Kaya and Afkule

Kaya and Afkule

Deserted testimonies to the termination of Christian Anatolia.

Visitors to Turkey, accustomed to the preponderance of ruins from the classical and Byzantine eras, soon familiarise themselves with columns, Ionic capitols and sarcophagae. They are consequently startled, then profoundly moved, by this sun-bleached shell of a country town abandoned not a century ago. Kaya, formerly Levissi, fell victim to the little known upheavals which attended the birth of modern Turkey; the forcible exchange in 1923/4 of the country’s minority Orthodox population for that of Greece’s minority Muslims, ending a Christian presence in Anatolia dating from the time of St Paul’s first missionary visit here in 46AD.

From the day the Christians of Levissi were expelled, the town stood empty. In time local Muslims removed the windows, doors and other reusable timbers.  Now fig trees grow from the faded interiors of these hillside houses where alcoves and bellied hearths crumble away, and butterflies flit among the tottering chimneys and above cisterns patterned in hokhlaki mosaics of black and white pebbles. Tortoises may be heard bottoming along the cobbled tracks which lead through the ruins; the main way links the town’s two basilicas, gutted spaces where martins nest and where the bones of old residents can still be seen in the ossuary, though these buildings are currently closed for restoration. Elsewhere whitewashed chapels and fountains further evoke a lost Arcadia which Louis de Bernieres in his Birds Without Wings has conjured to quite brilliant effect.

Beyond the haunting but lovely old town an appealing patchwork of olive groves and smallholdings is scattered with old stone cottages, low-key holiday villas and al fresco restaurants – where the locals and visitors from the western lands once known as Christendom continue a steady reconciliation.

A few miles away, reached by an easy forest track near Kınalı village and thence by a steep path, is the cliffside monastery at Afkule. The monastery, which has also stood abandoned in remote Athonian grandeur since the 1920s, makes a grand picnic spot.

Use the right-hand corner zoom: + to reveal concealed pins and – (minus) for outlying ones

More Ruins

More on Kaya Valley