With the temptation of a special deal, and a special trip outside of the city, we booked a 1-day tour to Lake Abant and Yedigoller (Seven Lakes) National Park. These two beautiful places are close to Bolu, a popular holiday destination for some Istanbul families. We awoke at the ungodly hour of 6 AM on Sunday, and gathered in the darkness of the Yildiz Mosque in Besiktas in anticipation of the tour bus. We departed Besiktas at 7:15 and arrived at Lake Abant a little before noon. Lake Abant once lay along the Silk Road, and apparently is even mentioned in the Illiad. It is 1500 meters above sea level, and upon our arrival, we were greeted with the first snow of the season. The lake itself is beautiful. It is covered by lily pads, and surrounded by a forest. There are various walking paths, picnic sites and a boardwalk that allows you to hang over the water. You can even rent horses, or stay at one of the luxury inns that hang over the shore of the lake. Apparently, it freezes in the winter time and you can go ice skating.
The area also symbolizes the struggle to achieve an equilibrium between promoting tourism and preserving the natural environment. Unfortunately, Lake Abant is an example of misguided efforts to promote tourism and quickly improve the local economy. In these efforts, private individuals and companies were given access to this natural paradise and given permits to build obtrusive restaurants, hotels and other businesses that now disrupt and detract from the natural beauty of the area.
However, 3 hours later we were in Yedigoller park. A national park, removed from any development or tourist traps. The last 45 minutes of the trip required us to ride in small vans in order to make it through the windy dirt roads that curve through the forest. We were told that the mayor is passionately opposed to developing, or even paving the road that leads to the park. He used Lake Abant as an example of what he fears for Yedigoller Park: if the park becomes more accessible and more developed, the natural beauty and habitats within the park will be lost. The park is absolutely breathtaking. There are seven lakes which you stumble upon as you walk through the forest. There are handcrafted bridges, a small waterfall and fountains overflowing with fresh, cold water from the stream that passes through the park. Images from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and the children’s first explorations of Narnia swirled through my mind as I walked through the park. It was serene, beautiful and pristine.