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  • Turkish Radio Hour
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2003
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      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
      Byzantine times.

      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
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