Write: Melih Uslu
Cittaslow, the international “slow cities” movement uniting towns that maintain their environment and local values and combat loudness, recommends a calmer lifestyle. Here are Anatolia’s “slow cities.”
Akyaka, in Muğla Province, stands out especially for its exotic coastline lined by its unique houses and palm trees. Resting against Mount Sakartepe, the town is built on the shore of the Gulf of Gökova. Akyaka, which is where the “Blue Voyage” cruise concept emerged, has a history that dates back to antiquity. Known as the Opposite Bank of Rhodes historically, the region was once the home of a Carian town by the name of Idyma. Akyaka, a modest fisherman’s village until the 1970s, was later discovered by people of an artistic bent coming from the big cities. Poet and architect Nail Çakırhan was one of those who came to the area in those years; he bought two acres of land and built the house he dreamed of by synthesizing traditional Muğla architecture with modern details. When the house was completed, it inspired much admiration in those who saw it. In 1983, Çakırhan was awarded the Ağa Han International Architecture Award, one of the most respected architecture awards of the era. In time, the number of houses built with inspiration from Nail Çakırhan rose rapidly, and Akyaka’s unique architecture emerged. Declared an Environmental Conservation Area in 1988, the city truly deserves to be a “slow city.”
Gökçeada is Turkey’s largest island. Settlement on the island, where Turkish and Greek cultures intertwine, is concentrated more inland than on its shores. With its stone houses and oleander gardens, the village of Zeytinliköy, founded on a slope covered with olive trees, is one of the island’s most beautiful villages. The taste of the famous “dibek” coffee, which one can drink in one of the coffee houses in the village square, is so lovely that one can’t get enough of it. Kaleköy is a typical island village with its shoreline, harbor, and architecture. Tepeköy, Dereköy, and Yukarı Bademli are also among places worth seeing on the island. Gökçeada also pleases visitors with its clean sea and beaches. One can swim from many locations on the island, but Kefaloz in the south is beautiful enough to rival the beaches of France. This place is also ideal for windsurfing. If you wish, you might replenish your skin by taking a mud bath in Tuz (“Salt”) Lake a little bit ahead. Marmaros Falls, pouring out from a height of about forty meters, is in the northwest of the island. Another of the island’s features is its oxygen-loaded air, to the extent that there are people who in fact came to and settled on the island upon doctor’s advice.
Characterized as “an Ottoman village prosperous and famous for its vineyards, wooden spoons, and combs” by Ottoman scholar Evliya Çelebi in his book of travels, Taraklı is located within the borders of Sakarya Province. Surrounded by dense forests, in Taraklı, even the newest of the bay-windowed Ottoman houses scattered around Göynük Stream is a century old. The houses of Taraklı, with their expansive gardens, caged-in windows, wooden-frame bay windows, historic pediments, and doorknobs featuring interesting figures, exhibit the elegance of traditional architecture for all to see. One of the old mansions on Taraklı Square was restored and turned into an ethnographical museum called Culture House. Adorned with eye-catching examples of Ottoman civil architecture, the region is ready to leave a nostalgic taste on your palate. Handicrafts that face extinction, such as woodcarving, are being revived with the initiatives of local administrations in recent years. Additionally, in the town’s shops, various items from ceiling centerpieces to wooden spoons and from mirrored chests to engraved end tables await their buyers.
Approximately forty-five kilometers south of İzmir, Seferihisar gives its visitors an up-close experience of the Aegean spirit. The settlement, which has had the status of a district since the Ottoman era, is famed for its tangerines. The district—in which olives, grapes, and citruses are grown—possesses a deep-rooted history. It is known that a Carian town was founded in the region in the 2000s BC. Sığacık—known as Seferihisar’s harbor—is one of the places in which the “slow city” atmosphere is felt most intensely. The citadel in Sığacık, a small fisherman’s village, was built in the 14th century. Only local products are sold in the village marketplace, where one can find tomato paste, stuffed artichoke, and tangerine Turkish delight and marmalade of extraordinary flavor. The harbor lined by vibrantly colored fishermen’s boats is a peerless refuge for those tired of the city. The ancient ruins in Sığacık—the “tangerine-scented village”—are from the ancient town of Theos. The Woman’s Labor Houses opened to support local products and especially women’s contribution to production within the scope of the Cittaslow criteria presents rich options for gifts.
The district of Yenipazar in Aydın Province is known for its tranquility. The shores of the streams giving life to the district have been turned into green spaces. The house-turned-museum of Yörük Ali Efe, a veteran of the Turkish national war of independence, is one of the district’s must-see locations. To see the region’s natural beauties, one must go to Çamlık Hill, the Windmill, and Picnic Spot. The ruins of the ancient town of Orthosia indicate a deep-rooted history. There are also remains of a historical mosque on the road to the village of Alhan. Hasan Ağa Coffee House and century-old plane trees promise a pleasant, relaxing recess. There is a monumental tree in the village of Karaçakal known as the Great Oak. The district’s next aim is to reorganize the shores of Aşağı Dip Lake as a touring and walking trail. The bazaar, in which you can buy handmade dolls unique to the area, has been cleansed of vehicle traffic as per the requirements of being a “slow city.” The district—which is famous for its bakeries—is home to renowned stuffed pita bread and a pastry named “cızdırma.” Interesting activities are also held in the district—the traditional camel-wrestling match held the first Sunday of February Traditional Karaçakal Yörüks Festival held the first Sunday of May are just a couple of these.