a cup of their delicious mastic flavoured Turkish coffee. (Mastic = an evergreen tree of the Pistachio family cultivated for its aromatic resin mainly in Greece and Turkey).
Then we headed off into the hills to explore the village. The route was well marked by arrows, showing visitors prominent sights. The lower parts of the village used to be and is still today the Turkish quarter with typical Aegean village life: Men sitting in coffeehouses, women tending their home and children or sitting on the steps outside gossiping with neighbours. As we ascended, we came across many deserted homes which once belonged to the Greek population of the village. These houses are uninhabited and give a really eerie atmosphere to the village. Every now and then, there is a home that is occupied either by villagers or by holiday-makers from nearby Izmir. They were all friendly, greeted us delightfully and gave us directions to the sights. One that impressed us a lot was the ruins of "Capkin's Tavern", which was once ringing with the sounds of bozouki and laughter. Today, it is crumbling back to earth. Heartbreaking.
We walked all the way to the top, where the old church now serves as a mosque, still calling the faithful to pray. As the highlight of our visit, we sat outside the mosque, watched the sun go down slowly over the Aegean and waited patiently for the call to prayer.