I have lived for several years in Turkey and spent most of my time traveling up and down the country, but for some reason I have never been to the European part, with the exception of crossing the bridge in Istanbul, that is.
Therefore, I was absolutely thrilled when an invitation from the Trakya Development Agency brought me to this, so far, unknown destination.It turned out to be a revelation.
Before setting off, I had done my homework but I am still amazed at the incredible variety of things to do and see in this part of Turkey, bordering Greece and Bulgaria as well as the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara.
From prehistoric settlements to Ottoman mosques, caves, rain forests, vineyards, cities and small villages to beaches and oil wrestling, the list can go on and on. And I haven’t even touched on the cuisine and the local arts and crafts.
Today’s post is dedicated to nature and Thrace’s efforts to preserve it. Follow me on a tour of three outstanding gifts of Mother Nature.
Igneada Longoz National Park
Located near the border with Bulgaria in the Black Sea region this huge national park is a rare ecosystem which combines seasonal flooded forests with swamps, five fresh water lakes, rivers and coastal sand dunes.
The typical trees growing in the forest are alder, ash, beech, oak and linden which make this a l forest where sunlight filters in as opposed to the darker aspects of dense pine forests. Because of the protection which this unique ecosystem receives, it is also the habitat of rare wildlife such as snow cats, black storks and butterflies.
You can hike the forest to your heart’s content but you need a guide as otherwise it’s easy to get lost, not least because it is so vast.
We were lucky to meet with representatives of the environment protection agency in Demirkoy which works closely with European Greenbelt and to see a video presentation of the flora and fauna of Igneada Longoz and the efforts which are made to preserve this piece of pristine nature. Because of this you may be able to see a snow cat and admire orchids , butterflies and hundreds of species of birds.
I don’t know if there is such a thing as a cozy cave, but the Dupisna cave, which is actually three caves located at a distance of some 30km from Demirkoy certainly deserves this moniker. You can only reach the caves by traveling through the Igneada Longoz forest which allows you to combine two of the most beautiful attractions in Thrace.
It is estimated that the caves are approx. 180 million years old and the complex consists of three caves, the Kuru Cave, the Kiz Cave and the Sulu Cave, interlinked on two different levels.
The entire system is some 2,7km long, but only a rather small part is open to the public and accessible since 2003. Some of my co-travelers were concerned that they might get claustrophobic venturing into the caves and that’s why I call them cozy. The caves are easy to negotiate, although you have to climb a bit, the paths are well maintained, the steps aren’t slippery and nowhere along the way do the walls or ceiling close in so that you might feel trapped.
Which makes is suitable for people who otherwise might get anxious.
Stalactites and stalagmites of various shapes and length can be admired and are literally highlighted by very clever lighting.
Underground creeks and lakes add to the fairy tale atmosphere and if you are lucky you can even see a few of the 60.000 bats which inhabit the caves hanging upside down high above your head.
If you continue to the end of the path, you alight on top of a small hill, if you go down the same way, you find a pleasant picnic area with a kiosk and facilities.
Forget for a while about the more famous beach resorts on Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean coast and head for Thrace instead. There is plenty of choice and we were happy to enjoy the beach at Tekirdag on the Sea of Marmara and, as we were visiting the forest and caves anyway, had a fabulous fish lunch in a pretty little harbor town near Demirkoy and then proceeded to the marvels of 20kms of golden sand at the Igneada Beach. Even gold dust has been found in the sand but don’t bank on getting rich.
Located on the west side of the Black Sea the Igneada Beach and Spa resort is a great place to stay, getting pampered in the beauty center or enjoying swims in the shallow and very safe waters or long walks along the beach with the mountains in the background.