The New York Times
A Turkish town populated mostly by retirees and known for its prime windsurfing conditions was, without employment opportunities for its young, headed for desertion and disrepair five years ago. But this spot on the Aegean has recently seen a revival as children from Turkey’s big cities who vacationed there in the 1980s grew up and returned to stay.
Coined the new Bodrum for its resemblance to the beachside city that has attracted foreign tourists for decades, Alacati (pronounced ah-LAH-cha-teh) has been attracting Turkey’s intellectuals and artists to the Cesme peninsula for years. And now a new set of stylish city dwellers is setting up businesses in the town center. They have converted crumbling stone houses into home decoration shops, boutique hotels, art galleries and restaurants with courtyards. Hedges of lavender and potted plants now line cobbled streets along with attractive outdoor furniture arranged to allow passers-by to take in the sights.
Although below the radar, Alacati, with fewer than 10,000 residents, is no secret to wind and kite surfers mainly because of its ideal sea and wind conditions, and also because it’s been on the Professional Windsurfers Association World Tour for the last seven years. In the late 1970s, the area became home to a popular windsurfing school, which in turn drew a well-heeled arty crowd from Turkey’s urban areas who have the ambition (and the funds) to give Alacati a whole new raison d’être.
One boutique-cum-art gallery in the heart of town is Bazen (Hacimemis Mahallesi 2012 Sokak No. 12; 90-232-716-0180: facebook.com/BazenAlacati). Banu Maga, 43, an artist from Istanbul, opened the shop last summer and describes it as the dream project she has had since she was a child. Mrs. Maga used to come to the area to windsurf with her parents for many years before deciding to rent one of the stone houses in Alacati’s back streets. Bazen showcases her father’s art and her own ceramic creations, none of which are for sale, amid silver jewelry and silk caftans — sourced from Mrs. Maga’s designer friends and local suppliers — that are.
“I like to surprise people,” she said. “My aim is to show them art where they don’t expect it.”
More unusual businesses have surfaced nearby, like the atmospheric gallery Eskiden (Hacimemis Mahallesi 2012 Sokak No. 18; 90-532-311-1576; eskidenalacati.com/tr). Started four years ago by Oktay Durna, 47, a former television and radio presenter from Ankara, the gallery sells Roman ceramics and glassware that are 150 to 400 years old. Like many recent arrivals, he came to windsurf but found the meshing of old and new Turkish culture so magical that he moved here in 2006.
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“Alacati is the place where time melts into its ageless buildings and into its unique atmosphere,” Mr. Durna said.
At every turn, a winding alley leads to a leafy courtyard-restaurant like Asma Yapragi (Tokoglu Mahallesi 1005 Sokak No. 50; 90-232-716-0178; facebook.com/asmayapragi), furnished with recycled furniture and shaded by trees adorned with glass lanterns.
The hotels, too, are homey, with rarely more than 10 rooms. Beyevi (Yeni Mecidiye Mahallesi Kemalpasa Caddesi No. 126; 90-232-716-8085; beyevi.com.tr/eng/) has only seven rooms (and an outdoor pool) and laid-back service. For something a little more bohemian, Nars Alacati (Alacati Koy Meydani No. 43/A; 90-232-716-0900; narsalacati.com/english) exudes hunting-lodge charm with distressed leather furniture accented by colorful woven throws that give it an Amazonian tribal edge.
The village’s mellow but chic vibe also manifests itself in Alacati’s more contemporary establishments like Su’dan (Hacimemis Mahallesi Mithatpasa Caddesi No. 22; 90-232-716-0737; facebook.com/pages/Sudan-Cafe-Sudan-Palas). In this bar, old copies of National Geographic hold up the reclaimed shelving. A curiosity cabinet of decorative objects and local organic products on a distressed wooden trestle table are the main focus — that and an old well, still visible through an iron grill set between the bar’s uneven floorboards.
A terrace restaurant not to miss is Eflatun (Hacimemis Mahallesi 2012 Sokak No. 9; 90-232-716-6858; facebook.com/eflatunalacati) for Nalan Kocaoglu’s home cooking. Mrs. Kocaoglu, 50, had owned two restaurants in her native Istanbul, but after visiting Alacati on vacation she sold them and relocated here.
“I didn’t come here for the windsurfing,” she said, “but I instantly fell in love with the village, the people and its atmosphere.”