Istanbuldere Alabalik Evi: a feast in the mountains
Istanbul is a city of concrete and packed buildings. Unless you are lucky to live somewhere by the seaside with a view breaking over the Bosphorus or the Marmara sea, chances are you will be looking into a concrete structure from your window. This is the Istanbul we live and that we got to love for all its charm and its shortcomings. Yet, all citizens of megacities like Istanbul inevitably crave green and quiet areas, to rest from the busy city life, its heavy traffic and often over crowded streets.
If you live on the European side of Istanbul, a very popular place to chill in the warm months is Maçka Park in Ni?anta??, where weekends and evenings usually swarm with mostly young people, whose colourful presence has over the past few years transformed the park into one of the must places to visit if you want to truly enjoy the city.
Along the Bosphorus, there are Y?ld?z and Emirgan Park, mostly popular with families who flock there on weekends for breakfast and also for the very popular spring tulip festival.
If you are willing to go a bit further north, Belgrade forest offers a huge area to get lost in the green vastness and instantly forget that you are surrounded with all the city noise and pollution.
The Asian side of Istanbul has a bit more luck in that sense. Caddebostan coast in Kad?köy gets busy every weekend with friends and families enjoying the sights and sounds of the nearby Marmara sea.
Not far from Caddebostan, the brand new Göztepe park, which was renovated this year, offers a real haven for everyone with its beautifully designed landscape and its vast green space in the middle of the city.
And finally there is a big and unspoiled forest in Polonezköy, in the Beykoz area, for long, relaxing walks in the total silence of the nature.
However, if you have a day or two to spare, and are willing to drive cca 200 km, you will get abundantly awarded.
After you have made it through entire city and the neighbouring industrial towns, all of sudden a view opens up in front of you all covered in green tones of pristine nature. These refreshing sights of woods and reflecting clear water are the sign that you have arrived to Sapanca – a lake of quite an impressive size, situated in a valley surrounded by mountains.
A very popular weekend getaway, Sapanca tends to get crowded with visitors from Istanbul and all the neighbouring towns. Don’t expect to get immersed into any kind of wilderness though. Cafes, restaurants and rent-a-table style picnic spots dominate the area surrounding the lake, and the places for improvisation are few and difficult to find.
In search of places with less human intervention, go off the road, towards the mountains. As you head more uphill, the roads get dustier, the forest wilder and the rivers louder. Within seconds, the nature’s little miracles will captivate all your senses and you will find yourself silently amazed. Natural therapy that does wonders, and not just any kind of wonders, but wonders with a well kept secret called Istanbuldere Alabalik Evi.
Situated between mountains, river and waterfalls, this rustic restaurant is a hidden piece of heaven for all tastes and ages. If you are lucky enough, you can get a table just next to the gentle streams, river and waterfalls, so soothing that your senses will fight with enjoyment over the sound of the water and the taste of the fresh trout served on your table.
The area is big enough to entertain you for several hours, whether you want to stroll around, chill on hammocks, or inevitably enjoy the nice food the restaurant serves.
Although the menu offers different kinds of plates, you would want to immerse yourself into the speciality of the region – fresh and mouthwatering trout. There are several restaurants along the road, but make sure to get to this one, even if it is a bit difficult to find. Once you arrive, you will understand why it was worthy going all the way.
The service is a bit slow but friendly, the food is not exceptional but nice, and the prices are more than acceptable. More than anything, it is the atmosphere that makes the entire experience so magical and that will make you want to come back for more.
And make sure you are well dressed – it gets very chilly next to the water in the fresh mountain air, even in the summer months you can suddenly find yourself shivering in the cool air.