PAST AND PRESENT OF ALAÇATI

 

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“Agrillia”, “Alacaat”, “Alatsata” and at last “Alaçatı”…

Agrillia, which was the cradle of science, philosophy and art, first for the Ionians, after them for the Byzantine, later turned into the Village of Alacaat, established by the infantry and cavalry of the Ottoman Alacaat tribe.The same called Alatsata by the Greek residents which produced the finest wines and olive oils and finally one of the world's most important surf-centres, the peaceful and beautiful resort with it's unique historical texture, Alaçatı... We would like to tell you a little bit about the history of Alaçatı and greet the cultures, having lived in this town having loved it as their home and left it to us; our precious heritage...

 

Alaçatı, in ancient times called “Agrillia” and by the Anatolian history “Ionia”, is located right in the centre of the region between the rivers Gediz and Büyük (big) Menderes. The father of history, Herodotus, mentions Ionia in his first book: The Ionians have built their cities under the highest sky’s and most beautiful climate known to us.

Neither the regions further north, nor the regions further south are equal to Ionia. And even the east or the west of it are compatible with Ionia, as some of them are too cold and rainy while some of them are too hot and dry.

In historical sources the name of Alaçatı is mentioned as an infantry-cavalry village established by the Alacaat tribe.

The “infantry - cavalry village”, established by the infantry and cavalry, which was part the Ottoman army established on 1361. The Alacaat tribe, living in this village during the same period, is the origin of the name of our town.

 

No doubt, one of the most important historical persons effecting Alaçatı is Hacı (pilgrim) Memiş Ağa. He was the grandson of an Ottoman councilman. Mid 1850’ies Hacı Memiş Aga also was a grand vizier for the Ottoman Empire for 40 days. Hacı Memiş Ağa is known for drying the swamp area between the rivers Yumru and Buca and herewith saved his people from the malaria plague. One could say, he beat the bad fate of Alaçatı and changed the course of history... First he decided that a canal was opened to the Alacaat harbour, to dry out the swamp. To work in the construction he invited the poor Greek inhabitants of Chios Island. Some of the wealthy Turkish Land owners gave those workers parts of their properties with the condition to build and plant on them. Herewith, today's Alaçatı, the “new village” of those days was founded a few kilometres from the sea... The stone-houses of Alaçatı, subject to our admiration today were built by those Chios island Greeks in the period between 1850-1902. Those houses built between the end of the 19'th and the beginning of the 20'th century have all the same characteristics; built in the south-north direction with the smallest possible exposure to the sun, to keep the unbearable heat out during the summer season. These are houses which invite the fortune-bringing wind inside... Because they are structured to dry their grapes on their roofs and store their precious olive oils and wines in their cellars, ventilating them with those winds...

 

The New Greek inhabitants of Alaçatı, built vineyards and olive trees with the help of the climate and the soil, while the men of the local inhabitants fought at the fronts. Within a short time the peninsula was covered with vineyards, olive and resin trees... The new Alaçatı residents started to export olive oil, and olives. The labour, merged with the generosity of nature, brought fertility and blessing, which was the first wealth of Alaçatı. We'll never know, what moments of sadness and happiness these houses have hosted, this is the story, about how life in this wonderful town with stone walls, wooden roofs and narrow streets started... “Alacaat”, and as the Greek called it towards the end of the 19'th century “Alatsata”, became an important production and trade centre with especially it's vineyards and wines. Most of the residents were Greek and reached a population of 12000, after which a municipal administration for Alaçatı was established.

 

With the Balkan war in 1912, the fate of Alaçatı began to change once more... The Turkish people which fled the Balkan war, created fear and panic among the Greek population, which started to migrate. But after the occupation of İzmir in 1919 they began to return. This time, the Turkish population once arrived from the Balkans felt threatened and started to migrate into the inner regions of Anatolia. This process of forth and back stopped with the “Exchange Agreement” signed at the end of the Independence War, 30'th of January 1923 between Greece and Turkey in Lausanne. Now the painful mass-migration, which is known to us all took place with a gravity as it might be experienced for the first and last time in this world.... In accordance to the exchange agreement, the Greek residents of Alaçatı started to move to Greece, on the other hand the Turks coming from Thessaloniki, Kavalla, Crete and Kos (Chios) were placed in Alaçatı. Now the new residents of Alaçatı were the Albanian and Bosnian immigrants which fled the Balkan war and the exchanges coming from Thessaloniki, Kavalla, Crete and Kos (Chios)...

 

After the glorious era of the Greek people, an outcome of their wine yards and wine production, hard times were to come for Alaçatı. The Muslim Turks coming from the Balkans had no knowledge about viticulture and winemaking, so they removed the wine yards and started to do what they knew: breeding. Likewise the exchanges started planting tobacco.  But the climate isn't the best for neither, breeding or tobacco... Tobacco planted, cropped and sorted with great efforts won't pay well, they could barely feed their families...  The poverty, resulting in change in the whole area, kept the residents at the same time from building new houses, as they were not effort able, preserving the architectural structure to our day...

 

Later, well we actually know the rest... with the 1990’ies, once more the fate of this beautiful town, it's lavender and resin smelling cool stone houses starts to change with the discovery of the town by windsurf enthusiasts... Finally, the announcement of the town as protected urban site was a step towards the protection of this latest fate...

 

Today Alaçatı is one of the world's most important windsurf centres and host too many international competitions. The beaches of Alacatı are some of the cleanest, most beautiful ones of the whole Mediterranean area... Some festivals, as the fishing fest, kite fest, herb fest and many other national and international festivals, bearing sportive, cultural and artistic values have become a tradition in Alaçatı by now...

Alaçatı Değirmen Otel I 2015

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