For those who seek a long weekend getaway from Istanbul or Ankara, Sapanca, Abant Lake, Yedigöller (Seven Lakes) and Kartalkaya are among the most well known locations. These regions, which offer nature’s beauty and colours in all seasons, have been our winter holiday destination following our desire to give a little break to France where we have been skiing for years.
We wanted to take a break in Sapanca following a few hours of comfortable car ride from Istanbul. It was great to find ourselves in nature easily. With a lovely view over the lake, the Sasa Harmanlik restaurant is ideal for a stopover in this area. However, when I was passing through Sapanca and walking near the lake, I found a very different place from where I visited at least 25 years ago. Signs of all real estate offices were in Arabic. On the benches, there were ads for cheap houses for sale catered specifically for the Arabs. The lakeside is completely invaded by visitors from Dubai, Qatar etc. Trips on the lake are offered on Sultanate-style boats. What does Sapanca Lake have anything to do with Sultanate boats? Neither historically nor visually they complement each other. I can portray this as a gaudy, gold-plated and ugly attraction specifically for Arab visitors. Especially when the shopowners tried to speak Arabic to us, we realized that Sapanca was now completely a lost cause. The locals told us that local tourists from large Turkish cities no longer visit this place because it is full of Arabs.
When we reached Abant Lake in the evening, the entire landscape was white under thick snow. It was also uncomfortable to see that the Buyuk Abant Hotel, where we stayed, was also invaded by Arabs and Malaysians. While searching for an information brochure about Lake Abant and its surroundings, we found that there were only booklets written in Arabic (we gave up on English, not even in Turkish). The problem is not the Arabs. The problem is that only the Arabs come. Why are these beautiful places marketed only to those countries? Why are there no tourists from other parts of the world? The behavior in the hotel’s dining room would push away even the Turkish tourists. Travelling or going on holiday may be seen as a luxury in times of economic difficulties. However, in order to prevent the touristic establishments from being directed to only one type of tourists, local tourists should also come here and fill the hotels from big cities of Turkey. This is also a type of struggle not to lose the country.
During the day we stayed in Lake Abant, it was very difficult to see the lake clearly. However, the nature park, under the snow, was simply magnificent and peaceful. Unfortunately, this weather also prevented us from driving to Yedigöller. We will have to leave it to some other time to explore Yedigöller. I hope that nature will not be harmed until then and there will be no unpleasant tourist behaviour. We saw many abandoned dogs around Lake Abant. They were looking for their owners out in the cold and waiting in great sadness. Their bodies were covered in snow. When we asked the hotel, they told mus that they did not feed the animals with the leftovers from the guests. Human being is such a cruel creature.
Our snow tires needed additional chains as we were driving up the cotton white Bolu Mountains in -9. Nevertheless, it wasn't impossible. Moreover, it was like travelling in a winter wonderland with its unspoiled nature. It was a different view from the French and Swiss Alps, where there are villages and ski resorts one after another. The Alps are also quite beautiful, but I also enjoyed the untouched beauty of the Bolu Mountains. I hope this will never change and the nature will be not be sacrificed to tourism and construction.
Luckily the snow was great. The ski slopes are also very adequate for our level. However, people who try to take photographs in the morning can create a lot of crowds. Renting the ski equipment is far more expensive than in France. We paid what we pay for a week in France, only for 2 days in Kartalkaya. A child care facility, nanny or nursery system would be very helpful in these hotels. Also, offering salep as a hot drink option at tea time wouldn’t be so bad either. Just a few suggestions…