x0x IN THE FOOTHILLS OF KOCADAG
By Emrah Ozkok
Travelling north from the town of izmit towards the Black Sea, a great
mountain rises in the distance, its mysteries concealed behind cloudy
peaks, deep echoing gorges, and thick wild forests. The ancient and
almost forgotten road from izmit to Istanbul's eastern district of
Uskudar leads to KocadaG, winding its way through pine and oak forest.
In the mountaindI foothills lie many secret gardens awaiting
discovery. This was the road used for centuries by caravans carrying
goods from Asia into Europe, and by armies on campaigns of conquest.
From Istanbul it passes Omerli Dam and the village of Molla Fenari
near Gebze, before reaching izmit. In each season KocadaG casts a
different coloured shadow over this old road as it wends its way
through the green depths of the forest. The mountain extends from
Sevindikli to the coastal town of AGva, and in its foothills nestle
villages and towns which have been here for long centuries. First
among those which visitors should not miss is the village of Kutluca,
which combines scenic beauty with ruins dating from Roman, Genoese and
Carved inscriptions describing the accession of the Emperor Antonious
and statues discovered in fields on the villagsr outskirts are now
exhibited in izmit Museum. Tumuli in the nearby woods and village
cemetery, picturesque old cottages and a cheese factory, and an old
stone bridge thought to have been built by the Genoese can be seen
The Kocadere River flows beneath this bridge and on through a valley
thickly wooded with evergreen boxwood trees, whose fine-grained hard
timber is carved into spoons by local people. As the river advances
towards the sea at AGva it flows ever more rapidly, swollen by streams
rising high on the mountain. Exploring the green unspoilt course of
this river, whose water is as clear as an aquarium and home to
numerous fish, is a delightful way to spend the day.
If you continue on from Kutluca towards KocadaG, you come first to the
village of BIcakcIlar, whose inhabitants are of Yoruk nomad descent,
and then to Calkoy. Beyond these villages the forest becomes ever more
impenetrable. Nestling deep in the forest above Calkoy is the mineral
spring of Dumbuldek, whose waters are beneficial for those with
stomach complaints. Nearby the spring is a restaurant. The jungle-like
forest in this area consists of huge beeches, chestnuts and lindens,
through which are beautiful walks for the energetic and agile. Roe
deer are numerous in the forest of KocadaG, and local shepherds say
that they never hunt these animals because of the affectionate way
they gaze with their beautiful eyes at the human beings they
encounter. There are still places on KocadaG where people never set
foot, and so wildlife abounds here, including wild boar, jackals,
hares and bears.
If you follow the course of streams heading for AGva, you come to
confluences where two streams meet, and the most scenic of such points
is that between the villages of Dikenli and TepemanayIr. As their
water volume increases the streams begin to shape the landscape,
carving out marble blocks and hills with the skill of a sculptor.
Walking along this valley, following ancient paths, you come to the
village of HacIlar, where you can buy local charcoal and eggs. Just
downhill from the village is Kemikli Cave and Sarpdere Falls.
A small stream runs through the cave, which boasts both stalagmites
and stalactites. It is known only to local people and a few dedicated
cavers, for whom unexplored caves are an irresistible challenge. The
Sarpdere River and its waterfall are stunningly photogenic, and the
sight will remain impressed on your memory for a long time to come.
With its valleys, forests, waterfalls and secret gardens, KocadaG is a
natural wonderland. As spring approaches, this is the time to explore
the beauties of this mountain, pursuing a madcap bee intoxicated by
the return of flowers and scented breezes.
* Emrah Ozkok is a photographer