In most ways, Kuşköy resembles countless other villages nestled in the Pontic Mountains along Turkey’s Black Sea coast. Its 500 or so residents cultivate tea and hazelnuts; there is one street with a baker, a butcher, and a few cafes. It is the sounds, not the sights, that make Kuşköy different. For generations, villagers have conversed using a unique form of whistled communication they call “kuş dili,” or “bird language” in Turkish.
The name Kuşköy itself means “bird village.” “Come over here for some tea!” Ibrahim Kodalak calls to his neighbor as he stands outside his home, which clings to a sheer hillside far above a valley. The 45-year-old hazelnut farmer is “speaking” in a series of earsplitting, warbling whistles that really do resemble bird song.
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Alexander Christie-Miller is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.