I will explain. The authorities have never really restricted building in the valley. Restrictions were hardly necessary at the time when the population of the whole of Lycia was less than the current summer population of Bodrum and the population growth graph was as flat as the Earth was in those times.
It is probably a pure coincidence that as mankind began to suspect that the Earth was curved, so the graph of population growth took on a gentle curve (upward). Still, a remote valley with a limited water supply could only support a finite number of hardy peasants, and that situation continued for many generations; there was still no need to restrict building.
Migration from the countryside to the cities probably began in the same quarter of the 20th century as laws requiring permission for building development were introduced. Now, you’ll know that laws in Turkey are meant mainly for “mamsey-pamsey” city folk, and so it was with building permission. Country folk continued to build as and when the need arose. The thing is that for many years the need did not arise, emigration being what it was.
Now I will table a date for your consideration. I’m going to suggest that at some time around 1980, things began to change. Roads that linked most towns to each other were greatly improved and new roads that gave access to remote villages were constructed. Cars were few but were growing in number and people began to realize that they could live in the country but work in, or at least have easy access to, the towns and cities. Slowly, too, came another phenomenon: tourism. The first two restaurants were opened in our valley in the mid 1980s and very slowly new houses began to appear, houses built of those wonderful modern materials: bricks, mortar and concrete. The population of our valley began to increase steadily and the number of illegal buildings grew accordingly. Every few years, the authorities would threaten a clamp-down but, more often than not, simply levied a fine on transgressors and went back to their desks to wait out the years until their pensions. That is phase one of the ruination of our valley.
Phase two involves the widening of the roads to, from and probably through the valley. The last time I argued with the village muhtar (head) about the necessity (or otherwise) of widening a road, I made the rather dramatic gesture of lying down in the middle of the road in question. Such was the volume of traffic that I lay there a full five minutes and was still intact and breathing when I struggled to my feet -- the gravel at my back had been quite painful. I believe that the muhtar’s argument was along the lines of “Ah, it may not be necessary now, but when we widen the road more tourists will come.” I suspect that is the current thinking. Our “tourist attraction” draws an average of about 2,000 souls per week during the high season. When the approach roads are widened, they may reach our valley almost five minutes sooner than they currently do and just possibly the number of day-trip tourists may increase. However, for every 10 extra day-trippers who come into the valley, I suggest that we will lose one or two of the tourists who currently spend their whole holiday here, living in expensive self-catering cottages and spending TL 80 on a first class evening meal, not TL 15 on a chicken, chips and beer lunch.
I don’t much like to use the monetary argument, but it seems to me to be the only one that makes sense to the villagers. We have often asked them if they really want the valley to turn into another Hisaronu, a nearby nightmare town of discos, karaoke bars and “full English breakfast,” and the answer, illuminated by a beaming smile of anticipation, is invariably “yes.”
I have tried to tell Turkish friends or Turkish officials about the counties in the west of England that may have one or two “A” class roads running through them but in which, if one leaves the main roads, one may drive on roads barely four meters wide. Indeed, there are many roads only wide enough for one car, roads which have passing points every couple of hundred meters. When two cars meet, the drivers simultaneously and mutually decide on who shall reverse and there is seldom any disagreement. As they pass at the slightly wider point, or perhaps at a convenient farm gate, they invariably exchange cheery waves and smiles. It’s all part of the experience. Those roads are often between hedgerows that may be many hundreds of years old and that accommodate a very broad variety of wildlife. Oh, a tactical mistake to mention that! “What! With spiders and snakes?” (Horror).
Very often when I tell of such areas in the world I am simply not believed. I haven’t dared tell of a length of B class road in Somerset which is a stream, a constantly flowing fresh-water stream, for a length of a couple of hundred meters.
I should now very briefly explain that our valley is not en-route to anywhere other than a small grubby beach. Even a six-lane autobahn could only knock five minutes off any journey.
When our “builders” here were instructed to restore our house using fieldstones for walling and were dumbfounded by our stupidity, I tried to explain that a stone-built thatched cottage in some parts of England might cost a couple of million pounds. I then had to explain “thatch” in simple words. Well, you can imagine the reaction to our explanation that those impossibly expensive houses were roofed by dead grass.
I think the reason Turkish people cannot properly understand anything but “pop” tourism is very simple: most have not been exposed to anything different. I’ll correct myself immediately -- they have a good idea about “lux” tourism also, because they have seen it on television, but few fully comprehend what we might call “soft” tourism. That the villagers don’t is quite understandable, but had the politicians and civil servants who ordered the widening of our village roads visited England and taken a week in the West Country, the Peak District or somewhere other than London and Brighton, then they might have made a more sensible decision and planned preservation rather than destruction. Well, one lives in hope for the future. (On the other hand, if they were treated to a meal at The Ritz in London I’ll wager that they failed to notice that as they enjoyed their meal they were not being forced to endure the pain of Rod Stewart, Elton John or That Screeching Woman).
When the meeting that decided our valley needed to be thoroughly spoiled passed that resolution, they must surely have moved on to another important decision. When to start the road widening? There may have been a lengthy debate, but we skeptics could have foreseen the outcome a mile off. Why, we start at the beginning of the tourist season of course. Of course!