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A day at Lake Terkos
2003 / JULY

In this hot summer weather it is not surprising that those of Istanbul's inhabitants who are unable to take a holiday to other seas and shores should be attracted to Lake Terkos. The water of this lake was harnessed for the city's water supply system in 1874, and the importance of this new source was such that tap water came to be known as 'Terkos water.' Long after new dams had been built and the lake had declined in importance as a water source, this term continued to be used. Lake Terkos is situated 40 kilometres northwest of Istanbul, and is ideal for day or weekend trips. So leaving the heat trapped in the city behind us, we headed towards green countryside and blue waters. Our destination was the village of Balaban on the lak'sn edge. Crossing the Bosphorus via the second bridge, and passing Bahçesehir and Hadimköy, within an hour we found ourselves in a different world.

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A day at Lake Terkos
2003 / JULY

Flowers, grasses, trees, and fresh air smelling of fruit met us as we entered the village. Meadows adorned with wildflowers on either side of the road were like a vision. Houses nestled almost hidden amongst fields and orchards. It was as if nature had chosen this village to display its artistry. Going straight down to the shore we breathed in the cool breeze blowing off the lake. Nearby was an old rowing boat with a gaping hole in its hull lying despondently on its side. Life is renewed on the one hand and on the other is destroyed it seemed to be saying. Lake Terkos covers an area of 25 square kilometres and is 11 metres at the deepest point. It is divided from the Black Sea by sand banks 100-150 metres wide, and surrounded by reed beds. Some of the birds that can be seen on the lake and in its environs are bitterns, little bitterns, squacco herons, purple herons, night herons, stone curlews, white-winged terns, marsh harriers, cormorants, storks, pelicans, coots and various species of ducks and geese.

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A day at Lake Terkos
2003 / JULY
Since it is on a migration route, many other birds halt here to feed during spring and autumn. Motorised boats are forbidden on the lake so as not to disturb the wildlife, but fishing with rods and nets is permitted. Zander (Lucioperca sandra), sheathfish (Silurus glanis), trout, bream, carp, pike, roach, and sargo (Sparus) are the principal species of fish found in its waters. If you take a picnic along, you can enjoy a leisurely lunch at the lakeside or in the woods along its shores. We had filled our bags with sandwiches and fruit, because we intended to hike through the woods. We first walked down to the boathouses that can be seen on the shore before the road enters the village. A squirrel crossed our path, and when it noticed us sped up a tree and out of sight amongst the green leaves. On the shore we met an elderly fisherman. He was 78 years old, very cheerful and very chatty.
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A day at Lake Terkos
2003 / JULY

In ten minutes he had told us all about his family and the entire history of the village, which was established by Bulgarian Turkish migrants. His own family had lived here for 200 years. We saw the same cheerful friendliness on the faces of the people sitting in the village coffee house. The local people make a living mainly from animal husbandry, supplemented by a little fishing and arable farming. Since this is a drainage basin there are tight restrictions on building development. Our hike through the forest took us for 12 kilometres through beautiful scenery. The deeper into the woods we went, the more sounds of wildlife we heard. First the thin cry of jackal cubs, and then the beating of wings. We noticed a cocoon from which some of the caterpillars were already emerging, and others struggling to follow them. Besides the cocoon was a brilliantly coloured butterfly glistening in the sunlight.

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A day at Lake Terkos
2003 / JULY

We then turned down a narrow path beside an ancient tree with a huge trunk to get back to the lake. The path had evidently not been used recently and was overgrown with brambles that scratched us all over as we struggled downhill. From time to time our way was obstructed by patches of marshland, but although we sank deep in mud several times we were determined to go on, and finally arrived back at the shore. A water snake gliding along lifted its head to look at us before disappearing into the reeds. Since returning the difficult way we had come would be too exhausting, we took another path that led uphill through the forest. The heat increased our weariness. Suddenly we saw a huge moth caught in a spidr'sn web and wrestling to free itself. There was a dramatic struggle between prey and predator. Everything depended on those few seconds, as the moth thrashed about and the spider hurried to strengthen its web. Climbing onto the web it attached a thread then descended to repeat the process at the bottom, but to no avail; the moth finally freed its wing and made its escape.

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A day at Lake Terkos
2003 / JULY

The spider set about mending its web in readiness for next time. Here, so close to Istanbul, and even within the city itself, nature is exuberant. In each tiny patch of greenery there is a battle for survival on a micro level. If we had stayed at home, we would have got up late, and after breakfast perhaps even been deterred by the heat from going outside and stayed in to watch television. Instead we had fitted so much into one short day, that as we drove back home our trip to Lake Terkos seemed almost like a dream.

* Yildirim Güngör is a geologist

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