My Acquired Hometown: Eski Doğanbey

The Hometown Issue…

My acquired  hometown: this is the personal meaning of Old Doğanbey Village for me. Because, like many other people living in this part of the world, I am a nomad. I was not born here, my parents are not from here. In fact, I did not grow up here… Or rather, my childhood was not here; but this land has been home to my heart. I did not go to school here, but here I read the great novels that left traces on my heart. I did not fall in love here, but I cried out many of my love aches to this wind, I left my pain to this sky. I didn’t get married here, but I wore out my loves here. I didn’t work here, but I found inspiration here; I wrote and drew here. I even worked for this place; with the Old Doğanbey Friends, I tried so that our village would not be spoiled and not fall victim to contempt, indifference, or profiteering. I mean, I didn’t grow up here in the sense you know, but I grew up with this sense of belonging. Here, I inherited both the healing energy that penetrated the soul of the village from generations ago and the home my mother created. Now I am trying to live worthy of this legacy and share it with other souls who can see, hear and feel it.

To summarize briefly…

Eski Doğanbey is a unique place where people connect with themselves and nature. Here you can feel the energy of people who lived in harmony with the land, grew olives on the hills or fished in the bay. The first traces of the settlement dates back to 7th century B.C. but the more well-known part of its history is the stone houses and terraced olive groves built by the Greek inhabitants. The old name of the village “Domatia” means rooms in old Greek. Eski Doğanbey is an ancient Greek village whose original texture has been preserved. In other words, it is an extraordinary place with its old genuine stone houses, some of which have regained their former glory, while others are still in ruins.

When we look at recent history, with the migration that started in 1924, the original Greek inhabitants were replaced by Turkish families from Thrace and the Balkans. The new villagers, who made their living mostly by fishing from the sea and agriculture from the plains instead of olives and olive oil, left the breezy foothills of the mountain and established a new settlement 2 km downstream with the support of the state: Doğanbey. Some of the structures were battered to search for gold, some for materials for new houses, and some succumbed to the cruelty of the time. Except for a few families staying in the village, life fell into a long silence. It sprouted again in the late 80s early 90s with the rediscovery of those who fled the city.

Eski Doğanbey Village is a quiet corner close to the center of both the old world and the new Aegean. Here you can retreat to solitude or socialize easily in nearby places such as Kusadasi, Didim, İzmir or Bodrum. Located within the borders of Dilek (Büyük Menderes Delta) National Park in Söke district of Aydın, the old village is located at the foot of Mykale (also called Dilek / Samsun) mountains, 2 km up from Yeni Doğanbey Village; overlooking the magnificent view of one of the largest deltas of the Aegean Sea..

My Old Doğanbey Story…

My past with the village begins in my middle school years… Since my classmate’s family were interested in traveling, cultural heritage and such hidden gems, they discovered the Old Doğanbey Village in 1989. We are on holiday in Didim with my yet unbroken family at that time. Being aware of this discovery, my mother, who is fond of “shabby” in her own words, and my father a “bohemian at heart”, included the village in the excursion to the Miletus city. Since there was no public transportation or even asphalt roads to teh village at that time; we climbed the slope on the back of a tractor. But Eski Doğanbey was love at first sight for all of us individually. Guided by one of the families who did not move to the new settlement, my parents bought one of the ruins with a loan. 

We could afford to have our house renovated a few years later, when my parents get divorced and my mother can save money with a second job after retirement. Then I’m in high school; I can hold a hammer, trowel, sandpaper; therefore, in the summers, I work in the construction. Our nest is in a narrow street just behind the village square in the old center of the village, which I call the “European Side”. We make our home with our own labor over a long period of time. We transform the barn downstairs into a living room, adding a bathroom and a room upstairs, and renovating the kitchen, which we still use from the courtyard.

Meanwhile, I blow the excitements, disappointments and cries of revenge of my first loves to these mountains. When I go swimming in the sea near the hot water spring on the Karina road and get sick, I swallow vitamins and antibiotics in the fountain of the village in secret. I learn the results of the summer university exams in that house; My dream is architecture and my construction site experience is already in place. I discharge the pains of being eighteen two hours away in Bodrum with my friends and then read “The Name of the Rose” on the ridges of the Samsun mountains. I come every summer while I am studying at the university and I also attempt to write my master’s thesis about here. Lots of sketches, detailed images of the village in old films; whatever you want is in my archives.

