COLUMNISTS
Paradise found (and lost again)
It’s a leitmotif of the books written by expats living in Turkey. Paradise found in some remote and picturesque location. The deep blue sea.

The deep green forest. The deep, deep silence. Then years pass and slowly the outside world starts to encroach until at last paradise is lost, and the author decides that it’s time to move on again.

Take Azize (Lesley) Ethem’s book, “Beyond the Orchard,” for example. Azize and her husband found their little piece of Aegean paradise in Dereköy, where they built a stone house in a meadow on the outskirts of the village. Life was certainly not simple for all sorts of reasons, both practical and emotional (for many years Azize’s husband was stuck in Saudi Arabia, unable to get an exit visa to return to his British wife in Turkey). Still, it was the sort of life that many of us would dream of, in a place of tranquility where the stresses of the outside world felt a very long way away. By the end of the book, however, the holiday homes are mustering and the resort of Gökova (Akyaka) is well on its way to formation. The Ethems upped sticks and moved to the vicinity of İznik, where Azize still lives to this day.

Then there was Toni Sepeda’s lyrical “Life with a View,” which recounted the search she and her husband undertook for somewhere to live that would offer the much longed for sea view. Eventually they too found their little piece of paradise on a headland overlooking what she called the dragon rocks not far from Şile. But all too soon you feel the story taking on the same trajectory. Others start to home in on the same spot and soon the isolation that made it so attractive in the first place can only be secured behind a wall.

When a friend of mine recently made the decision to abandon Göreme for Gördes near Manisa, it felt like a familiar saga playing out again, albeit this time without the book to immortalize the details.

The story may be common but does that mean that it tells us anything about what is happening in Turkey except that writers tend, by their very nature, to be somewhat solitary beings, keen on silence and hyper-fond of views? Because of course none of us has a god-given right to hang on to a beauty spot to the exclusion of others, however much we may sometimes wish that we could. And the reality is that, while a small group of incomers were wistfully recalling the days of innocence before the coming of mass tourism and second homes, the owners of the land being snapped up so greedily were rubbing their hands all the way to the bank and then onto their smart new city apartments with everything plumbed-in properly.

And yet surely there remains a discussion to be had about sustainable tourism, once a buzzword in the travel industry but now less talked of as its shortcomings have become more obvious. Maybe it’s too late for the individuals who most relished isolation and the hardships that sometimes went with it, but you never see postcards featuring lovely views of TOKİ housing estates, so somewhere inside us we all know that tourism depends on keeping at least a few places undeveloped.

Charlotte McPherson is away.

2012-06-08