I like to think of myself as a city girl. I like the buzz of big cities, the bright lights, the throngs of people, the twinkling skyline. I like riding the underground, the subway, the metro (basically I am a massive train geek). Tokyo, Seoul, London, Hanoi…I love these kinds of hectic, frenetic places. Places where if you blink, you might miss something.
So what on earth could possess me to up sticks and go to live in a fairly remote Turkish village that is famous for…well…basically being a ghost town? Where the walk to the village takes at least 25 minutes and where I’d really need to yell for our nearest neighbour to even have a chance of hearing us?
The short answer is: housesitting. We were offered a three-month house sit in a three bedroom Turkish villa, with a view of the mountains and a jacuzzi (oooh, how very Hugh Hefner!) We would have been fools to say no. The slight downside was that a Turkish stone villa in the winter is pretty damn cold. Many layers and thick jumpers were needed and on most days I looked like a small, brown penguin. Definitely not a sexy look. But still worth it.
But there is actually a long answer to this question too. I actually love the outdoors and the peace and quiet of nature. Maybe it was my time in Zambia, living in a small town where nothing much happened (apart from a riot once, caused by Chelsea and Manchester United fans, which I found quite bizarre). After spending a day in remote villages out in the bush, I would return home and on most evenings, sit and watch an uninterrupted sunset from my back porch that would often set the sky ablaze in shimmering hues of orange and gold. The outdoors had me and in the years afterwards, I was always searching for that peace and quiet again, a brief break from the city life I loved so much.
Living in a village or anywhere even slightly remote isn’t for everyone. Firstly, life is very physical - we had to walk 2.5km into the village on most days to get basic things like milk and drinking water. Life without a car meant that at least once a week we were also carrying 12-15kg on our backs all the way from the nearest town, where we would usually do our weekly shop at the outdoor market. And the return journey back home was uphill. Each time I tried to console myself by thinking that this was a hella butt and thigh workout.
Secondly, it can get quite lonely - for the most part it was just Vincent and I spending all our time together and although we got to know quite a few people in the village, we didn’t see them regularly. So you either have to enjoy spending lots of time alone or really enjoy the company of the person you are with. (And I like Vincent a lot, even if I have asked him in the past to ‘stop breathing’ because it was irritating me).
Having said those two caveats, we love our peaceful village life in Turkey so much that we have now been back twice! If you are toying with the idea of living somewhere quieter and more remote, here are my top reasons why I think you should choose to live in a Turkish village (and in this case Kaya Köy village in particular!).
1) There’s a local bakery
I mean, how can one not get excited about this? I always wanted to live somewhere where I could buy super literally-out-of-the-oven fresh bread from a tiny bakery (something I thought was only possible in an Enid Blyton novel). The local bakery in Kaya Köy village is seriously the shizzle: as well as ordinary loaves, they make all sorts of local breads like simit, pides, biscuits (for more about these, checkout Vincent’s mouthwatering blog post on kurabiye); pastries and muffins. It took a real effort to come out of there without buying anything. And on those days we were sad.
2) Crazy hospitality
During our first three-month stint in Kaya Köy village, a local lady said: “When you spend time in the village during the winter, after the tourists have left, it is a bit like you are part of the community. You’ve become one of us.” And so with this in mind, everyone wants to help you.
During our second housesitting stint, we bought 50kg of firewood from our local baker Osman (yep, this bakery also sells a multitude of things other than bread) and he offered to drive it up to our house and drop it off, saving us the long uphill walk, loaded up like pack horses. We’ve done that before when we bought wood from outside the village and trust me when I say that the walk home wasn’t fun at all. But still, MUSCLES!
Another time during our walk into town, we were stopped by an excitable man in a car. He was clearly celebrating something as he pushed two portions of lokma (balls of deep fried dough soaked in syrup or honey) into our hands and then drove away. He was giving out the sweets to everyone in the village and it was amazing that he included us, despite us being complete strangers.
The hospitable nature of Turkish people also translates into random advice: whilst waiting for the bus one day, a burly looking man came over to ask us whether we’d been able to build a fire to heat our house. He then proceeded to give us advice on how to build a fire effectively, even going through which bags of wood we needed to buy (a mixture of big logs and smaller thinner pieces, plus kindling in case you are interested). Advice dispensed and satisfied that we had grasped fire-building knowledge sufficiently well enough to survive the winter months, he then ambled off to a nearby cafe for a cup of Turkish tea.
These are just three small examples of how hospitable Turkish people are and one of the main reasons we love living in Turkey so much.
Whether it is the numerous unsolicited invitations we have received to have Turkish çay or kahve at people’s houses, shops and stalls, to being invited over for dinner and homemade vodka and raki one night because someone simply saw us walking in the street, somebody is always bound to greet you with a smile on their face.
3) Them views tho’
Yep - waking up to this view every morning is no hard task really. Kaya Köy is surrounded by mountains which makes for a spectacular sunrise and sunset. On the days where I felt a bit bleurgh, unmotivated and down in the dumps, this view always made me feel better.
Our walk into the village during any time of year is also guaranteed to herald some beautiful sights: in October, the trees were literally bursting with ripening pomegranates, whilst in January the branches were heavily laden with oranges, lemons and tangerines. (I managed to withhold any temptation to pick fruit off the trees, in case I got chased by an angry farmer).
Even on the days when the sky was filled with grey, bloated rain clouds, the scenery still looked spectacular.
And on most other days, it looked like a Bob Ross painting.
