Vegan fest in Aegean resort
The number of vegans and vegetarians in the world has increased 350 percent in the last 10 years, according to the most recent data.
Five percent of the population of Austria, eight percent of the population of Germany, and four percent of the population of the United States are vegan or vegetarian, statistics indicate.
Germany, where the first vegan supermarket chain Veganz opened, is one of the countries spearheading the vegan revolution.
There is not adequate information on the number of vegans and vegetarians in Turkey, but the Vegan Association of Turkey has started a campaign on change.org to find out an approximate figure.
The difference between vegetarianism and veganism, which has a deeper philosophy, is not well-known in Turkey. That is why the initiative taken by the municipality to organize a vegan festival in the Aegean holiday resort town of Didim is a daring step.
We, as press members, were invited to the 2nd Didim Vegan Fest by Mayor Ahmet Deniz Atabay, who was elected four years ago.
They are expecting 200,000 people from cities such as Istanbul, İzmir and Adana to attend the four-day festival, a huge increase from last year’s attendance of 60,000.
At the foot of a temple
The Vegan Fest is a colorful event with stands opened at the foot of the Temple of Apollo. The festival also features concerts and panel discussions.
I asked Atabay why Didim was referred to as “the unpopular star of the Aegean” despite its beautiful sunny coasts and ancient sites such as Miletus and Priene.
“It is true that Didim has lagged behind, while some districts in the Aegean have leaped forward. We have been trying to determine the deficiencies and make up for it since I took office,” he answered.
Didim, located just between the airports of İzmir and Milas, attracts about 200,000 tourists annually.
The number of foreigners, mostly British people, residing in the town is almost 8,000.
How was the festival idea born?
Atabay said Didim had organized meetings to honor the ancient mathematician and philosopher “Thales of Millet” in the last couple of years.
The first meeting was on mathematics and the second was on philosophy, he noted.
“We will hold the third one this year. The main theme is set as economics,” Atabay added.
Saying that many gastronomy festivals were being organized across the Aegean region in the last couple of years and most of them focused on the region’s popular herbs, he noted that they wanted to do something different.
“In the end, we decided on a vegan festival,” he said.
The Didim Vegan Festival has big ambitions, as many leading names are offering lectures to all starters about what veganism is.
A new brand is coming: Didyma
Atabay also said that many female villagers were encouraged to establish flower greenhouses.
More than 1.25 million flowers were planted by them last year and sold to the Aydın Municipality, to which the Didim district is tied.
“Thus, we have created new jobs for our female citizens and are helping them get professions,” Atabay noted.
They are also producing pure oils from various herbs, including lavender and mint, under the brand of “Didyma,” the ancient name of Didim, he added.