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Belgrade Forest

 Untitled Document
During the Ottoman Empire, Belgrad Ormanı (Belgrade Forest) covered approximately 13,000 hectares. Although diminished to 5442 hectares today, it still astonishes newcomers to learn of this extensive forest of ancient tall trees right on its outskirts. At the time of Süleyman the Magnificent the Belgrade Forest was of strategic importance as the main source of water for the city, and visitors today become aware of this function before they even reach the forest, as they pass historic aqueducts that once fed the water to different parts of the city. Water from the numerous springs and streams in the forest was channelled into the city, and as the demand increased over the centuries dams known as bent were built to collect the water. There are 7 bents today and although they are in use today they no longer play a crucial role in Istanbul's water supply due to the rapidly increased population of the city. The protected status of the forest granted in the 16th century continues right through into the 20th century - a piece of good fortune, rare in Turkish history.

This is a deciduous forest consisting primarily of oak; the next most common trees are the oriental birch, common hornbeam and Anatolian chestnut. The forest is home to no less than 71 species of bird and 18 mammals. Since hunting is forbidden here wildlife flourishes, and if you stroll into the quiet areas away from the picnickers you will hear many sounds of which you were not aware before, like the rustle of a weasel stepping on a dry twig as it creeps through the undergrowth. A snake may glide past your feet intent on catching a frog which leaping for its life from its hunter. Foxes and wolves only make their appearance in the late hours and in the most remote spots. Wild boar emerge from the forest to sniff out their supper in the city rubbish dumps, and even deer may be seen while jogging in the depths of the forest.

The Belgrade Forest, during the Ottoman period, was once a place only visited by foreigners. In 1956 the first picnic areas were established around the Neşet spring and around the dams, and today there are seven picnic areas, the most popular being the one near the Büyük Bent. The café in the middle of the Bent provides biscuits, toasts, tea and soft drinks. When you are hungry you can either spread the food you brought to the wooden tables or make barbecue. Around Neset spring you can also find alternatives of "Kendin Pişir Kendin Ye" (Cook Yourself, Eat Yourself) for a meat banquet!

There is a jogging route through the forest for the energetic. It begins at the fountain from which the Neset spring gushes, where picnickers with plastic containers form long queues to fill them with the fine tasting spring water. The path circles round Büyük Bent and back, making a total length of 6.5 kilometers. At intervals along the way are 17 pieces of exercise apparatus. But choosing the right friends to exercise with is as important as choosing the right form of exercise.

Especially during the summer months, Belgrade Forest is a place to go to escape the heat of the concrete jungles. However don't forget there are going to be thousands of other people with the same idea. Once you enter the forest the atmosphere of a different Istanbul will encircle you, first a light and wet coolness than the deep shadows created by the high trees hindering the sunlight.

If you are going to BBQ or light a fire pay attention and use extreme care. Firefighting facilities are not adequately prepared to deal with forest fires. The Belgrade Forest offers a magnificent visual feast during spring and fall, and every shade of green and can be seen. In the winter the scene is quite different of course but the forest is still beautiful and you may see the odd enthusiast jogging in the snow or lovers out for a stroll.

Atatürk Arboretum
Belgrade Forest
Emirgan Grove
Hidiv Grove
Orman Bahçe
Yıldız Grove
Istanbul Aquarium
Centennial Trees
Excursions Near by
Forests and Groves
Fransız Sokağı - French Street
Historical Monuments
Historical Mosques
Museums & Palaces
Pavilions in Green Lands
Places of Worship
Princes' Islands
The Bosphorus

Latest comments about this article

 By masseree  10.1.2006

I would love to go to the Belgrade Forest, but can somebody tell me how I get there from Istanbul Taksim?

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