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A Day Trip Report: A Day In Polonezkoy

Mount Dora, Florida
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A Day Trip Report: A Day In Polonezkoy

I have wanted to visit this Polish Village so very close to Istanbul for many years, so it was with great excitement that I happily accepted an invitation from fellow DE's, Borus and Enigma to join them in a day of exploration in Polonezkoy.

Our day began at the Kadikoy ferry dock where Borus made us all comfortable in his car before taking the road to the Polonezkoy. For me the journey is almost always as much fun as the destination, and that would certainly be true of this experience. We drove on a multi-laned highway beyond the second Bosphorus bridge marveling at the huge new and stylish apartment complexes, the high-rise office buildings and the fact that this amazing city seems to grow miles and miles between our visits.

I have always wondered if there was any place near Istanbul that contained traditional American-style suburban communities with single-dwelling homes. Our journey took us through the neighborhood of Kavacik where we saw elegant homes in beautiful gated communities. These were neighborhoods that would rival any similar communities in the US, and established for me that there is certainly a growing influence of the upper middle-class in Turkey. This fact was further confirmed when we passed huge new shopping malls and supermarkets, new automobile dealerships and the ever present tall building housing a multitude of businesses and industries.

Leaving the metro area quite quickly we were suddenly in a vast forest. I had not realized that Belgrade Forest was balanced on the other side of the Bosphorus by a forest of equal or perhaps greater size. We drove through forested hills, the leaves of the trees slightly kissed with golden tips of autumn. There were streams and lakes reflecting the fleeting blue sky and sunshine. Borus explained that these two forests were the lungs of the city.

Moving nearer to Polonezkoy we entered a wildlife preserve which is home to a huge variety of birds and other forest animals including deer. We did not see deer, but there were signs warning drivers to be aware of deer. I did see a magnificent pheasant beneath the trees near the road.

Our road had gradually diminished into what Borus referred to as farm roads. Having spent most of my life in a rural environment they were comfortable roads for us, particularly when we encountered a tractor pulling a wooden cart.

Soon we entered the official village of Poloezkoy. It is perhaps best to define this village by what it is not. Being somewhat suspicious I was prepared for a couple of blocks of buildings with European facades selling Polish trinkets made in China. There was no such "tourist" street. The center of the town consisted of a small convenience store and a large map providing directions to the many restaurants and hotels in the area.

Taking advantage of the forest it seemed that most establishments were set on large tracts of land which had been cultivated into well-tended gardens. There is also a walking path through the forest.

Now hungry for lunch Borus drove to the Oboro Restaurant. As it was off-season (my favorite time to travel) many restaurants, including the Oboro were closed during the week. Through some magic Borus had persuaded this restaurant to open just for us.

We ate outside on a covered porch over-looking a beautiful garden still sporting the lovely last white roses of summer. Borus explained that during the summer the garden would be filled with guests grilling the restaurant's meats over individual grills, while children played beneath the shade of magnificent oak trees.

We had the option of cooking our own meat, but Enigma suggested that we leave this task to the professionals because he was concerned that we would become so engrossed in conversation that we would neglect to pay attention to the cooking. This was probably a wise choice. Mr. BR set off in the garden with his camera and came back many minutes later with lovely natural photos as well as a photograph of several restored antique automobiles parked at the hotel across the road.

Our meal begin with a fresh shephard's salad and absolutely the best borek I have ever eaten, along with rich yogurt. Soon platters of grilled meatballs and lamb chops begin to appear along with spectacular french fried potatoes and grilled peppers and tomatoes. The platters continued to arrive until we were well-pasted having satisfied our appetites. Even then we ordered one more bowl of the fantastic french fried potatoes, and completed our meal with tiny glasses of homemade walnut liquor.

The restaurant owner was charming and attentive, and I felt more like I was eating at my grandmother's house than an actual restaurant.

We were then off to........another restaurant. This time we were in search of dessert. We made our way to the Leonardo Restaurant which was open for business. They were in the process of decorating this charming building for Christmas, and the entire restaurant, built exclusively from walnut wood felt very European with a glassed-in dining area to provide diners with the opportunity of viewing the gardens.

We ordered chocolate cake and tea. I could not believe I could hold another morsel of food, but seemed to have no difficulty eating a huge piece of cake, and following that up with homemade sour cherry liquor. That was so good I had to bring a bottle back to our hotel room. My original intent was to take it home with me and serve it on Christmas Day, but I think it might not make it our of our hotel room.

