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The Secret Garden of Kasnak

High in the Toros Mountains, Chris Gardener finds the remote Kasnak Forest carpeted with peonies in spring. Photographs by Kate Clow

  • The peony Paeonia mascula, subsp mascula, glowing in the Kasnak Forest. The plant is a long-lived perennial, but its flowers last only a week or two. Photograph: Kate Clow

Dawn reveals towering limestone peaks tinted with soft sunlight and mirrored in the calm of a vast inland lake. It is a cool May morning at Lake Eğirdir, in Turkey’s southwest, and we are here to search out the rare orchids and tiny alpine flowers which thrive in this rugged landscape.

As any self-respecting botanist will tell you, Turkey in spring is a land of bewildering variety. Here, within the Toros Mountains, are many different habitats, each filled with myriad floral gems. Yet one particular day, the day we spent among carpets of peonies, stands out from all the rest.

The Kasnak National Park is an area of natural mixed forest just below the treeline. At 1600 metres a diverse botanical treasure lies hidden amid its stands of graceful cedar, juniper and hornbeam, manna ash and five species of oak, including the eponymous Kasnak Oak (Quercus volcanica)…

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Issue 22, 2000/2001 The Sultan’s Chalet
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Other Highlights from Cornucopia 22
  • Painter to Four Tsars, Two Sultans and a Pope

    The Russian artist Ivan Aivazovsky may have been derided by the avant-garde, but his dreamy seascapes and atmospheric panoramas won him patrons in high places. Ivan Samarine rediscovers a 19th-century virtuoso

  • Music to a Sultan’s Ears

    Visitors to 1830s Istanbul were astonished to hear the strains of Rossini and Donizetti performed by Ottoman bands. As Emre Aracı reveals, Western music was the passion of Mahmud II

  • The Sultan’s Chalet

    The world’s grandest chalet was built by Abdülhamid II for the visit of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1889 and was a powerhouse of political activity in the final years of the empire. Today the house in the grounds of Yıldız Palace, on a hill in Istanbul, is all but forgotten. Philip Mansel treads softly through its silent halls. Photographs by Fritz von der Schulenburg

  • Hot news from Kula

    To save its fine architecture, a volcanologist has come up with a plan: to turn Kula into an elegant spa town by tapping its plentiful thermal springs. By Roger Williams. Photographs by Jean Marie del Moral and Roger Williams

  • Meatball Wizard

    Three köftes still stand out in my memory. Just thinking of them makes my taste buds ache. The first was in my early childhood: freshly grilled cizbiz kofte, a round patty the size of a flattened walnut, so named because it makes a delicious ‘jiz-biz’ sizzling sound as it cooks…
    More cookery features

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Issue 22, 2000/2001 The Sultan’s Chalet
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