As you speed along the Izmir-Cesme expressway, your eyes are suddenly struck by a vista of modern windmills with their enormous white wings reaching to the sky above. Further along, come some ancient time-worn windmills built of stone with their naked wooden appendages, and you realize that you have been called to a land of wind.
If besides, you sense the cold, salty fragrance of the sea, then you can be sure that you have arrived at Alacati. At Alacati, you are confronted with two very trying choices. Either you join the antics of the windsurfs of every imaginable color riding the deep blue waters, or you delve into the colorful streets flavored with Anatolian culture under the shade of the time-worn windmills. The decision will likely be taken from your hands by the sun rising steeply in the sky overhead. And then, all of a sudden, you will find you are on the road to Alacati cove with its petite boat basin.
Alacati cove is one of the innumerable coves to be found along the Aegean coastline. However, two extraordinary features of this cove render it a windsurfers heaven. One of these is the ceaseless wind. The other is the depth of the sea, which does not exceed one and a half meters, and extends as such out as far as sixty or seventy meters from the shore.
Piri Reis, known in Turkish history for his cartography and seamanship, writes in his “Kitab-iBahriye” (The Book of Navigation) that “the sea in the port of Alacati is like a wafer.” And what he meant by that was that the sea was relatively calm. Despite all the wind, the height of the waves in the cove does not rise to a level disturbing to the surfers. The wind at Alacati blows in from the north throughout the summer months at a velocity of between 15-25 knots. During the windy season from May to October, one may encounter windsurfers from every corner of the globe.
Some come with their caravans or tents and spend the whole season, and those who stopover for the competitions. These specialists of the wind and sea are accommodated at two schools of surfing on the shore and at the hotel and pensions located both at the cove and in Alacati itself. Alacati cove, with its depth of less than a meter and a half, is the right learning environment for novice surfers. It is because of these qualities that the cove is so desirable both for master and novice surfers.
You will encounter the youthful master surfing here with his young novice sibling or with his girlfriend. The shallow waters provide support for the novices, while the blustering summer winds provide sport for the masters. The cove, in which many national and international competitions are held, is at the same time a fine locale just for practice. Bora Kozanoglu, the 1998-1999 Turkish champion, is one of those who have made a home in Alacati. You can always catch him playing sport with the wind and sea or giving pointers to those who are just learning to surf.
Like the sea and the wind, the narrow streets of Alacati are also filled with surprises. There are two storey homes, worldly-wise from long hard years of use, built of stone and set along both sides of the cobblestone streets… Then, there are the bright faces of people of all ages peering out of the windows and overhanging bays of the houses…
You witness the cultural richness of the region in Alacati’s streets, in its mosque, and its antique shop. This cultural richness has its source in Alacati’s fascinating history. Until the 16th century, the Cesme region was the international commercial gateway to Anatolia. The Genoese merchants who settled on the island of Chios abandoned the area following the Ottoman conquest of the island in 1566, and gradually the Cesme region lost its commercial advantages to Izmir.
During the 1850s Greek laborers were brought in from nearby islands to fill in the swamps to the south of Alacati and to work in the port. These island Greeks joined in the construction of Alacati and settled there, later engaging in viniculture. Still, later migrants from Yugoslavia and Macedonia made Alacati their home, but the war forced them to move into the interior of Anatolia. They returned after the Turkish War of Liberation in the early 1920s, and then they were joined by migrants from Thessaloniki, Crete, and Kos, who introduced tobacco farming to the region.
It is possible to observe the traces of these historical ebbs and tides in Alacati today. The mosque in the marketplace, the homes of stone with their bay windows, and the windmills all bear witness to this inescapable social and cultural flux. The history of the region has transformed the place into a world of forsaken dreams and emerging hope.
Today anisette, olives, onions, and artichokes are grown in the fertile soil of Alacati. The region is also a star tourism spot. So much so that its winter population of eight thousand climbs to fifty thousand in summer. The municipality of Alacati organizes an International Youth and Children’s Theatre Festival every year. Alacati is generous to those who partake of the wind and sea as well to those who wish to have an Anatolian experience, and this is a place you are sure to take great pleasure in getting to know.