The Leonardo Restaurant is owned by the great-great-grandson of one of the original founders of the village, and as we enjoyed our cake he related the story of his village.

The story of Polonezkoy is lengthy and rich in detail and character. The tiny village was established on land donated to the Polish community by Duke Adam Czartoryski. The first settlers were soldiers who fought alongside Turkey in the Crimean War. Soon refugees from Poland arrived to escape from the occupation of Russia, Austria and Prussia who partitioned Poland in 1772 and divided the country among the three occupying nations.

The story of Poloezkoy is a story of two nations. It is the story of Turkey, who granted refuge to the men and women who sought merely the freedom to farm their fields and harvest their orchards. It is also the story of Poland, a piece of which was preserved in the heart of the Ottoman Empire during the same time that the actual country virtually ceased to exist.

I was so impressed that the people of this village preserved their own heritage, culture and religion in the home of a culture that was alien to them. After dessert our host led us up a cobblestone street to the Memory House, a small cottage once occupied by his aunt. Now the home houses the photos and memorabilia of the four generations who have lived in this village. The former occupant dedicated her life to preserving her Polish culture and kept her home open to young people so they could experience their own culture.

In spite of their dedication to their own culture, the citizens of Poloezkoy are proud of their Turkish citizenship. I think the words of Zofia Ryay best explain this unique situation. "We are in a strange situation. The homeland of our distant forefathers is on the Vistula river, but the homeland of our closer fathers is Adampol on the Bosphorus. Maybe I stated this incorrectly. Our homeland is Poland, and Adampol is Poland with its traditions on Turkish soil." [Adampol was the original name of the village which was changed to Polonezkoy].

Our perfect day ended with a drive back to the main highway down a different country road. Along the road there were dozens of picnic places with covered tables, playgrounds and acres of fields for games. Borus told us that during the summer these places were filled with people enjoying the tranquility of the forests of Polonezkoy. I am sure there were enough picnic sites for thousands of people seeking this welcome refuge.

I have spent many days in Turkey, but this was one of the most memorable. Borus was disappointed in the cool and overcast weather. I was not. The air was crisp and cool with the hint of winter around the corner. The flowers of summer had been replaced by the golden leaves of fall. The village was not hectic, but rather settling into itself for a brief rest.

Taking the return ferry from Kadikoy to Eminonu we marveled at the determination of a group of exiles to preserve their Christian culture and national heritage in a strange land, and we once again reflected on the hospitality of the Turkish people who opened their lands and their hearts to these strangers from a far away place.

As the sun set on the Bosphorus we were embraced in the welcoming smiles of the people around us, and were carefully storing our memories of our day in Polonezkoy. It is yet one more example of a culture I find to be among the most gracious in the world.

Mr BR and I extend our appreciation to Borus and Enigma for creating this perfect day, and we hope others are inspired to spend a day, or a relaxing week-end in Polonezkoy. There are many restaurants and hotels to welcome you, and now I will leave the task of explaining how to reach Polonezkoy to the real experts.

Ruhr Area, Germany
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1. Re: A Day Trip Report: A Day In Polonezkoy

Thank you very much for this picturesque and interesting trip report, Busy-retired, and I´m sure that many forumites now would like to do a trip to this village too.

As foodie I have one more question: do they serve Polish or Turkish food? Or both? Because your menue sounds more turkish...

Mount Dora, Florida
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2. Re: A Day Trip Report: A Day In Polonezkoy

Hi Patara, I believe some restaurants serve Polish food. We elected to eat Turkish food. There is also a pastry shop in the village. It is also only open on the week-end.

I am attaching a link to a few photos of our day. www.flickr.com/photos/jeffs-snaps

Istanbul
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3. Re: A Day Trip Report: A Day In Polonezkoy

Dear Busy-retired, what a wonderful post perfectly explaining our memorable day at Polonezkoy. Just like you did, I also enjoyed this day in each and every way. Wonderful company, food, atmosphere, history, friendship, hospitality, culture, landscape, forest, and countryside. A wonderful travel experience for all of us.

Here are some websites relevant to Polonezkoy. First the official website of the village. "http://www.polonezkoy.com/index_eng.asp" and one of the restaurants we visited: "http://www.leonardo.com.tr/". To get there from Kadikoy, take bus No. 14M to "Kavacik Mezarlik" stop and take a taxi for the rest of the way (about 20 TL). There is no public bus that goes directly to Polonezkoy. You can of course rent a car for a nice day trip also.

have a relaxing day at Polonezkoy,

enigma...

