KALEICI – THEN AND NOW BY MESUT TEMEL
Kusadasi’s Kaleici is the oldest part of the centre and although it might be hard to imagine, it was once a completely residential area boasting large fruit tree filled gardens.
Kusadasi resident and businessman, Mesut Temel, has a restaurant on the seafront near the Atinc Hotel,(Michael’s place) but was born and spent his early childhood in a house in the Kaleici and playing on those same cobbled streets, and in the fruit gardens . Mesut’s family home is where the bar “Another Bar” is now located. We asked Mesut to bring his childhood back to life for us, to help us imagine how those streets must once have looked.
“Back when I was a child growing up in the Kaleici I mostly did my homework by lamplight. Although there was electricity, many homes didn’t have it, and if we went to visit neighbours in the evening, we lit our way by oil lamp. We had a great big garden with a well in the middle of it, and in the summer we used to lower water melons into the well to keep them cool. As far as us kids were concerned, the fun part was fishing them out when we wanted to eat them!
One house had a garden with lots of plum trees, and in the right season, all the kids used to sneak over the garden wall to get the plums! The neighbourhood was fantastic, no-one locked their doors and everyone knew each other.
In those days there was no harbour as such, just a jetty where boats used to come in to offload or load fruit, fish and other produce, and take these things back and forth between here and Bodrum. Pigeon Island was a real island then as the causeway hadn’t been built, and as children we used to swim across to try and catch the birds who were its only inhabitants. We thought it was great fun. The first cruise ship – I’ll never forget that event.
It was in 1952 and the ship was called the Stella Solaris. Most of the passengers were American, and the town band, schoolchildren and most of the townsfolk came out to welcome the guests. It was very, very exciting and of course we got a day off school! We lived in the house in the Kaleici until 1953, and then moved to an apartment in Saglik Street, not far from where Planet Yucca is today.14 luxury flats were built, the first ones, and my dad who was deputy mayor at the time moved us all out of the house and into this new flat.
MESUT’S OLD FAMILY HOME TODAY
A few years later I left to go to school in Ankara and later went to live in London. I came back 19 years later and couldn’t believe how different everything was. In fact, I couldn’t find my sister’s house. When I had last been there it was one of a handful of houses in a field, near where Gossips restaurant is today. When I came back it was in the middle of the night and very dark, I got completely lost as there were all these streets and new houses and I had to stop someone and ask for directions!
Nowadays when I pass the house I was born in I recall all the neighbours, the fun we had, and really miss those days, but times change. For me the Kaleici still has a wonderful atmosphere even now, especially the road leading from the Yucca to the sea which has hardly changed at all.”
AS TOLD TO THE EGE EYE BY MESUT TEMEL