Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The afternoon air filled with wisps of campfire smoke. Three generations of family members sat around a fire grilling their traditional kebaps, long, green peppers and tomatoes.

Across the lake, a lone man was throwing a fishing line – sans pole - into the water, hoping to catch something for dinner.

The forest’s wide trail was surrounded by a kaleidoscope of colors turning from leaf green to various shades of my kitchen spices such as cinnamon, ginger, paprika, saffron and turmeric.
On Sunday, we were lucky enough to get out of the hectic city and drive to Belgrade Forest, located in Sarıyer, the northernmost district of Istanbul.

As much as I love living in a big city, sometimes you just want to escape from it all. You want to be away from the endless traffic, the honking horns, people yelling, the busy storefronts and cafes. You want a little slice of solitude. That is difficult to find when you live in a city of 13 million to 17 million, depending on which statistics you read.
The forest, covering almost 5,500 hectares, stretches out around Bahçeköy just inland from Büyükdere. According to an article in Time Out Istanbul:
It takes its rather unlikely name from the fact that back in the 16th century it was resettled with Serbians after Süleyman the Magnificent occupied their country in 1521 and decided that they would make the perfect supervisors for the network of forest aqueducts and reservoirs on which Istanbul depended for its water supply. 

The small village actually called Belgrade became a fashionable escape from the high heat of summer in the 18th century, and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was just one of the foreigners who took refuge there. She went on to wax lyrical about its beauties in her letters home. It “perfectly answers the description of the Elysian Fields,” she wrote, little imagining that one day the village would be no more.

Although it took us an hour to travel from our apartment to the forest, we were rewarded with a beautiful Indian summer afternoon. We decided to walk on the 6 kilometer (about 3.72 miles) trail that wanders through the forest and around a large lake in the middle. The forest was busier than I had imagined. I guess other families had the same idea we did.

About the halfway mark, we decided to find a grassy knoll and enjoy our goodies we had in our backpack. I had packed two kinds of cheese, sesame seed crackers, a bit of Italian salami, a ripe plum and a bottle of Angora, a local dry, white wine. Sipping Turkish wine out of a backpack because we're classy like that!

This was nothing like our previous hiking experience in Cappadocia. No way! We just were enjoying each other’s company and the splendid afternoon and relaxing.
We are quite fortunate we don’t have to travel too far to enjoy the beauty of nature. The Belgrade Forest is just on our doorstep.

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Sippy Cup Central said...

Joy, such lovely forest pictures...just beautiful! Karen
Sippy Cup Central

Danielle said...

What beautiful photographs, Joy!

Tina Maxima said...


Nemanja Kovačević said...

The article is correct about the name. After the fall of Constantinople turks had great difficulties in maintaining the city water supply system. When Suleyman took Belgrade in 1521 he discovered that locals successfuly maintain underground water system also left from roman times. He ordered them to move to Istanbul because of their skills.

Anywhay, thanks for this great blog, my gf and Me are coming to Istanbul for the first time and this blog is a great resource!

Joy said...

@Nemanja, thanks for your comments and stopping by! I love the history of Belgrade Forest, and seeing the old aqueducts nearby. Hope you enjoy your trip to Istanbul!