While most of our group went to Bodrum by dolmus on Wednesday afternoon, Eljay drove Allison, Ann, and I to Sandima and Kudur, near Yalikavak, an abandoned stone village on the hill above the town. As in many of the other villages around here, the people decided to move down close to the ocean to grow fruit rather than be shepherds on the mountain top, a less economically viable way of life.
The fifteen minute drive up from Yalıkavak village winds past a number of old white stone houses that stand empty and crumbling on the rocky hillside overlooking the bay. The houses are generally old Bodrum-style stone houses bound by layers of whitewash. But among the abandoned houses, there is one dwelling that is still occupied. Erkoca, a sculptor, and his wife, Nurten Değirmeci, an artist, came from Istanbul to the village seven years ago to take up residence and make their studio and home in the village, the Nuri Sanat Evi,. We saw Erkoca zoom past us down the hill on a little skooter as we were coming up.
Our first stop was the tiny cemetery with its few untended graves, one of which had a tiny marble turban atop a pillar inscribed with calligraphy. Inside the cemetery was a strange whitewashed structure that looked somewhat like a marble cistern but we could not figure out what it might have been used for.
The shells of Sandıma’s houses are clustered in two halves, divided by a quite deep creek bed, with a lovely short waterfall running in spring beside the highest houses. The town used to be at the crossroads of a network of ancient walking and stock paths that crisscrossed the peninsula before the age of the motorcar. It is thought that the paths were first set by the hill-dwelling Lelegian tribes, but today they are the last preserve of hikers fighting a losing battle against development. From our vantage point up above the Nuris Sanat Evi we had a fantastic view out over Yalikavak and the sea out to the peninsula of Kudur. In the distance we could see a shepherd walking his flock and heard his sing-song calls floating over the sound of the rustling wind.
Back down the hill we drove over to the Kudur peninsula, first stopping briefly at the public beach where a few small tents had been pitched, and then zipping around to the other side to see the cliff tomb remains carved into volcanic tufa near the top of the hillside. A small set of stone stairs led up to the edge of one large tomb with a panoramic view out over the coastline. I was surprised to see how far the former fishing village of Yalikavak, now the “St Tropez of Turkey” had spread.