Wednesday, 30 March 2011


Beykoz Doga College Forest of the Bosphorus has always been a location to spark the imagination, and in ancient times was a place of sacrifice. Blood was spilt to petition Zeus and Poseidon for a safe journey across the treacherous Black Sea, without which no one would venture into those stormy waters.
The first historic people to settle the upper-Bosphorus were Thracians and Greeks and the ancient name for the area was Amikos or Amnicus, named after a Thracian king. However, the area has changed hands many times since. As well as being one of the most strategically important crossing points in history, the Bosphorus itself has always been rich in fish and opportunities for plundering the even richer communities around the Marmara, and Beykoz has been settled by wave on wave of invaders from around and beyond the Black Sea: Thracians, Bithynians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and finally Turks.
In the Ottoman period, the land behind Beykoz was open country and forest used for hunting and an escape from the city by the Sultans and their court. The hunting lodge at Küçüksu, and the fountains and mosques that decorate the villages along the coast date from this era. The name Beykoz was established at this time and appears to derives from Bey (meaning prince, lord or gentleman) and Koz (the Persian word for village). (Koz is also a word for a type of walnut, another possible etymology).
Under Turkish control the straits have retained their strategic value; indeed British troops assembled in Beykoz on their way to fight in the Crimea in 1854.
Later attempts were made to bring industry to the area, most importantly the glassworks at Paşabahçe, which began as small workshops in the 17th century and by the 18th and 19th centuries were a well-established factory making the ornate spiral-designed or semi-opaque white glassware known to collectors worldwide as 'Beykoz-ware'. A well-known shoe factory was later built, now both glass and shoe factories are closed.
On the hillsides above the Bosphorus Beykoz has always suffered from uncontrolled development and large areas above the Bosphorus are covered in illegal housing, where migrants have come to live and work in the glass and other industries. Areas like Çubuklu and Paşabahçe are continually struggling to put in infrastructure to keep up with the housing being built illegally or semi-legally. Due to this incoming industrial workforce Beykoz has had a working-class character unseen behind the luxury of the Bosphorus waterfront. Schooling is somewhat of a problem and it is common to see children from the Beykoz area going to school by boat to the European side.
Now the illegal building is happening in the forests further back from the sea, particularly in the areas of Çavuşbaşı and Elmalı. This countryside is scattered with little villages, all of which are expanding now more roads are being put through.
Not all the new housing is scrappy, and Beykoz holds some of the most luxurious new development in the Istanbul area, the villa estates of Acarkent and Beykoz Konaklar, home to filmstars, members of parliament and other Istanbul glitterati. How attractive these places are and how cultured and respectable the residents are matters of some debate. The Bosphorus has historically been teeming with fish, and Beykoz does have a small fishing community (although the main fishing fleet is based in Istanbul itself). The fish restaurants at Anadolu Kavağı in particular have sprung up to serve day trippers from the Bosphorus tours by ferryboat.

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