Istanbul, Turkey
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4. Re: A Day Trip Report: A Day In Polonezkoy

Busy-retired, what a fantastic trip report and absolutely evocative read. I thank YOU for your company and your warm feelings about Turkey. Our next destination will be Abant :)

Cheers,

Borus

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5. Re: A Day Trip Report: A Day In Polonezkoy

Thank you so much BRetired for sharing so brilliantly your day with us.

It, once again, proves to me that Istanbul not only feeds your mind and curiosity, but embelllishes and satisfies all your senses.

How wonderful to know this village to be a tranquil and convenient respite from perhaps a few ruffled days of intense sightseeing in the city.

I remember, Borus, your suggestion that Polonezkoy is the place to go for a day of hiking, berry picking, or just sitting on a blanket with an IPod and listening to one of Poland's heroes, Frederic Chopin.

I found this to be true also of a day at Lake Sapanca last year. Here is yet another easy drive to a fresh water lake with charming opportunites to walk lakeside and enjoy a meal or fine Merlot along the quaint boardwalk. I went in early December last year. Crowds were gone. Most restaurants closed. Silent and natural. Another great escape. I agree that it is good to encourage travel to Istanbul during this time of the year.

Now if only one day I can catch the glory of all the tulips in full bloom.

Edited: 1:38 pm, November 09, 2012
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6. Re: A Day Trip Report: A Day In Polonezkoy

Lovely trip report. I finally made it to Polonezkoy. Thankfully a friend has a car, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to go.

We went there on Republic Day at the end of October and it was a perfect time to go. The Autumn colours were beautiful. We visited a Polish graveyard, then we did the 5km walking route through the forest. We had a lovely lunch with lots of meat and beer, then pottered around the street market. There was a man with his own bees and I bought some wonderful honey cream from him.

We had spotted a sign to the "Hayvan Bahcesi" (Animal Garden) and as a huge animal lover, I insisted that we went, even though one of my friends was convinced it was going to be a museum of stuffed animals (?) A man selling fruit (very interesting fruit he called mountain strawberries) on the street informed us that we would be able to find all sorts of animals there, including elephants. Then of course we had to go.

It was a short drive there. Oh, were we glad that we found it. It was a wonderful place. It cost 20TL to get in which was well worth it. There were so many animals, and many of them were roaming free. There were parrots, farm animals (including two enormous pigs, which I have never seen before in Turkey), and best of all, a beautiful family of St Bernards. That made me very happy. The park is set on a vast area of land, which includes tennis courts, a swimming pool, a boating lake and a big picnic/BBQ area. Next time I'll spend my whole day there.

It was a wonderful day and I was so happy to finally make it to the "Polish" village. I had been hoping to find some Polish food (I used to live in Poland) but couldn't. Maybe next time.

Mount Dora, Florida
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7. Re: A Day Trip Report: A Day In Polonezkoy

kachika, I am so glad you were able to visit this unique little place. The 5km walk through the forest looked so attractive, and it made me wish I had my 40 year old body so I could enjoy it. We were not able to see the Animal Garden, but it is always good to leave something to do on the next visit. I assume, however, that you did not see elephants?

I have had those mountain strawberries before. A couple of years ago a farmer near Yorros Castle brought us a bowl of them. I did not think they tasted much like strawberries, but they are an interesting fruit. There was a lady at the Kadikoy ferry pier who was selling them on day during the first week of November.

Polonezkoy is truly a wonderful little village, and so different from everything around it. I love the forests, and I even think all the public picnic spots on the way to and from the village look like lots of fun. I am sure they are very busy during the warm summer months.

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8. Re: A Day Trip Report: A Day In Polonezkoy

Those are dağ çileği(mountain strawberries).They are highly prized and very expensive and most often used to make homemade jam :)

Mount Dora, Florida
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9. Re: A Day Trip Report: A Day In Polonezkoy

I felt like they were quite precious when we were presented with them as a gift. I suspect they are better when made into jam. I found them somewhat tart for just eating out of hand. It is always fun to find something new.

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10. Re: A Day Trip Report: A Day In Polonezkoy

Another beautiful report for that upcoming book we all want you to write :-) ! I remember reading this the first time and wishing I could find a way to visit Polonezkoy.