4) Delicious local food
I’ve previously lived somewhere where there were no decent local restaurants and whilst I made everything I could possibly make at home (including falafel, pitta breads and chocolate orange hot cross buns), I will admit that I got a tiny bit depressed. So I was glad to discover that Kaya Köy had a number of really good local restaurants and cafes that stayed open during the winter. This included a lady called Fatima who made the most amazing gözleme; Yalçin Kebap BBQ restaurant that served mouth-watering Turkish breakfasts, kebabs and güveç (Turkish casserole) and CinBal restaurant which had a delicious and varied mezze selection. Basically there was no need for me to get HANGRY if Vincent or I were too tired or lazy to cook.
5) Random animal adventures
Living in a rural area means that you are definitely going to get a lot more up close and personal with a range of animals and insects that inhabit our delightful natural world.
Our housesit in Kaya Köy was nestled at the top of a fairly steep hill and everyday the shepherds would guide their sheep and goats past the veranda area of the house. I never got tired of hearing the cow bell or watching naughty goats linger too long whilst munching at the long grass and subsequently getting yelled at by the shepherd.
As the weather starts to warm up, you suddenly begin to see tortoises everywhere! And these guys are a whole lot speedier than they are given credit for - just looking out over the balcony in April we could see about five of these guys scurrying about.
Traditionally, housesits involve taking care of pets, but our Turkish experience only involved taking care of the villa over winter. However, I was still definitely able to indulge my obsession with cats as I had the chance to take care of two stray cat siblings who we (very imaginatively) named Kaya and (you’ve guessed it!) Köy. We subsequently added cat food to our weekly shopping list, but we didn’t really mind the additional expense because cats make us happy.
The village was also full of random, very friendly and energetic dogs who we all named. This included: Mud Spreader (she liked to wander in puddles and then jump up on you, usually leaving a trail of mud on your coat); Hair Loser (because he shed everywhere) and Windmill (because her tail went around and around…like a windmill basically). Okay, so maybe we aren’t so great with this naming thing. But anyway, the sight of these happy dogs can brighten up even the worst day.
There were also horses and donkeys everywhere (the village is full of farms after all) and we took to feeding them a carrot or two during our walks into the village.
Kaya Köy also had a range of more exotic animals - we had to carefully remove two scorpions from the house and we’ve seen and heard the wild boar that mooch about in the mountains after dark.
During our most recent stay, we heard a lot of loud howling in the evenings, followed by a few gun shots - this happened at least three times a week. And then there was the evening where Osman advised Vincent not to walk home in the dark and insisted on driving him back to the villa. Wolves? Highly unlikely in this part of Turkey but I still loved thinking that this might be a possibility (probably a consequence of me watching too many Nat Geo Wild programmes featuring wolves roaming about in other parts of the world).
6) Unique and memorable experiences
I will fess up and say that not all of these experiences are necessarily good. Being woken up at 6am by shepherd’s yelling and the sound of cow bells isn’t so bad. On the other hand, the whole house flooding, then being cut off from the village for two weeks due to the roads also being flooded is pretty rubbish.
But these things are also what makes the experience of living in a village so unique. Being able to cope with different challenges like when the power goes out and you realise you don’t have any wifi (cue a HUGE panic and maybe a tantrum) and trying to explain to a handyman where leaks are coming from in broken Turkish does make you more flexible and adaptable in the long run. Plus, new language skills anyone? Although I wouldn’t put down ‘living in a Turkish village’ on my CV, all these skills are infinitely useful.
7) Beautiful walks and picnic spots
Turkey is a dream destination for hikers and living in Kaya Köy we were lucky enough to have the Lycian Way right on our doorstep. Considered to be one of the world’s greatest long distance hiking trails, the Lycian way offers a treat for casual walkers and hardcore fully kitted up hikers alike, with it’s beautiful Mediterranean sea views, pine forests, mountains and even ancient ruins thrown into the mix.
In total the Lycian Way is 540km and to trek the whole thing would take 29 days! Since we had a house to take care of we couldn’t basically go missing for a month but we did undertake a lot of smaller hikes such as walking from Kaya Köy to Olu Deniz. And typically, in true Sasha and Vincent style, we started off late in the afternoon when the sun was already very low in the sky and ended up wandering around in the pine forest in the dark, like something out of the Blair Witch Project.
Luckily, the dying torch light from our phones managed to pick out the yellow and red markings on the trees and boulders that indicated the ancient route and after much stumbling about we finally emerged relieved into Ölü Deniz to find that all the shops and restaurants were closed for winter. Epic. Fail.
Based on our experience of walking the Kaya Köy - Ölü Deniz route, it is probably best to do this hike in the late spring or during the summer months as you are much more likely to be able to reward yourself with a cooling beverage at the end of it, at a restaurant that is actually open. And make sure you start your hike early, unless you are in the habit of carrying around an uber-powerful torch with you.
Still not quite ready to pack your bags and jump into living the village life?
I completely understand! Uprooting your life to move to a village in another country requires a lot more thought than reading one tongue-in-cheek article/highlight reel of Turkish village life (even if said article does cover all the important bases like cute animals and delicious food).
Moving to somewhere new, whether it is a bustling city or a village can always be daunting because amongst the usual practical concerns of “where am I going to live?”, “how do I get to the nearest supermarket?” and “where can I buy coriander?” (okay maybe that last one is only a concern for me) can be worries about fitting in, speaking a new language, being lonely or being able to make friends. All of these things are absolutely real and legitimate concerns and things that we thought about even though we were only going to be living in Turkey for three months. If you are weighing up the pros and cons of moving abroad, The Portable Wife has a great checklist of questions to think about.
Having said that, throwing yourself into life in an unfamiliar place can be challenging and rewarding - so if you are looking to exchange the bright city lights for somewhere a little quieter, do consider village life in Turkey!
Have you ever moved from a big city to live in a rural area? Why did you make the switch? Let us know in the comments below!
If you liked this post, Pin it!