We arrive in Beykoz at noon. Sunlight glitters on a green meadow, historical waterside mansions and seagulls that have came out to watch the Bosporus. The villages in Beykoz, a lovely district that welcomes people with the smell of the sea, have a unique beauty just like the Bosporus line. If you are tired of the clamor of the city you should try Beykoz, where you can rest under the shade of trees, taste fruit from the mountain and eat fresh fish.
“My dear girl, you must go to Dereseki and drink water from the Karakulak spring. The great taste of cranberries and cherry laurel will linger in your mouth for two days. Remember that!” said Uncle Niyazi, a relative of mine. The old know everything and we youngsters need to take their advice, so it’s time to set off. A sign that reads “Dereseki” appears in front of us some time after we leave downtown Beykoz. Örnekköy, Elmalı and Mahmutşevketpaşa are all villages neighboring Dereseki. Dereseki is between the villages of Kaynarca and Akbaba. After traveling down a sinuous road, we finally arrived in the little village. On the right side of the road was a sign reading “To Tomb of Kırklar Sultan.” Every place has its own spiritual mentor and Dereseki’s is Kırklar Sultan.
Time for prayer before Kırklar Sultan
Named after a Muslim saint, Yuşa Hill is a must-see in Beykoz. The tomb of Yuşa and a mosque are found on the hill. Visitors from all over Turkey come here to visit it. If you happen to come to Beykoz, do visit the tomb of Kırklar Sultan’s after visiting Yuşa. According to the story, after Kırklar Sultan was killed on the banks of a nearby creek while going to İstanbul with the army, that place was named Dereseki or “creek bank.”
The board standing near the gate of the tomb reads “The person buried here is said to be a sayyid -- a descendent of the Prophet Muhammad’s family -- and his grave was discovered via spiritual means by Naqshibendi [a dervish order] Sheikh Kemal Efendi in the time of Süleyman the Magnificent. He was among the 40 Muslim saints who are called ‘kırklar’ [the 40s]. He is said to have met Khidr [a figure believed to be a saint or a prophet] and it is widely assumed that he had the gift of being able to read minds.”
According to another story, Kırklar Sultan was one of the 40 students of Abdul-Qadir Gilani, an Islamic preacher and sheikh. It is advised that you visit the tomb of Kırklar Sultan and pray there, as he is a Sufi mystic and scholar. We open our hands in prayer, and then leave the tomb, hoping that God accepted our supplications.
A village full of springs
After visiting this tomb we continued on the road toward the village. It is so silent and quiet here that it feels as if the village is deserted. However, this feeling ends as we hear the distinct ringing of teaspoons from the village coffee house. We know we are in the village square when we see the mukhtar’s office and the elders of the village sitting on the left side of the road. Dereseki is just like a typical village in the Black Sea region and springs greet you at almost every step. Some of them are no longer flowing, but we find a few springs with water to fill our bottles.
Plastic water containers are lined up in front of the fountain and there is a queue to fill them. You will notice that it is clean, pure and soft water that has a distinctive quality and taste. Dereseki is famous for the Karakulak, Sırmakeş, Deli Osman, Kırklar, Beyaz Pınar and Kirazlı Dermal springs.
Centuries ago, the fame of the Karakulak spring spread far beyond the borders of the empire. Water from the spring was favored in palaces in Egypt, Syria and France. Karakulak spring water is said to have been discovered by Karakulak Ahmet Ağa (a title reserved for landowners), who worked on barns at the time. After he discovered it, he built a fountain for it himself.
The spring was rebuilt in the period of Sultan Selim III and it is said that its water was served to sultans in silver water jugs. In the period of Sultan Abdülhamit II, the value of this water increased and military guards kept watch over it to regulate people coming to get water. At some point the water was put in sealed bottles and delivered to various places via boats. In the 1950s the fountain was restored. Unfortunately the spring does not run today; however, this artifact of historical heritage continues to be protected.
Cranberry season is on
Cranberries signify the coming of autumn, as they fruit in September and October. The cranberry loses its leaves for the winter and dies back until spring. It is very abundant in the Black Sea region and on İstanbul’s hillsides near the Black Sea coast. You can also find cranberries in Dereseki. It is hard to describe the taste of cranberries, which are red, olive-sized fruits with a sour taste. Although you may not like cranberries when you first try them, they may be addictive once you get used to them. It is said that cranberries are very healthy, provided that you do not overeat them, while cranberry compote, marmalade, jam and tarhana (a dried food made chiefly of curds and flour) are very delicious. If you think there is no harm in putting on a few pounds, you can buy fresh cranberries in Beykoz from a villager from the Black Sea.