The district of Şile, a Black Sea fishing village that evolved into a popular holiday spot for residents of Istanbul, is serving another purpose nowadays. It has become a haven for those escaping the bustling city life marred by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Usually full of tourists on weekends, Şile is also home to summer houses belonging to Istanbulites. Lingering good weather this fall coupled with the fear of pandemic in Turkey’s most crowded city made Şile one of Istanbul’s most popular remote districts. Holidaymakers and summer house owners scrapped plans for a return to the city in September. They continue to enjoy pristine beaches except on busy weekends and say they feel safer there than in central parts of Istanbul where crowds are inevitable.
Zafer Polat settled in Şile in May, two months after the virus made its foray into Turkey and his company switched to work-from-home. When schools closed as well and his children switched to remote education, he decided to extend his stay. “We don’t intend to go back and will stay here as long as possible. It is especially good for children. They are bored of staying at home in Istanbul, but here, they can go anywhere freely,” he says.
Cemalettin Ulaş, who has been spending his summer holidays in Şile for the past two decades, says he doesn’t think returning to Istanbul is a good idea at this time. “Istanbul is too crowded. It is calm here, and Şile has a cleaner environment. I have a chronic illness so it is better to stay here,” he says.