• MELİH USLU • ŞENGÜL TUNCER
Watching a sea of leaves reflected on a lake in a thousand and one hues, deep in a magical forest that never fails to preserve its silence... this must be the meaning of fall!
Imagine a forest where greens turn to yellows, yellows to reds and reds to browns. A forest that offers all the magic of smoky mountains, crystal clear lakes, majestic trees and no end of flowers. Let there be in that forest not one lake but many. Let them be covered in a sea of leaves, of every color. Colors that fade into another color but never fade away... Shall we go to such a dreamland, you and I? Shall we turn an ordinary autumn day into a child-like fantasy? Shall we spend summer’s last moments in such a spot? If your answer is yes, then our destination is the Seven Lakes.
MEET PARADISE IN THE FLESH
We cast off the weariness of the 42-km drive from Bolu city center in no time at all. No sooner had we reached the Seven Lakes than we found ourselves in the middle of an autumn fairytale in which all the colors of nature were reflected in harmonious array. We delve deep into the forest to discover the lakes whose names become synonymous with day trips and weekend getaways. As you view the Seven Lakes from the Kapankaya Viewing Terraces along the way, you will feel you’re in an eagle’s eyrie. And the nature hike you start from the shores of Büyükgöl, the largest of the region’s lakes, proceeds along a trail that could be termed easy. Right next to Büyükgöl, which reaches a depth of 15 meters, is its little sister, Deringöl. Taking a break at Dilek Fountain, confluence of the springs that feed the lake, is a Seven Lakes tradition. Our next stop are the rock formations known as Gülen Kayalar, or the Smiling Rocks, since they resemble the profile of a person with a grin on his face. This time we encounter another lake, Nazli Göl, whose slightly tremulous surface reflects fall’s most beautiful colors. It’s not for nothing that it is also known as the Waterfall Lake, for the powerful springs that seep into the lake bottom here form a tiny cascade. After a few moments of restful reflection on the play of light and color on the lake surface, three more small lakes await us in the environs: Kurugöl, Sazligöl and İncegöl, named poetically ‘dry’, ‘reedy’ and ‘dainty’ lake.
A VIRTUAL NATURE MUSEUM
Scattered through forest so dense as to almost blot out the sun, the lakes are flung out across two separate plateaus 800 meters above sea level. Following a well-marked road created for touring the national park easily, you can comfortably see all the lakes in a couple hours. While seeking the lakes, each one of which is associated with a beauty in keeping with its name, you will be accompanied by blackberries, mushrooms and the rustle of leaves underfoot. But even when you’ve seen the lakes, their surprises still don’t end. It’s as if we are in a tunnel of trees that form a natural canopy against the chill winds. The ruins at Köyyeri indicate that this was once a Byzantine settlement. The highest point of the region, which slopes down from north to south, is the hill known as Eğrikiriş Tepesi at 488 meters, the lowest point Kirazçati at 465 meters. Boasting one of Anatolia’s loveliest mixed forests, this region is a virtual plant and tree museum. Formed mostly by beech trees, the dense forest cover is complemented by oak, hornbeam, alder, pine, fir, birch, elm, poplar, ash, hazelnut and linden. Each tree seems to have been set in place according to an architectural master-plan. Red, green, yellow, brown and purple, the Seven Lakes resemble a painstakingly painted pastoral canvas.
A BREEDING STATION BUT NO DEER
Every season, indeed every month, has its own special look and color at the Seven Lakes. Don’t be abashed if you encounter the colorful rockroses known as labdanum in spring, and cyclamen growing around the roots of trees throughout the summer months. The water lilies floating on the lake surface meanwhile bloom both summer and fall. Our stroll continues along paths shaded by trees that soothe the soul and transport us to other realms. We would like to see the deer breeding station that appears on the regional settlement plan. But we learn from the officials that there are no deer here at the moment and that those raised in past months have already been released into the wild. Every nook and cranny of the Seven Lakes is a different world. A broad expanse where the trees thin out a little is decked with picnic tables. The appetite is unlimited in this oxygen-rich natural environment. On condition that you bring your own provisions of course, for there is no place to shop in the area. There is no way you will get your fill of the Seven Lakes in a day or two. But strolling through a forest that never fails to preserve its silence, accompanied by myriad scents and the light sifting down through the tree branches, and seeing their silhouettes reflected on the lake... such is autumn at the Seven Lakes.
Lake Abant, Gölcük, Sünnetgöl, Karagöl, Lake Çubuk, Lake Karamurat, Lake Çağa and even more... Did you know that Bolu province boasts a total of 84 lakes, 14 of them natural? An Apple Festival will take place 14-20 October at Lake Seben, which is tipped to become Abant’s next rival in popularity. Thirty kilometers from Bolu, this lake is encircled by the pristine Black Sea highlands.
HOW TO GET THERE
The national park 42 km north of Bolu can be reached by taking the Yeniçaga exit from the TEM and then following the Yedigöller (Seven Lakes) signs on the Mengen road.
WHAT TO BUY
Bolu pine-scented cologne, palace halvah, large white ‘atom’ beans, potato bread, noodles and the local cheeses are some of the things you can buy here.
WHAT TO EAT
Don’t leave without trying Bolu-style stews cooked in large cauldrons, as well as the local trout, hazelnut candy, honey and clotted cream.
WHERE TO STAY
To stay overnight in one of the mountain cabins with a fireplace that are scattered through the forest, you will need to make a reservation with the (+90 374 215 36 13). There is also a camp ground for tents and caravans.