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Only the breeziest of hills become home to windmills, where grains are ground into flour. When the winds rouse enough might to turn their large wheels, the crushing stone begins to do its work.
Morsels of grain, now turned into fine powders, replenish markets and tables alike. Though Anatolia’s tradition of many a century has been replaced by more contemporary processes, windmills still firmly exist all around Turkey. Let us go where the wind takes us...
ON WINDY HILLS
By far, the Bodrum peninsula houses the highest number of windmills in Turkey. Nearly all villages connected to the county have remnants of the abandoned ground-grain tradition. About eighty windmills, the oldest being nearly four hundred years old, reside on the various windy peaks of the peninsula. The mills sitting atop Gümüşlük bay resemble lions with their tails cut off -- grand yet solemn. Their blades are broken, draped in pieces of torn cloth, while their interiors are in ruin. In Gümbet village, the roofs as well as the blades of many mills have disappeared completely. One gets the feeling that those beautiful cylindrical bodies will crumble at any moment. Where once they created a formation resembling a string of pearls gracing the land, some of them now serve as barns, others as storage for hay. Is it not ironic that nearly all touristic Bodrum market souvenirs feature grander semblances of these actually shattered monuments? Only the Windmill Museum in Yalıkavak can help us reimagine their full, original charms. As Yalıkavak’s symbol, the windmill housing the museum was repaired and put into use again as a touristic cafe by a private business owner. The pleasure of sipping tea in the shade of this old windmill, at the peak of a breezy hill, is hard to match, especially in the dead heat of summer. The picture need not be so melancholic though – help is on the way for the mills. The Bodrum Peninsula Promotion Foundation is currently dedicating its efforts to the restoration of all the mills in the country as well as their integration to cultural tourism.
FROM ALAÇATI TO DATÇA
If you are in serious pursuit of windmills, you will surely be a visitor of Alaçatı, renowned for its strong gusts. Most of Alaçatı’ stone-bodied mills, also symbols of fertility in the area, now serve as restaurants. The white silhouettes of the electricity-producing modern mill-variety turbines set a pleasant backdrop for surfers along the Alaçatı coastline. Tens of them stand tall all day long, as if silently working and waiting for the wind. When the wind stops in Alaçatı, life as well as the mills seems to come to a halt. Travelling down along the Aegean coast, your next stop for windmills should be Datça. 19 mills are currently being restored, remaining true to their original forms, through the municipality initiative. When the project is completed, handcrafts made by villagers and world-famous Datça almonds will be sold at the entrance to the mills, rejuvenating the area’s tourism. The most striking difference Datça’s windmills bear is that they are three-storied. Back in the day, the top storey of a traditional Datça mill was used for the actual grinding while the middle storey served as storage and the entry level was a place for welcoming buyers and delivering goods. Grains carried to the mills by donkeys would be ground and poured into sacks in turn. They say that the miller faces the wind just as the fisherman faces the sea. When the winds stopped blowing by the wayside, the miller would sing folk songs to make the wait less mundane. For generations the mills would pass down through the families, their blades turning century after century...
WITNESSES OF THE PAST
Yeldeğirmeni, the Turkish word for windmill, is also a neighborhood in Istanbul named after the mills that stand huddled between its towering apartment buildings. Their white bodies, once welcoming the arrival of spring and its multi-colored flowers, now lie in ruin, not with the least semblance to their original forms. Speaking of original forms, we must not forget Turkey’s other windmill-rich locations, including Bozcaada Island, Göynük, Ayvalık and Şamlı in Balıkesir. The Şamlı windmills stand out from the classic stone forms as their bodies are comprised of wooden cabins rather than smooth cylinders.
With their broken wooden wings and crumbling bodies, these towers of stone now only bring loneliness to mind as they wait for their final vanishing act in the hands of mankind. No longer do their faces smile at the winds atop hills, while a city sprawls below. No one knocks upon their wooden doors, which used to close at the end of a joyful yet tiring day. If their walls could talk, they would speak of countless loves and separations, but now only the faintest whispers of the wind echo off of them...
A SHORT HISTORY OF WINDMILLS
The first windmills in history have been found in Egypt and China, dating from around 2800 BC. The earliest windmills to be documented in written form were built in Seistan, near the Iran-Afghani border in 644 AD. The first wind turbine, or the modern-day windmill, was produced in 1890 in Denmark to convert wind power into electrical energy. As the 20th century introduced mankind to steampower and widespread electricity in cities, the traditional role of windmills began to settle into the dust.