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Kayaköy, an abandoned Greek town in Turkey

Thanks to another traveler, I got to know about the existence of a ghost town perched in the mountains in Turkey, near the Lycian coast. I immediately added this promised land to my route, imagining myself cutting weeds with a machete before I could pass through.

Too fast too furious. The place has become already a tourist attraction, and you even have to pay an entrance fee to access to the ruins. But as you can check on the pictures below, definitely worth getting lost in what is left of Kayaköy, since it was finally abandoned more than ninety years ago.

The history behind is a fascinating drama, so 20th century: Once upon a time, it was a mainly Greek village in Western Anatolia called Livissi, living in peace with their Turkish neighbours, that called the same village Kayaköy. But following the Greco-Turkish War, it was decided to separate these communities forever to stop the bloodshed. After the exchange of population between Greece and Turkey in 1923, the remaining Greek inhabitants from the town that survived, were evacuated to Attica region, near Athens.

The Turkish population from Greece that were assigned to repopulate the area were farmers. They didn't like the houses in the hills without stables, that were designed for traders and craftsmen. So they decided to left the town, abandoned for a second time.

Kayakoy Turkey
Livissi was built in the 18th century, by Greeks fleeing from the pirates that used to ravage the settlements in the coast.

Kayakoy villas
Kayaköy is very close to the coastal town and pricey villas of Ölüdeniz, a popular tourist destination, where streets are filled with hotels and bars. The main attraction is a famous secluded sandy bay of alluring turquoise colors, known as the Blue Lagoon, that once was a sanctuary of hippies.

Kayakoy abandoned
Kaya village is a small bunch of houses scattered at the foot of the ruins of Kayaköy, where you can find some homestays, campings, and bars, that have the flair to cater to independent travellers or backpackers. Also in high season, you can walk around the ruins not bumping into another tourist for a while.

Kaya village
The Blue Lagoon was lost to mass tourism long ago. However, the ambiance in Kaya village is completely different to its neighbours Fethiye or Ölüdeniz. Kaya village seems somehow the last bastion, like if the old hippie spirit had found refuge in the top of the hills, like the original Greeks escaping from pirates some centuries ago.

Kayakoy ghost town
Today Kayaköy is also in the news. The Turkish government announced plans to develop the village into a tourist hub. The idea is to rent a third of the ruins to an investment group for 49 years.

Kayakoy Abandoned Village
Visit Kayaköy before is too late: This project has been criticised as this could spoil the genuine atmosphere of the place to make room to another fancy shop hotel.

Kayakoy Ghost Village
In summer 2014, the two churches of the village were closed to visitors, waiting for restoration works.
Image by Arlen Tees

Turkish abandoned town
The ghost town has been protected since in 1988, when a campaign was launched by the Turkish-Greek Friendship Association and architects from Istanbul to register the place as archaeological conservation area.

Turkey ghost town
The houses began to fall apart very quick when, after the attempts to inhabit the village with Turks deported from Greece failed, in the 1950s the government decided to make a profit, selling the tiles from the roofs.

Turkey abandoned village
The book Birds Without Wings from the British writer Louis de Bernières (famous for his novel, Captain Corelli's Mandolin), inspired in the story of Kayaköy.

Butterfly Valley Turkey
This is the superb view from the top of the mountains surrounding Kayaköy. The entrance to Ölüdeniz bay is at the top left, and a bit more far away, the Butterfly Valley.

Gemile Beach
Also you can follow a trail down to the beach near the small Gemile island. Just be careful with the modern pirates!


By car if you have one :] Also the road is very good to rent a moped.
There are frequent and cheap minibuses from Fethiye, and also from Ölüdeniz at least during high season.
Also there's a section of the famous Lycian way that goes for 8-9km from Fethiye to Kayaköy. In the other direcction, from Kayaköy you can go down until the Blue Lagoon following the coast, or there's another trail heading the hills until Ovacık (Ölüdeniz).

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Where was Grand Budapest Hotel filmed?

The cities of Görlitz and Dresden in Germany, along with some other spots in Saxony, are the main filming locations where The Grand Budapest Hotel takes place. Also, the film director Wes Anderson, took inspiration from a cocktail between Vienna, Prague and Budapest to create the city of Lutz, in the invented Republic of Zubrowka. The plot occurs in a background with clear references to the history of Central Europe, during the interwar period of the 20th century.

The production team did a magnificent job recreating a fictional universe, that is at the same time familiar to the public. Also the shooting locations are not very difficult to recognize for those who have been there. Many films try to mask or hide the real film locations. In The Grand Budapest Hotel, on many occasions the camera was pointing at the same perspective as postcards do:

Grand Budapest Hotel film locations
Not a single frame has been shoot in Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic), but many elements of the movie are highly influenced by the style and the look of this spa town, like the Grandhotel Pupp. Pictured, the facade of the Bristol Palace Hotel and the poster of the film. Image by Richard Schubert

Where was Grand Budapest Hotel
Görlitz Warenhaus was a forgotten art nouveau building from an old store, build in 1912. It became the perfect set for the interior scenes of the hotel. Image by Wolfgang Pichler

Hotel Budapest filming locations
Also in Görlitz, the Stadthalle was an old concert hall that was used as the hotel’s restaurant. The romantic alpine scene in the background looks suspiciously like the emblematic statue Deer Leap (Jelení skok) of Karlovy Vary. Image by CzechTourism

