The photos below are taken on a snowy January day in Belgrade Forest, near Bahçeköy (meaning garden village). Bahçeköy is one of the Northern Villages of Sarıyer, Istanbul. It was formerly the Byzantine Petra District. In the 19th century, the village was inside the Belgrade forest but due to the latter’s retreat before development, Bahcekoy now sits on the forest’s edge. The Belgrade Forest looks amazing under snow.
The Belgrade Forest (Turkish: Belgrad Ormanı) is a mixed deciduous forest lying 15 kilometers (9.5 miles) northwest of Istanbul, Turkey. Geographically, the forest is located at the easternmost point of the Thracian Peninsula. It stretches between the Black Sea and Bosphorus. Forest terrain is divided between Sarıyer and Eyüp districts. Several historical reservoirs lie within the forest.
During the Ottoman Empire, the area of the forest was approximately 13,000 hectares. Although diminished to 5442 hectares today, it still houses many species of plants, birds, and mammals (including deer and wild boar). The most common tree in the forest is Sessile Oak. (Quercus petraea) Belgrade Forest is under protection and is one of the most visited recreational areas of Istanbul.
In the forest, there are some Ottoman dams still remaining, which were all built over a period of 150 years.
According to common belief, Belgrade Forest was named after a Serbian village that was forcibly relocated to the forest to manage the city’s water supply system during Ottoman times. The people of the village were captives from Suleiman’s (the Magnificent) Serbia campaign. Apparently, they were known for being good at that sort of thing, and the sultan decided he’d prefer to have no one but the best looking after his aqueducts and dams.
The water from the Belgrade Forest dams ended up along the European Bosporus shore all the way down to Besiktas (you can still see the remnants of the aqueducts in Bahcekoy) before terminating in the famous Taksim Square, where it was then distributed further. This is actually how Taksim got its name – “taksim” is Turkish for “distribution”.
Related: The Aquaduct of Bahçeköy
Gallery: Belgrade Forest under snow
How to go to Belgrade Forest?
The forest is in the Sariyer district; accessible by busses to Bahcekoy (153 from Sariyer, 42T from Taksim, 42HM from Haciosman station (the last station) of subway).
The forest also Contains Ataturk Arboretum, and the ruins of Belgrad village, an 18th-century summer getaway for the Istanbul ex-pat crowd.
- Belgrad Forest (Belgrade Forest) on Wikipedia