Turkey's eastern Black Sea coast is filled with cities with less traffic, less noise and fewer crowds - almost all the essential elements for sustainable well-being. At the far eastern end of Turkey, Artvin's Şavşat district, which was recognized as a "slow city" by Cittaslow International last year, is directly characterized with a way of life that supports people living slowly while driving them to stand up against the fast-paced, homogenized world seen in other big cities. Adorned with lush greenery and the soothing hum of forest life, Avcala, a highland area within Şavşat's Çamlıya village, will have a new ecological village exclusively for youth.
Avcala Youth Village is the product of a group of young people seeking to follow the mission for an eco-friendly and sustainable life. The project was designed by Youthlympic, an organization creating innovative projects primarily in the fields of youth, sports and ecology. The organization's focus is rural development, urging local youth to realize the potential of their cities and make an effort to develop them. Last year, the project was submitted to the Turkish National Agency's Erasmus Youth division along with funding initiatives to promote young people's social inclusion and foster improvements in youth work at the local and international level.
Aykut Subaşı, the project coordinator and the founder of Icolympic Entrepreneurship and Youthlympic, told Daily Sabah that Avcala Youth Village will not principally be a tourist attraction but an eco-friendly place for youth from different countries to gather under the same roof, while introducing local residents to the concept of eco-tourism. Despite his young age, Subaşı, the project's mastermind, has been highly active in the field of youth through several projects and initiatives. Having participated in social entrepreneurship and leadership trainings, Subaşı said the village is the first step of their project, as more will eventually come up. Answering the question on why he specifically chose this location, Subaşı said the Avcala highland is where he is from and believes that it is the perfect place to realize his dream. Avcala Youth Village's main team features Elif Güvendi serving as communications coordinator and Necmettin Yemiş as its mentor, but the team has also been able to build a network including local authorities who support the project.
What the eco-village offers youth
The village's first guests will come from eight countries including Spain, Greece, Romania, Lithuania and the United Kingdom. More than 40 young people between the ages of 16 and 25 will come to ﬁavﬂat in June. Subaﬂ› said they do not seek special admission requirements but members should have background in ecology and/or architecture. For the first stage, village members will be invited to trainings on eco-architecture, eco-entrepreneurship and sustainability, as well as rescue strategies in nature and sports activities. "We have workshops and sessions to fully include the members into our concept. Members will evaluate limitations and possibilities of urban ecology and nature conservation," Subaﬂ› said, adding that the village will act as an exchange platform since participating countries will also share their own examples on sustainable living. The second stage involves the design of small houses by using eco-friendly materials. "We will build houses for the village by collecting our own materials in the surrounding nature," he stressed. Each house will be made of wooden pallets and be allocated for different purposes like the "youth center" and the "youth university." Members will even decorate the village with moss graffiti. Also called eco-graffiti or green graffiti, moss graffiti replaces spray paint, paint-markers or other such toxic chemicals and paints with a paintbrush and a moss "paint" that can grow on its own.
The Youth Village will be a space where members can come and stay anytime they wish, farm, create new ideas and meet people from countless different cultures. In the following periods, the village will undertake a social enterprise structure and host sports activities by Youthlympic. "Come and develop yourself by attending dozens of workshops and local and international projects. You will enjoy eating organic food, reading books, discovering new fields or just entertaining yourself with music," the village's official website says. The Avcala Youth Village will have four main areas and will remain faithful to the eco-friendly lifestyle.
Avcala Highland in Şavşat
Lying on the foothills of Mt. Düz, the Avcala highland is very suitable for nature tourism and sports. In the summer, local residents living in Çaml›ca leave their homes and go to the Avcala highland. Two natural lakes have become the highland's symbol, and the area is surrounded with mountain ranges on one side and rich forests on the other. Turkey's Black Sea coast is increasingly becoming a hot bed for alternative tourism, and the city of Artvin boasts a variety of locations like Mençuna Waterfall, Hatila Valley National Park, Çoruh Valley and Meydancık Balıklı Wildlife Development Area.