Along the Aegean, a Turkish Town Sees a Revival

A Turkish town populated mostly by retirees and known for its prime windsurfing conditions was, without employment opportunities for its young, headed for desertion and disrepair five years ago. But this spot on the Aegean has recently seen a revival as children from Turkey’s big cities who vacationed there in the 1980s grew up and returned to stay.

Coined the new Bodrum for its resemblance to the beachside city that has attracted foreign tourists for decades, Alacati (pronounced ah-LAH-cha-teh) has been attracting Turkey’s intellectuals and artists to the Cesme peninsula for years. And now a new set of stylish city dwellers is setting up businesses in the town center. They have converted crumbling stone houses into home decoration shops, boutique hotels, art galleries and restaurants with courtyards. Hedges of lavender and potted plants now line cobbled streets along with attractive outdoor furniture arranged to allow passers-by to take in the sights.

Although below the radar, Alacati, with fewer than 10,000 residents, is no secret to wind and kite surfers mainly because of its ideal sea and wind conditions, and also because it’s been on the Professional Windsurfers Association World Tour for the last seven years. In the late 1970s, the area became home to a popular windsurfing school, which in turn drew a well-heeled arty crowd from Turkey’s urban areas who have the ambition (and the funds) to give Alacati a whole new raison d’être.