The village is located in the Kaya Valley, which for centuries was occupied by both Turks and Greeks. They lived side by side, the Turks involved in agriculture and animal husbandry on the plains, whilst the Greeks lived in the houses on the slopes, earning a living from craft and trade.
After the Turkish War of Independence, in 1923, there was a population exchange between Greece and Turkey. The Greek people living in Kayaköy (which they called Levissi) were forced to migrate to Greece, to be replaced by the Turkish immigrants from Thrace who had shared the same fate.
The evacuation took place on June 30th, 1923. The Greeks went, leaving behind 2 large churches, 14 chapels, 2 schools, 2 fountains, 2 windmills, and about 1000 houses, all of which had outdoor toilets and running water, obtained from cisterns which collected rain. It was a large and attractive village. The houses had been built in line with the slope of the land so that they did not block the light or the view of each other. The houses were one or two storey depending on the lie of the land and became more spacious the higher up the slopes they were.
Following the evacuation, the Turks from Thrace who came to replace the Greeks in Kayaköy found the village not to their liking and chose not to settle there. The result is the ‘ghost village’ which we see today. The floors, ceilings, window frames, and doors, all of which were made of wood, have all been looted for firewood. The roofs were flat and made of compressed earth. Over the years, these have rotted away. What are left are empty shells, but with evocative traces of paint, wall decoration, fireplaces, shelves, and, even, curtain rails!
The whole place is incredibly atmospheric. The experience of walking through the village is quite eerie, the silence broken only by the sound of an occasional goat’s bell. You sometimes catch a glimpse of one of these sure-footed creatures trotting between the houses. A wonderful way to spend an afternoon!!
TOP TIP – Don’t visit Kayaköy on a trip organised by a tour operator. Those that do find that their coach will pull in to the car park at the foot of the village and allow them to take pictures for 5 minutes before moving on to the next stop. Instead, make your way there independently which allows you to wander to your heart’s content. (Remember to take plenty of water with you on a hot day!)
TOP TIP 2 – The dolmuş will drop you off outside Muzzy’s place, where you can pick up a free plan and history of the village and where you can have a delicious lunch and even avail yourself of their swimming pool. (Don’t go on a Monday – this is the day for organised tour groups and lunch is a set buffet.)