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On her four visits to Smyrna/İzmir Gertrude Bell sometimes stayed in a conventional hotel in the town centre, now completely lost. Alternatively she stayed with friends in Bornova in a house that is now the Rektorluk of Ege University. But several times she also travelled out of town to the village of Bulgurca, near Develiköy, where she would stay on an experimental farm set up by the Dutch Van Lennep family.

It was always asking a lot that the farmhouse would have survived the end of the Turkish War of Independence but even had it done so yet another disaster was still to hit Bulgurca when, in 1998, the Tahtalı Dam opened and the entire old village was drowned.

Today I went to visit Yeni Bulgurca where most of the villagers were rehoused in fairly standard houses with gardens. In the teahouse I got chatting to some of them about the old village and the fate of Malcacık where she had stayed. A very senior member of the community was quickly fetched to look at the pictures but although he was fairly sure he knew which building it had been the general consensus was that it was now lost beneath the water. IMG_0591

Regardless, I was soon driving out of the new village with two of its residents who took me on a whirlwind run around the lake, the minaret of their old mosque sticking forlornly out of the water like a chimneystack. We did drive round to Değirmendere where one large old stone farmhouse was still just about standing but it was immediately obvious that it bore no resemblance to surviving images of the Van Lenneps’ home.

Ah well, it was still a worthwhile visit and we did stop at Develiköy so I could take a picture of the station at which Gertrude would arrive before undertaking the long and muddy onward trip. The new İzban station stood almost ready to go right beside it. Hopefully the old stone station will be found a new use, perhaps as a cafe for thirsty passengers.

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