Peace and quiet reign supreme next to a forest of olive and pine in the village of Kozbeyli, founded in the 14th century.

T he Aegean region boasts a number of mountain villages remote from its cities, townships and congested highways. Although many of these villages are rich in nature and history, for economic reasons their populations are steadily declining as the village youth head for the big cities, first for school, then for work. But this migration phenomenon is taking a slightly different turn in the village of Kozbeyli in Izmir's Foça township. The number of people who want to retire to a farm house in the tranquil village atmosphere is increasing by the day.

Kozbeyli is a place where many people come together for different reasons. There are those, for example, who opt to live and work near an industrial region such as Aliağa, there are young entrepreneurs starting out in the olive business, and there are those who come to Kozbeyli to vacation in the townships of Old and New Foça, to breathe the pure pine-scented mountain air and stock up on organically grown farm produce.

Located after the turnoff for Old Foça and New Foça on the Izmir-Çanakkale highway, Kozbeyli is an Aegean village only 55 kilometers from Izmir. Numerous people, from retired doctors and archaeologists to poets and photographers, have fallen in love at first sight with this village dating back to the 14th century. The people of the village, originally founded in the period of the Saruhanid Principality as attested in various documents and historical records, are as adept at farming and livestock raising as they are at stone masonry, as is clearly evidenced by the many sturdy stone houses still standing today. The first village in the vicinity was a settlement of some 60 dwellings known as 'Yolmuç', built of the yellowish, reddish, greenish stones extracted from the quarries on the mountain. Yolmuç today lies some two kilometers from the modern village.

The remains of the two old villages below the peak of Şaphane Dağ, a mountain directly overlooking the Bay of Çandarlı, make an intriguing destination for a hike in the countryside. In the shade of the forest trees, Ottoman gravestones covered with brush and dry pine needles defy the passage of time. As you stroll amidst the ruins of these ancient villages one kilometer above the graves, you may come across stones once used to press olives, stable, house and garden walls, stone barricades erected to prevent landslides, and the ruins of a public bath.

You'll never get your fill of the looking at the seascape from the old village of Yolmuç. After a shower, a rainbow may even arch out cross the water from this hilltop. In olden times however this landscape gave the village folk no end of trouble. Seafaring marauders too cowardly to enter Foça harbor with its heavy fortifications preferred instead to pay frequent visits to this innocent village. And the villagers, who lived entirely without defenses, in the perfect peace of the olive branch, finally decided to move their settlement. And so it found its present location, where it became invisible from the sea, and the former site was abandoned to shepherds and inquisitive travelers hiking through the mountains.

Kozbeyli is thought to be a corruption of Kuzubeyi ('Mr Lamb'), the original founder of the village and a man famous for his flocks of well-fed sheep. The environs of Kozbeyli, which abundant rainfall carpets with lush green grass from November to May, is also a favorite grazing place with flocks of sheep and goats.

The forest that encircles the village offers a rich nature park for tree and wild flower enthusiasts. The oaks that tower in the shade of the century-old pines, the flowers blooming at the water's edge, the wild strawberries around the entrances to caves in the rocks, the thyme that lines the path, and the meadows bursting with purslane all contribute to this paradise. What's more, wild boar, fox, weasel, rabbit and several species of birds all inhabit the forest. Solicitous of their valuable forest, the people of Kozbeyli go to great lengths to protect it. Uncle Kemal, the villager elder and sage, records the license plate numbers of the cars that bring visitors to the village in summer to picnic at the forest's edge. He reminds them that building a fire in the forest is prohibited. He scolds those who leave the water running at the fountain on the village square.  He also serves as a volunteer guide for visitors who want to explore the village.

Enriched by rain water runoff from Şaphane Dağı and crystal clear underground springs, the fertile soil fosters the growth of pines and olive trees, creating thousands of natural monuments. Many olive trees in the village and the surrounding forest today are thought to be 300 years old.
Women sell hand-woven baskets and fruits and vegetables grown by their husbands at the Sunday market set up weekly on the village square. Homemade village honey is available here as well.

The dishes and salads made with the pure olive oil produced in Kozbeyli and the neighboring villages are so delicious you won't be able to get enough of them. And fresh bread, tea and locally grown olives are standard fare when breakfasting in the village...

Reminiscent of a museum with its ancient farm implements, the antique shop on the village square is a must-see for day visitors. If you crave a snack, the 'gözleme' shop right next door is a perfect place for one of these Turkish-style stuffed crepes. And the charming village coffeehouse with tables under a bower of vines is an ideal spot for resting your weary bones. The beverage of choice here is the famous stone-ground 'dibek' coffee.

Boys play ball in the narrow streets that rise from either side of Şakir's coffeehouse up to the 16th century village mosque, chickens sun themselves on old pushcarts and in wooden doorways, cats spring from rooftops into the pomegranate trees in the garden, sheep and goats graze contentedly in the grass between the houses, and all warm their hearts with the idyllic pleasure of village life. The road up to the mosque, the village's oldest building, rises from beside the stone house known as Kuzubey's Tower. If you climb the hill amidst the flocks of sheep, not only can you view the whole village from on high, you will also discover a prayer niche facing Mecca which is carved into a giant rock here.

Scattered sarcophagi and rock tombs, looted by treasure hunters, also dot the hillside. And the old stone houses in the Greek quarter at the edge of the village are just a few more of the historic structures worth seeing here...

Wake up to the bracing mountain air, breakfast on fresh tomatoes and thyme drizzled with the local olive oil, hike to your heart's content in the company of horses, goats and dogs, gaze on the ruins and try to unravel the village history, run through the forests and along the water's edge… And when you are worn out from your efforts, have a cup of good strong 'dibek' coffee. Kozbeyli is an Aegean village well worth exploring for all these reasons.