A Sobering Visit to Kayaköy

May 12, 2011 at 2:01 pm 2 comments


The other day we visited an interesting—and haunting—site in Turkey: a ghost town that thrived up until 1923, and then suddenly was abandoned.

The town of Kayaköy, near the southern coast, dates to the 1700s, and by about 1900 it had a population of 2,000. It was known as Levissi at the time, and its inhabitants were primarily people of Greek ancestry.

KayakoyAfter the Turkish people successfully fought the Greeks and gained their independence in 1923, it was somehow decided that the Greeks living in the newly founded Republic of Turkey needed to go back to Greece, and the Turks living in Greece needed to go back to Turkey. The League of Nations oversaw the “population exchange,” in which about 2 million people essentially lost their citizenship and were forced to move to a different country.

KayakoyThe Greeks who left Levissi were never really accepted in Greece, and no one in Turkey moved into the homes that they had left behind. So the 400 or so stone houses of Levissi—and its churches—were neglected and today are just stone ruins.

The deserted town, now called by its Turkish name, Karaköy, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site today. We wandered around some of the stone ruins, and went inside a Greek Orthodox church that clearly had been beautiful in its day, as you can see in the photo.

The sad story of Karaköy inspired a 2004 historical novel called Birds Without Wings.

Tina Hay, editor

P.S. You can see more photos from Kayaköy and other stops on our Legendary Turkey trip by going to the Alumni Association’s Facebook page.

Entry filed under: Alumni Association. Tags: , , , , , .

We Could Get Used to the Gulet Life Faces of Turkey

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Chas Brua  |  May 13, 2011 at 10:48 am

    When you get a chance, check out Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel Middlesex. The first section takes place in a Greek community in Turkey during this turmoil, and it’s a gripping portrayal.

  • 2. Mmmmmm  |  September 30, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    “The Turkish gained their independence” is a historically extremely strange way to describe what happened. Odd.

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