Göksu and the surrounding region bring together magnificent views of the Bosphorus, historical structures, streets that speak of old Istanbul, and quality restaurants with a high level of service where you can eat breakfast or dinner. Individuals, couples, and large groups are aware of the pleasure and peace that can be found here today, as in previous centuries.
The song “Row the boat my beauty, let’s go to Göksu” is not just an invitation to those who don’t know how to defeat their boredom, but also instructions for those who want to explore the city. Whatever the reason for going to Göksu, the area appears like an award before you. A day away from the Istanbul you know, from the hustle and bustle of a megacity, from routine -isn’t this an award? On a sunny November day, using the Marmaray to shorten my journey by half, I crossed to Üsküdar and jumped on a bus to Beykoz. I passed by Paşalimanı at the bottom of the Fetih Paşa Woods, then Kuzguncuk, then the stop for Beylerbeyi Palace, on to Çengelköy with its small-town charm, along the fishing grounds of Kuleli, and after the walls, along the seaside, where the yalıs (mansions) are hidden behind the trees on the land side, and the neighborhood of Vaniköy, with its mansions. I finally get off the bus in Kandilli. I am at the beginning of my journey. With my target being Göksu, I knew I had about a 10-kilometer hike in front of me. My starting point was Kandilli, Anadolu Hisarı, and the streets along the top of the hills.
I started to head up the hills from Kandilli Iskele Street. At the beginning of the street, an old fountain seemed to be saying “If you are going up, take water with you.” There was a bit of a hill in front of me, with traditional wooden Turkish houses on both sides. On the left was Kayalı Bayır Street, a little ahead on the right was Kurt Bağrı Street, where there are even more wooden houses. The name of Iskele Street changes a little way up the hill and becomes Fatinhoca Street; both sides of the road are lined with wooden houses. This is far from the Istanbul we know. I was now in a scenery where there are two- and three-story houses sitting in gardens. These streets are as calm as Istanbul streets are crowded, and they are full of greenery. The manuscripts that were produced in Kandilli, coming from the most skilled studios that produced 19th-century manuscripts, are gone. The purple wisterias that decorated the gardens of the manor houses have also disappeared with the arrival of autumn, but there is still color here. The garden walls are covered in vines that change from green to yellow to red -it is really beautiful.
The streets of Kandilli, like Bahçe, Konuk, and Hanımoğlu, are not only narrow but steep, and yet they offer energy and freshness. If this were not the case, no one would have built houses here in the age before the automobile. Sıraevler Street is the flattest of these locations, and as it has a clear view, it is a street with a row of manor houses. Adile Sultan Palace overlooks a stupendous Bosphorus view. This palace and the Cemile Sultan Woods are favorite locations for weddings and other celebrations.
I go down the Kandilli hills towards the coast and head for Küçüksu along the main avenue. At the end of Üsküdar there is a wide park on the seaside. This lets me know that I have arrived at the beginning of Beykoz. At one time, the Europeans knew this as “Asia’s Sweet Waters” and these two streams that run side by side into the sea form the region known as Küçüksu Kasrı (mansion). This region in the past was well loved by Sultan Murad IV (1623-1640) and was known as “Silver Cypress.” The wooden palace that was built on the shore for Sultan Mahmud I (1730-1754) was used until the era of Mahmud II (1808-1839) and according to the records, the manor standing there now was built on the orders of Sultan Abdülmecid and was opened in 1857.
The Mihrişah Valide Mosque, made from cut stone and standing across from the manor, stands next to the wide Küçüksu Meadows, which were used as an excursion spot. A hundred meters ahead of this, by the sea, you can see the Küçüksu Pier. Immediately next to the pier is the Küçüksü Kasrı Cafeteria, run by the Directorate of National Palaces Administration. The restaurant section is now closed, but the café is still open. The viewing pier stretches 30 meters out to sea. Seeing an empty spot, I walked among the tables and found a place at the furthest edge. On the opposite shore is the Bebek coast, Anadolu Hisarı, which stands grandly observing the Bosphorus, and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, which stretches between the two coasts. Accompanied by these, I eat delicious meatballs, and then pull apart the remaining bread and throw it into the sea. Aggressive mullets fight to get their share.
Returning to Küçüksü Kasrı, I take a short tour of the garden and then enter the building. The railing surrounding the garden, and in particular, the iron door lead people to look at the entire structure with wonder before even entering. The building’s carved marble is surprisingly detailed and intense. The fountain in the garden, built in the name of Mihrişah Valide Sultan, appears plain despite the carvings on the roof and the surfaces; yet its simplicity is magnificent. The manor has a basement and four rooms, consisting of two floors, but no bedrooms. However, every room has been decorated with fireplaces, armchairs, chandeliers, and all details that make it magnificent. It is said that the interior design was by Sechan, and the building designed by Nigoğos Balyan.
While crossing the bridge that connects Kandilli Avenue with Anadolu Hisarı over the Göksu Stream, Göksu, due to the large number of boats, looks more like a marina than a stream. This chaotic view and the beauty of the stream, in my mind, are in total harmony.
The views of the streets in Kandilli appear before me with Setüstü and Kızıl Serçe Street, which run parallel to one another. The wooden houses and narrow streets gather around Muhaşşi Sinan Mosque, which is 445 years old.
Kızıl Serçe Street is busier. For those who want to spend the night in Göksu, there are two boutique hotels. For people like me, there are cafés that overlook the stream. While drinking my coffee, I find the song “Row the boat my beauty, let’s go to Göksu” by Arif Sami Toker online. It is still possible to row along the Göksu Stream, to relive the joy of past days in the song, but the most magnificent days were in the 18th century... The oil paintings of famous artists like Zonaro and Halil Pasha, the photographs of Guillaume Berggren and Sebah & Joaillier demonstrate clearly that Göksu Stream was the center of boating pleasure in daytime. It is rumored that on moonlit nights, entertainment accompanied by songs and music, handsome young men would twirl their moustaches and in response, young girls would drop their handkerchiefs and all-consuming romances would begin. If one considers that songs reflect the mood of the period, it is worth listening to the song "Gidelim Göksu’ya Bir Âlem-i Âb Eyleyelim" composed by Lavtacı Hristo (d. 1914) and written by Yahya Kemal, and imagining.
It’s time to leave. In a little while, the sun will set and the Bosphorus will appear even more magnificent with the lights. While watching the boats that are entering and leaving Göksu, I realize that I forgot to eat bonito and shrimp stew. Anadolu Hisarı’s fine dining restaurant, Gümüş Yalı, is located in Şeyh Talat Efendi Mansion. This is the best place to savor both the Bosphorus and fish. It is clear that the evening will pass pleasantly.