Polonezköy is not an easy village to visit as there is no public transportation. One must rent a car, or a bus as we did. The road leading to the village is full of twists and turns and beautiful green forests. From the moment you leave the city you are immediately filled with a sense of traveling back through time. Arriving in the village you see roadside vendors selling fresh produce and quaint homes that have survived for more than a 170 years.
Polonezköy, also known as Adampol, is a small Polish village on the outskirts of the Asian side of Istanbul. It was founded in 1842 by a Polish Prince and at it’s most populated remained small with less than 250 Polish immigrants residing there. Today it is a popular tourist attraction for those in Istanbul wishing to escape the concrete and bustle of the city.
Our day started with meeting at Beşiktaş and taking a chartered bus to the village. Most of us were prepared for a bus ride that would take at least an hour. Instead we arrived within forty-five minutes due to one of those rare days where Istanbul traffic doesn’t leave you at a standstill. The ride took us through areas of wealth where the houses left us in absolute awe followed by a forest of green that most of us hadn’t seen since arriving in Istanbul. The village may be considered part of Istanbul, but it was clear we were entering a different world and time altogether.
After arriving in the village we visited the local market to gather snacks for a picnic. The market was small and carried every kind of snack and treat one could imagine. After making our purchases we walked along an unpaved road lined with vendors selling jewelry, crafts, scarves, and clothes. The items on display were beautiful but expensive as Polonezköy is more popular with the affluent of Istanbul.
We eventually arrived at a gate that led into a garden of wildflowers that ended at a small, historic home named Anı Evi, or the Memorial House of Zofia Rizi. It is one of the oldest houses in Polonezköy and has been converted into a small museum. The house is filled with photographs of famous Polish immigrants who had lived in or visited the village. Much of the house remains as it was when it was inhabited with beds and wardrobes on display, family photo albums tucked into corners, portraits of the Virgin Mary still in place.
Our visit to Anı Evi was followed by a leisurely walk through the forests on a trail that is frequented by the many visitors seeking fresh air and an escape from the concrete jungle. We were met with many signs indicating this was a forest that was protected by Turkish environmental laws and that the siting of deer was common. We ended our walk with a picnic in a large field with incredible views of the hills surrounding and protecting this safe haven of history. Many games of football and volleyball were enjoyed along with simply laying in the sun and taking it all in. After hours of relaxation we ended our day with unexpected visits from men offering horse rides across the field for five liras. Many in our group took up the offer. The result of tall guys on somewhat smaller horses was a site that had many of us laughing for hours after.
Polonezköy might be a bit of a journey to reach if you do not have access to your own transportation, but it is certainly worth every mile it takes to arrive. It is a village situated in a forest that makes you feel as though you took a time machine to reach it. You leave with a sense of history and a peace that can seldom be felt amidst the concrete and rush of everyday Istanbul life.