Grand Budapest Hotel locations
Mendl’s confectionery shop was set in Pfunds Molkerei, a historical creamery in Dresden over 100 years old, decorated in neo-Renaissance style. Image by Dresdner Molkerei Gebrüder Pfund

Dresden Grand Budapest Hotel
The rococo Zwinger palace, also in Dresden, was chosen for the brilliant scene of the museum of art of Lutz, where Deputy Kovacs try to escape from a stalker. Image by Michael

Grand Budapest Hotel filming locations
The pavilions of the Zwinger were rebuilt after WW2 and now hosts a picture gallery and a rather boring porcelain collection. Image by Michael

Budapest filming locations
This night scene shows one of the most noted streets in Dresde, with the decorated wall Fürstenzug at the left.
This image and all the screenshots courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Grand Hotel Budapest scene location
The Fürstenzug is a huge porcelain mural representing the rulers of Saxony, that wasn't damaged during the bombing of Dresden in 1945. Image by Harald Selke

Set Grand Budapest Hotel
We are back to Görlitz, a small beautiful city that did survive the destruction of the war. Other recent productions like The Book Thief or Inglourious Basterds were also filmed here. In the background of the photogram, the facade of the Silesian Museum. Image by Schlesisches Museum zu Görlitz

Grand Budapest Hotel filmed in Germany
Kriebstein Castle was used as outdoors for the prison Checkpoint 19, and the indoor scenes were located in the castle of Osterstein, in Zwickau. Image by Burg Kriebstein

Grand Budapest Hotel shooting locations
The station of the cable car in the mountains is inspired in the Sphinx observatory, located in Jungfraujoch (Switzerland), at an altitude of 3,571 meters (11,716 ft). Image by Julius Silver

Grand Hotel Budapest mock-up
The mock-up for the funicular that takes to the hotel, is inspired in an old one near Gimmelwald, also in Switzerland.

Grand Budapest Hotel Landscape
A viewing platform is the set for the wedding scene, in one of the most well-known landscapes of Sächsische Schweiz (or the Saxon Switzerland). Image by Fswerk

Movie Locations Grand Budapest Hotel
This handcrafted film is full of small jokes and many curious details, like the name of the country where the action takes place: Zubrowka is a popular brand of Polish vodka!

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Yazd, the desert city that caught the wind

Yazd, the metropolis in Iran that grew in the middle of the desert, is a very special place in an incredibly interesting and welcoming country. Centuries of improvements and adaptation to survive extreme climatic conditions, led the builders of the city to provide shapes and structures that look, to the eyes of an alien like me, out of this world.

Tall walls to project more shadow in narrow alleys, windows and apertures placed strategically to avoid the sun, and the fascinating windcatchers or Bagdirs standing above the roofs and domes in the horizon.

Windcatchers are nothing less than natural air conditioning without plugs or the use of mechanical devices, apparently invented by the old Persians several millennia ago. These imposing air cooling systems are especially big and varied in Yazd:

Yazd Iran

Salina Turda, the most spectacular underground mine

We are entering a subterranean world that seems out of a crepuscular sci-fi movie. But descending the stairs that led you to the base of the immense cave carved in salt, you will soon forget about Blade Runner, once you hear the echo of people talking out loud form the top of a fun fair big wheel.

This vast space has been transformed into an underground theme park; You can play from minigolf to tennis table, there is a mini soccer ground, an amphitheatre for concerts and you can even row in the waters of a tenebrous lake.

Turda salt mine dates from the seventeenth century, but it was not opened as a tourist attraction until 1992. Located near Cluj-Napoca, the capital of the mythical and historical region of Transylvania (Romania), in 2009 it was refurbished to get the incredible futuristic design, that looks so good in pictures:

Salina Turda

Te Waihou, a river out of a fairy tale in New Zealand

With a tropical look thanks to the exuberant vegetation, a dazzling display of colours, and a crystal clear water purified after over 100 years travelling underground, Te Waihou river is another hidden gem that most tourists pass by without exploring.

Te Waihou Walkway & the Blue Spring are located near Putaruru, going northwest from the rotten valley of Roturua, famous for being a stinky geothermal wonderland. You can find a map at the end of the post to help you to find this nice short walk, in the north island of glorious New Zealand:

Te Waihou

16 rare wooden churches from the Carpathians

In 2013, the UNESCO selected sixteen historical Wooden Tserkvas (as these peculiar churches are called), as new world heritage sites. Eight are on Polish territory and other eight in Ukraine. Their architecture, cultural environment and features are unique compared to other remarkable wooden churches like Kizhi in Russia, or the ones in Southern Lesser Poland.

These tserkvas were built between the 16th and 19th centuries to serve the Eastern Orthodox and Greek Catholic faiths, and were made from the timber of the great forests which covered most lands in Europe at that time. The location of most of them in remote rural villages in the Carpathian Region, between Poland and Ukraine, helped them to survive centuries of plundering and fire.

You can find a map with the location of the 16 Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region at the end of the post:

Wooden Tserkvas

Olkhon Island and the frozen waters of lake Baikal

For five months at the year, the unique lake Baikal in West Siberia, Russia, it's sealed by an ice sheet up to a meter thick. To have an idea of its size and importance, Baikal is a massive natural water reservoir: it contains one fifth of all the water found in the lakes and rivers of our planet.

Also, this is a popular stop in the route of the Trans-Siberian Railway, near Irkutsk. What is not so popular, is to go there during the bastard-cold winter, and to bring back these amazing shots, as the photographer Marco Fieber did:

Olkhon Island Frozen

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