When you travel even the short distance from Istanbul’s most congested point to the Black Sea coast, the sea begins to undulate in a different way, and the sky takes on a different hue. The wind blows harder, the landscape changes, the houses are different, the colors, the lifestyle, even the history is different. Because you are in Istanbul, but you are also on the shores of the Black Sea.
With the Black Sea on my right, I travel to Yalıköy, an hour and a half from Istanbul, arriving in the early morning. My sole concern is not to miss the sunrise. I have learned that Yalıköy, like Karaburun, is one of the Çatalca’s two coastal villages and that the population, albeit small, makes a living from fishing. Indeed, there is a string of restaurants along the shore with menus featuring bonito, turbot and bluefish. Podima, an ancient name meaning ‘Boot’, is a village that was discovered some 200-250 years ago by pirates and used as a place of revelry. The lower floors of the ruined houses in the village center today were either the wine factories or commercial offices of those original visitors. Woodcutting is of great importance today for Yalıköy, which lies in a forested area of eight thousand hectares. A glass factory has also operated here for the last sixty years since the village contains silica, a raw material used in making glass.
I leave Yalıköy and continue on my way. The road takes me to Ormanlı Beach and from there to Karacaköy. At a higher altitude than Yalıköy, Karacaköy is an ancient Greek village in the forest. Formerly called Metra, it was re-named for the Ottoman (Osmanlı)governor Karaca Ahmet Pasha after the conquest of Istanbul. Forestry has been the main source of livelihood ever since people first settled here. Camels were used for transporting the cut wood over the steep, rocky terrain, so camel wrestling was also popular. Stretching from the Karacaköy Evcik Landing to Karıncaburnu on the Sea of Marmara, the world’s second longest land wall to keep out invaders was also erected here by.
Anastassios I between 507 and 511 B.C. And the segment of wall still standing inside the forested area is known by its architect’s name as the Anastassios Walls (Turkish ‘Anastasios suru ve Anastasius duvarı)Not far from Evcik Beach, Omanlı Beach is always windy and, with its sand walls, makes an ideal site for paragliding.
THE HORSE FARMS AT DURUSU
After lunch I arrive at another point I’ve marked on my map, Durusu, formerly Terkos, a lake amidst the trees. Connected with the Sea of Marmara in the time of the Genoese (Turkish ‘Ceneviz‘, ‘Cenevizliler’, Durusu was notorious as a pirates’ lair. Its current residents are Bulgarian refugees and Anatolian immigrants come to work the coal mines in the village. Durusu Park inside the village was a resort and hunting ground in the Ottoman period. In the Republican era it was bought up by a man named Deli Yunus and turned into a horse farm, which it remains today. Already in the Ottoman period (Osmanlı dönemi) Terkos Lake was used to supply water to Istanbul. Shallow and lined with reeds, the lake in winter is a stopover especially for migrating geese, ducks, cormorants, swans and goldfinches.
FOREST VILLAGES ALONG THE SHORE
Continuing a few kilometers south from Terkos, I arrive at Celepköy, another forest village. I learn that timber is felled in this village to supply the inhabitants’ need for fire wood. The surplus is burned to make charcoal. Leaving the village and its soot behind, I arrive at Karaburun, directly northeast of Durusu, and Turkey’s most remote outpost against the Black Sea’s tempestuous waters. It is important to the region for its lighthouse and fishermen’s harbor. It is also a village frequently visited by Istanbul residents in search of fresh fish. From Karaburun I come to Kilyos, the little village of Simas, aka Sarıyer. The name ‘Kilyos’ derives from the Greek word ‘kilya’ meaning sand. Kilyos Castle, which was captured by the Byzantines for the purpose of controlling the straits, was last restored by Mahmud II and survives today in that form. Again, a large part of Istanbul’s water in Ottoman times was supplied from three water towers here. A stone pier catches my eye as.
I stroll down to the shore and I learn that this structure, built in the 18th century, is still used by fishermen today. Since Kilyos boasts several kilometers of natural sand beach, there is no shortage of hotels and motels. And now that tourism has come into its own, fishing is no longer the main source of livelihood it once was. As for the village spirit, the biggest tree nursery here is trying to keep it alive by holding a ‘sapling’ festival every November.
THE FARTHEST POINT ON THE SHORE
When I leave Kilyos and head back to Istanbul, my last stop is Rumelifeneri, Sarıyer’s farthest point on the Black Sea coast. The lighthouse was built in the Ottoman period at a spot known as the ‘Weeping Rocks’. Even before it was built, blocks of white marble had been erected here to guide navigators over the rocks. Rumeli Lighthouse stands 58 meters above the water and is 30 meters tall. It is distinguished from other lighthouses by having once been a place of sacred pilgrimage for Greeks.
THE ANATOLIAN SIDE (ANADOLU YAKASI)
Again I set out before daybreak and come to Poyrazköy to explore today the Black Sea’s Anatolian shores. As if to give the lie to its name, which means ‘North Wind Village’, the north wind’s chill gusts are not felt here. The area inside the breakwater has therefore been turned into a port that welcomes fishing boats and yachts at the north end of the Bosphorus and entrance to the Black Sea. With the purest sea water around, the beaches along its sheltered bay make Poyrazköy even more touristic. Most of the village population make their living by fishing, and you can eat freshly caught fish at the many restaurants that line the shore. Besides its tourist attractions, Poyrazköy is also one of the rare villages that still sets up a market every Saturday.
After Poyrazköy my next stop is Anadolufeneri. Taking its name from the Anatolian Lighthouse that was built here in 1834 to monitor ships entering the Bosphorus during the Crimean War (Turkish ‘Kırım Savaşı), the village is set amidst oak and beech trees. With fishing boats in its harbor and a few odd shops, it is smaller than Poyrazköy with a total population of about 500. Standing 75 meters above the sea on Yon (Hrom) Hill and 20 meters tall, Anadolu Feneri continues to greet navigators today.
SO NEAR AND YET SO FAR
Situated on rocks with a name that means ‘wild flower’ in Greek, Şile looks like a typical Black Sea fishing village. Over the years it changed hands between the Lydians, the Galatians and the Romans, so that its every corner harbors some historic moment. Şile is a village permeated by legend. And the famous ‘Şile bezi’, a lightweight fabric woven by the local women, is the most popular commodity in the village bazaars and a ‘must’ for every wardrobe.
Towards evening I head for Şile’s neighbor, Ağva. Along the way, villages like Kabakoz, Akçakese and Kurtali astonish me by being so near Istanbul distance-wise yet so very far in their way of life and friendliness. Meaning a ‘village between two streams’ in Latin, Ağva is situated between the Yeşilçay and the Göksu. Like Şile it has been home to many different civilizations in the past, and was one of the Byzantines’ most remote fortified outposts. Rather conspicuously, the hotels that line the Göksu at Ağva do not recognize the river as a boundary but have spread to both banks, and a tiny raft pulled by a rope attached to the bank enables guests to move from one side of the hotel to the other and up and down the river.
Istanbul is a beautiful city of many colors where all the seasons can be experienced simultaneously. But the Black Sea coast offers landscapes at least as interesting and spectacular as those of Istanbul’s Marmara, Bosphorus and Golden Horn, and at least as steeped in history. And they are right there waiting to be discovered.
Article and Photo:U. SARIŞEN