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Castles & Controversy: Inside Turkey's $200m Abandoned Town

A few hours drive from Istanbul is a remote valley with soft rolling slopes that is surrounded by woodland. What sets it apart from other valleys in the area, is the hundreds of identical chateaus. More than 500 palatial homes sit abandoned on a 250 acre site. I have a deep interest in the Soviet Union and abandoned places. While this town isn’t Soviet, it’s too bizarre to not write about.

Almost a decade ago, two brothers with an audacious vision set out to build a luxury town in Turkey’s northern Bolu province. In 2014, they broke ground on the $200 million town named Burj Al Babas. Hours drive from any international airport and poorly connected to other popular holiday destinations, the villas were built for Gulf buyers to use as holiday homes. Drawing inspiration from the Loire Valley castles with their blue-grey steeples and Gothic fixtures, 350 villas were initially sold. The brothers also had plans to build a shopping centre, Turkish baths, a cinema and more.

Of the 500 villas that were built, none were finished. As time passed, some buyers backed out, and in 2019, the developers abandoned the project and filed for bankruptcy. Today the town stands at an impasse, with hundreds of eerie empty villas stretching out across the Anatolian hillside.

I'll Show You! | Poland | 1979£300.00
Want-Love, Want-Not | Russia | 1988£350.00
Eat Regularly in Moderation | Lithuania | 1972£250.00
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Further Reading


The eagle has landed: Hunting with the last eagle hunters in Kyrgyzstan

High above the southern shore of Issyk-Kul lake, in east Kyrgyzstan, we wait and watch for movement on the rocky hillside below. Movement means prey. And that means that the hunt is on. For centuries, the nomadic people of Central Asia have used eagles to hunt for food and fur. On one a freezing morning in December, I went hunting with Nur-Sultan, Kyrgyzstan’s most famous eagle hunter.


The Land of Fire: The Do’s and Don'ts in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan, the land of fire and authoritarianism. Azerbaijan literally translates to ‘protector of fire’, while the textbook definition of authoritarianism is its ‘president’, Ilham Aliyev. I spent three weeks in Azerbaijan, which was probably two weeks too many. Here is my list of places to visit...and avoid.


Soviet Sanatoriums: The Crumbling Remains of Tskaltubo, Georgia

In the USSR, a spa weekend wasn’t a pampered holiday. It was a requisite, prescribed by the Soviet state. In their heyday, millions of citizens across the Soviet Union visited sanatoriums each year, on an all expenses retreat paid for by the state. Today these icons of communism are crumbling, in varying states of decay, with just a few still welcoming guests.


A Top 10 Guide to Armenia’s Best Brutalist & Modernist Buildings

With its concrete clover windows and ornately carved scenes in red stone, the National University of Architecture and Construction is one of the most striking examples of Brutalist architecture in Yerevan. The inside is just as beautiful, although if you wander aimlessly through the halls taking photos, the security guards will come and politely escort you off the premises.
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