Turkey’s prettiest villages

27th, 2013
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Assuming that you are reading this on Dec. 23, then the world will not have come to an end, as followers of the Mayan calendar warned, on Dec. 21 and there should be plenty of red faces around the breakfast tables in Şirince, the Turkish village in the hills above Selçuk, which was identified as one of only two places that would survive.
But no matter, because after all Şirince has long been recognized as one of the prettiest villages in the whole country, a fact its visitors will be much better able to appreciate once they’ve stopped worrying that the rest of Turkey would disappear.
What is there to see in Şirince? Well, this was once an old Ottoman Greek settlement whose elegant wooden-framed houses were built in terraces on the hillside, each one positioned so as to give its residents a glorious view without spoiling that of the people living in front of it. Two 19th-century churches — one restored, one in the process of being restored — survive from the period before the 1924 Greco-Turkish population exchange while the old schoolhouse contains a small museum explaining the life of a village that reputedly once called itself Çirkince (Rather Ugly) in an attempt to keep outsiders at bay.
These days Şirince’s residents have become a little too keen on pushing fruit wines and hand-made lace on visitors, many of whom nonetheless find that its boutique hotels, including the Nişanyan (Tel.: 0 [232] 898 32 08) and Kırkınca (Tel.: 0 [232] 898 31 33), make perfect bases from which to explore the ruins of Ephesus just a short drive away.
Kaleköy (Simena)
If you arrive at Kaleköy by boat from Kaş on a summer’s day you may also find yourself having to run the gauntlet of the locals, this time laying siege to visitors with offers of headscarves fringed with seashells.
Like Şirince, Kaleköy is a great beauty, its quaint little houses straggling uphill from a harbor lined with fish restaurants to a small castle with an old Lycian necropolis of picturesque stone sarcophagi tumbling down the far side. As with Şirince, the best way to beat the crowds and soak up the beauty in peace and quiet is to stay the night, this time in one of a series of simple, if predictably pricy, pensions, including the Ankh (Tel.: 0 [242] 874 21 71), Kale (Tel.: 0 [242] 874 21 11) and Mehtap (Tel.: 0 [242] 874 21 46).
In the foothills of the Kaz Dağı (Mt. Ida), Adatepe, near Küçükkuyu, is as close as Turkey gets to a village in the Cotswolds in England, its golden-hued houses melting gently into a rocky backdrop into which vibrant color is injected by outbursts of bougainvillea. Actually, Adatepe is barely even a village since there are no amenities here bar a couple of hotels, including the Hunnap Han (Tel.: 0 [286] 752 65 81). Visitors can amble along a path that leads to the so-called Altar of Zeus, whence the king of the Greek gods is said to have watched the Trojan War raging on the plain beneath him. Otherwise there’s nought to do here except soak up the beautiful scenery.
Things are a tad livelier in Cumalıkızık, probably because its proximity to Bursa means that its hotels, including the Mavi Boncuk Pension (Tel.: 0 [224] 373 09 55), have been able to build up a booming secondary business providing tip-top Sunday brunches in the gardens of fine old Ottoman houses to urban refugees in search of a weekend bolthole. The village might have taken longer to be discovered had it not been for a television soap opera called Kınalı Kar (Henna in the Snow) for which it provided the setting. Visit midweek and you might well have the picturesque cobbled streets to yourself even now.
Just 11 kilometers from world-heritage-site listed Safranbolu, Yörükköy receives far fewer visitors and is still nothing like as developed for tourism as its better-known neighbor. But its huge wood-and-stone Ottoman houses, many of them boarded-up since their owners moved out, are at least as visually impressive and one can only dream of the glories concealed inside them. One sprawling mansion, the Sipahioğlu Konağı, is open to the public, who can study the intricacies of its primitive central heating systems, amongst other delights; from the rooftop lantern, where a wooden stand still awaits the owner’s fez, the view is to die for.
In the 19th century the pocket-handkerchief-sized harbor at Assos had space on its quay for just half-a-dozen big stone warehouses, all of them now turned into hotels that do a booming trade throughout the summer. If you can land a seaview room you will be in seventh heaven here, although commercial pressures mean that inexorably every available square inch of land, even on the seawall, is slowly filling up with sun loungers and stalls selling tacky souvenirs. Housing development has been forced up the steep hill behind Assos, which is lined with the remains of the old Greco-Roman settlement, to Behramkale, which some might think almost as lovely as Assos proper.
Of all Turkey’s pretty villages one of the least known yet most delightful is Birgi, a small strung-out settlement, near Ödemiş, with two real drawcards for visitors: the stunning late 18th-century Çakırağa Konağı, its galleried façade peeled open like a Shakespearean stage, and the beautiful 14th-century Aydınoğlu Mehmet Bey Camii, a reminder of the brief period when Birgi served as the capital of the Aydınoğlu Beylik after the break-up of the Selçuk Sultanate of Rum.
These days though people are just as likely to know Birgi as the home of Ayşe Teyze (Auntie Ayşe), the cheery potato farmer who has become the face of Lay’s crisps. It’s worth noting, too, that Birgi has turned into a model for sensitive development of a beauty spot, its street names all white on brown, its tourism paraphernalia all made out of wood.
The Konak was closed in 2012 while its foundations were being strengthened but should be open again in 2013.
Herakleia ad Latmos (Kapıkırı)
Let down by a lack of public transport to get visitors from the main İzmir-Milas road, Herakleia ad Latmos would surely otherwise have been overrun by visitors years ago. On the shores of glorious Bafa Gölü (Lake Bafa) and backed by the craggy Beşparmak Dağları (Five Finger Mountains), Herakleia is quite absurdly picturesque, its wood-and-stone houses seemingly rising organically from the rocks. Come here to take a boat ride on the lake, to examine the ruins of old monasteries and temples, and to view what is believed to have been a shrine to the beautiful shepherd boy Endymion with whom the moon goddess Selene fell in love. In the evening when villagers lead their animals back to their stables along the main street it would be hard to imagine a scene more rustically perfect.
For the time being the pretty village of Ormana, near Akseki, is completely off the map when it comes to visitors. That could well be about to change, however, as word leaks out about its novel düğmeli evleri (button houses) from whose wood-and-stone facades alarming wooden beams project like stubby spears. There are similar houses in Ürünlü Köyü, just down the road, which is just a short drive away from the delightful Altın Beşik Mağarası (Golden Cradle Cave), with a small lake inside it. The mountain scenery surrounding these two villages is simply spectacular.
For the time being there’s little in the way of accommodation around here. You can find rooms in Akseki. Otherwise you’ll have to visit from Manavgat, Side or Alanya.
Traditionally, Üçhisar was the prettiest of all the Cappadocian villages, its honey-colored stone houses huddling in the wake of Üçhisar Kalesi, one of the largest of the extraordinary rock formations for which the area is famous and a great viewing platform provided you have a head for heights.
Not surprisingly, the last few years have seen Üçhisar become home to some of Cappadocia’s finest boutique hotels, including Les Maisons de Cappadoce (Tel.: 0 [384] 219 28 13), the Kale Konak (Tel.: 0 [384] 219 30 06), and Argos in Cappadocia (Tel.: 0 [384] 219 31 30) where a couple of the suites even boast their own indoor pools. Unfortunately, Üçhisar’s great beauty is now under threat from a couple of unsightly new hotel developments. Hopefully sense will prevail before it loses its crown in the beauty pageant to one of its many local competitors.
Resource: Today’s Zaman

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