Lake Bafa (Agean, Turkey)

After our successful hike of the Seven Brothers Monastery we drive 4km (2.5 miles) further around the lake to the tiny village of Kapkiri.

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Life here in the village is incredibly rural. It feels like I am in a time warp back a century or two. It’s not just the use of mules and copper boiler but also the way people are dressed. It’s at once charming and disarming. I can’t help but ask myself where the young people are? I mean, some of the women who I think look like they are 50 are probably closer to 40 but what about adolescents and young adults? Where are they? Does their absence indicate that Turkish people also want a more modern way of life? Or is it just that they are unable to survive here on the land so have left to find work elsewhere to provide for their families? It’s probably a combination of both. But I’m not sure.

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We take lunch at a cure restaurant on the shores of the lake. Our table is on a balcony overlooking the lake. But the restaurant also has tables on the pebbly lake shore. None are in the shade and it’s too hot to take the solitary romantic table part-way up the beach. It does look gorgeous though.

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Not far from the shore there is a small island containing the ruins of another monastery. This area has something like eleven monasteries at Christianity’s peak before the Ottomans came and conquered the area. Later in the evening Dad will use his online research skills to share the stories of the area. It’s fascinating (something I never thought I’d say about history).

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What’s even more difficult to believe is that this town was once a huge port city, Herkeleias. The walls that used to go around the city extend for over 6km (4 miles). Before the sea silted over due to the way a river’s path shifted, this was a thriving city. And even the monastery that is currently on the island was part of the mainland.

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When we stand at the edge of a cliff overlooking the lake and rock tombs below, the changing nature of the waterline becomes clear. No one would build rock tombs in the lake bed so the areas on which the rock tombs sit must have been dry at some point. Maybe before the sea was silted over or maybe in the period after it was sea and before it became a lake. I doubt anyone actually knows for sure. All I know is that it’s impressive and shows the strong interaction between human and natural history.

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The lake is not attractive for swimming, due to the high levels of algae that float on its surface. This happens at home too when water is stagnant for too long. But it is still gorgeous to look at if you can look past the algae and over at the way it sits around the rocks and reeds. And the colours of the fishing boats that grace its surface and shores.

We weren’t sure what we were going to find at Lake Bafa. Coming here was a random punt in the dark, dictated by the green national park markings on a map and some images on Google. But it turns out to be a fascinating place of history.

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