At the time this put my hackles up since the village I lived in still seemed to have a vibrant life of its own that transcended tourism. A “tatil köyü,” on the other hand, was expressly designed for the purpose of tourism. How could anyone write off our lively small community with its three-day weddings and its own little rituals in such dismissive terms, I wondered?
But for some time now the population of Göreme has been drifting away as people sell their houses and move to Nevşehir and Avanos. Focused on anxiety about the transformation of all the cave-houses into hotels, I have to be honest and admit that I hadn’t thought about the effect this must be having on the rental situation. Sure, I was vaguely aware that it was getting harder to find somewhere to rent that was remotely decent and properly set up, but I hadn’t thought about what this must inevitably be doing to prices until I asked someone who was about to get married where he would be living afterwards.
“Uçhisar,” he said, which came as a surprise since both he and his fiancée are Göremelis.
When I looked a bit taken aback, he started to fill me in on what has been happening here. A house for rent, he told me, now goes for around TL700 a month, not much by İstanbul standards, of course, but a fortune by Göreme’s. In Uçhisar, apparently, places can still be found for half that price. In Nevşehir, too, you can find somewhere really nice to rent for TL300 a month. Ditto in Avanos.
My last housesitter has just moved into a rented flat, which sounds both quite large and quite well-equipped right down to a kettle and wireless Internet without which, these days, life seems almost unimaginable. The rent, though, is TL400 a month, not much less than half the minimum wage. When I first came here, I paid 50 euros a month for the upper floor of a large house, although, to be fair, it was sans fridge, sans central heating, and, for much of the time, sans water, so perhaps the comparison is a bit unfair.
This is by no means a problem unique to Cappadocia. Recently, a friend on the Aegean island of Bozcaada told me that it was hard to find anything to rent there for less than TL1000 a month as attractive properties were snapped up to serve as hotels or second homes for wealthy İstanbullus.
The groom-to-be went on to tell me how there is now a street in Uçhisar that is almost entirely full of economic refugees from Göreme and we laughed about the possibility of renaming it Yeni Göreme (New Göreme). Eski Göreme (Old Göreme, also known over the centuries as Macan, Matiana and Avcılar) could then be renamed Kelebekistan after one of the larger hotels, or Dorakville after one of the tour companies that owns several properties here. At that point its transition into a true “tatil köyü” would probably be complete.
Pat Yale lives in a restored cave-house in Göreme in Cappadocia.