Kayakoy – The Greek Ghost Town in The Heart of Turkey

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Greeks have a long history on the territories that make up today’s Turkey and namely Asia Minor. The same thing can be said about the Turks in Greece. This is an explanation for the existence in the first place of the Greek ghost town of Kayakoy.

Built back in the 1700’s, Karmylassos, as it was known back then by the people living there, was a town of roughly 20,000 orthodox Greeks, near the Taurus Mountains in Southwestern Turkey. They lived in peace and harmony with their fellow Muslim neighbors up until the early 20th century, when WWI broke out. After the war, the Ottoman Empire collapsed and soon after, both the Turks and Greeks got into a messy war of their own; a war for land grabbing.

This sparked massive violence in both countries as neighbors and former friends turned on each other, mostly just for mere political reasons. Both countries agreed for a mutual compulsory population exchange where some 200,000 Greeks and over 300,000 Turks were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to their respective countries.

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The same fate was shared by the Greek ghost town of Kayakoy, where all of its citizens were forcibly removed and sent to the war torn and economically impoverished Greece, in order to start their lives anew.

Today, some 350 Greek style homes, two Christian orthodox churches and the few fountains, cisterns and squares now lay completely abandoned. The scorching heat in summer, combined with the harsh winters and strong winds have changed the town of Kayakoy beyond recognition, making it look ancient. Most buildings are roofless and some have already collapsed; evidence that nature is taking back its rightful place.

The book Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres is set in a fictionalized version of Karakoy during WWI and the last days of the Ottoman Empire. Kayaköy was adopted by the UNESCO as a World Friendship and Peace Village, and a small museum in the town, tells its story.

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