A friend from the U.S. visited me last week. A gorgeous day of sun and crisp air made us want to get out and see nature. This is a challenge in a gigantic, sprawling city like Istanbul, but a glance at a satellite photo of Istanbul shows that there’s an enormous green patch in the northwestern part of the European side, not terribly far from where I live, actually. The place is called Belgrad Forest. It’s home to many varieties of deciduous trees and some Ottoman dams. The Ottomans used the water in these reservoirs as Istanbul’s main water supply for much of the duration of the Empire. The words on this plaque, written in Ottoman Turkish, are allegedly the names of architects and workers who built the dam.
The bus ride out there was fairly long, so I decided to say hello to a high-school-aged guy standing next to me. He told me his family lived in the forest and offered to show us around. He spent a couple hours walking through the forest and acting as a tour guide, then we had a cup of tea at a shop near the main forest entrance. Not one to weaken the stereotype of Turkish hospitality, he even insisted on paying for the tea.