Starting from the bucolic plain of Kayakoy, the fertile deep soils of this carstic hollow producing excellent crops of sesame, wheat, almonds and figs is a protected area and now has a number of tasteful small hotels and restaurants, scattered amongst old stone houses, some abandoned and some still inhabited.
The story of Kayakoy is the story of the end of empire and the rise of nationalism in the 20th century.
During the hundreds of years of the multi cultural Ottoman Empire, the Muslim majority of the country were mostly involved in the administration of the country, the armed forces, the landowning classes and the agricultural peasantry.
The sizable non-muslim minorities tended to make up the merchant and artisan classes, be they Greek merchants, Armenian masons, Jewish smiths or financiers.
In Kayakoy, then known as Karmylassos or Levissi, the flat farmland was occupied by the mainly muslim farmers and the unfertile slopes were occupied by the mainly Greek population, who did not need to occupy the fertile soil below.
A thriving community developed with schools, churches and windmills.
After the 1st World War, when the modern states of Greece and Turkey were set up, and ‘Exchange of Population’ was agreed, and the Greek Christians of Anatolia were sent to Greece, around 1,100,000 people, and the Muslim Turkish minorites of Greece, around 800,000 people were sent to Turkey.
While the idea was that the homes of the unforunate people would just be swapped, the farmers who arrived in Kayakoy and were shown a house on a barren hill of course found them useless and abandoned them quickly. Likewise the Greek merchants given a plot of farmland in cold northern Greece did not stay and the huge population increase of Istanbul and Athens begun then