As the years pass, I get caught up in the beat of business life; I set my heart in other places during the holidays. But I accompany my mother’s arrivals in the spring and returns to the city in the fall. My mother becomes a part of the group with the neighbors, founding an association for the revival of the village. The association is established in order to protect the village, to make life easier and coordinate the services that did not reach the village at that time. My retired banker mother works as a treasurer for years there; they do a lot of work, from the construction of old-fashioned roads to bringing water from the mountain. We have senior architects, urban and regional planners, academics, art historians, artists, and various intellectual neighbors among the village residents, so I am assigned to run errands. 

Over time, my mother’s health deteriorates; the comfort of the house, which we cannot reach by car, and the village slopes challenge it. When a house that can be reached by car and where my mother can live without climbing the stairs is available on the opposite side of the village which we call the “Anatolian Side”; she rolls up her sleeves. We sell our old house and build a new home in this one. Again we collaborate; our neighbor Architect Sibel Gürsel and her husband Oğuz Söğüt help out. I’m also an architect now; so I support remotely as much as I can. This way, my mother does not leave the village, although she is able to stay less each year. The last summer she visits, she calls my father to visit… And twenty years later, the three of us breathe the familiar breeze together for the first and last time.

The next year, I bid farewell to both my parents to other lands and come back here to mourn. Then, I realize that I have always burried my heartaches here; when my heart was hurt, I always fled here. Whatever the wounds, my heart always healed here and new seeds of joy sprouted here, I bloomed here.

That’s why Eski Doğanbey later became my hometown. Like those before me, I may migrate one day; but I wish it will always stay this beautiful.

Tips for those who want to come to the village:

Eski Doğanbey is half an hour away from Söke center, 1.5 hours away from İzmir by car, and 2 hours away from Bodrum. It is recommended to use a private vehicle for transportation. However, it is also possible to use public transport from Söke bus station. You only have to tell the driver that you will go up to Old Doğanbey when you get on the minibuses that say Doğanbey.

It is advantageous to use private transport to get around, as the village is located in an unpopulated natural reserve area. The village is located on hiking trails where there are bird watching opportunities as well as other natural beauties. Büyük Menderes Delta is not suitable for swimming, it is a wetland where mostly fishing is done. However, it is a 10-minute drive to Karina, located at the far end of the delta, where you can swim and enjoy fresh fish caught by local fishermen.

You can also go to one of the many exceptional beaches with clear waters and beautiful natural views of Dilek Peninsula National Park with a journey of approximately 45 minutes – 1 hour. The beach side of Dilek Peninsula National Park, of which Eski Doğanbey is also located within the boundaries of, is on the northern side of the peninsula. There is a walking trail of about 20 km from our village to the beaches, but there is no vehicle road. The entrance is closer to Kuşadası and you pay for access to the beaches during the day (vehicle or pedestrian) and accommodation is prohibited.

There are very important traces of ancient civilizations in and around the Büyük Menderes Delta… Ancient cities such as Priene, Miletos, Apollon Temple & Didima, Magnesia, Ephesus and the House of Virgin Mary are among the many attractions nearby. I will also mention some of them in my articles…

When I can’t go to the village, our house is rented in two entries: the big house as the “White Mansion” and the small house as the “Tiny Stone House” in Airbnb. Thus, I can afford for the upkeep and the maintenance of the houses. Moreover, I usually make friends with the guests when I find the opportunity; these friendships open new doors to other worlds for me. Here are the details:

White Mansion:

Tiny Stone House:

You can read more detailed information about the village here:

The closest beach to the village: Karina… With my words!

A detailed and beautiful article written by Arzu Aksaya in 2021, on her blog page

By Zeynep Atılgan Boneval, the illustrated Journey Therapy blog post:

A short but concise presentation of the Municipality of Söke, Eski Doğanbey:

Eski Doğanbey in Sour Dictionary–1919970?p=1

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