BLACK SEA REGION


The vibrant green of Turkey's lush, humid Black Sea Coast surprises those who imagine the country to be nothing but barren steppe. From the European border with Bulgaria to the Georgian border, dense pine forests cover the mountaintops while lush vegetation and bountiful crops grow in the lower elevations and valleys. Along the lower elevations and valleys. Along the coastline, mile after mile of beautiful uncrowded beaches offer sun, swimming and relaxation. In the springtime, delicate wild-flower blossoms carpet the rolling meadows of the eastern hills.

The wooden houses in fishing villages and mountain hamlets alike preserve indigenous and traditional architectural styles. The humid climate and fertile soil encourage cultivation of a variety of crops including tea, tobacco, corn and hazelnuts. The magic of such a diverse landscape proves irresistible to any friend of nature, whether hiker or mountain climber or canoe enthusiast; whether you go in by mountain bike or by jeep safari.

Archaeological excavations from the early Bronze Age settlements at Ikiztepe in Samsun Province have uncovered evidence of the region's earliest inhabitants. The Hittites, Miletians, Phrygians and, according to Homer, the Amazons all colonized parts of the coast Alexander the Great in his world conquest also brought the region under his sovereignty. Eventually, it was incorporated into the Roman and then the Byzantine Empire. The 15th century saw the greater part of the area come under the Ottoman rule of Sultan Mehmet II.

THE WESTERN BLACK SEA COAST

The Yildiz (Istranca) Mountains bisect the province of Kirklareli. Lush mountainous landscape dotted with quaint houses transport you to an idyllic and tranquil Riviera. In the city of Kirklareli the oldest mosque is the Hizirbey Mosque, built in 1383. The mosque complex includes a bazaar. Nearly stands a hamam (hath) also built under the patronage of Hizir Bey. The 14th century Kirklar Memorial with its impressive 18 columns stands on Kirklar Hill honouring the site where 40 soldiers lost their lives when the Ottomans conquered this area under the command of Murat. I. The Archaeology Museum exhibits finds from local excavations..

The Sokollu Mosque in Luleburgaz, on the Edirne-Istanbul road, is an exquisite work of Sinan that dates from 1570. The neighbouring town of Babaeski also boasts a Sinan building in the Cedid Ali Pasa Mosque.

Vize (Byzia), an important Byzantine centre, houses the Kucuk Ayasofya church and a castle, both dating from the Byzantine period.

If you are travelling north to Bulgaria, linger for a few hours in the peaceful and green town of Derekoy, the last stop before the border.

Kirklareli's Black Sea Coast is another place to enjoy beaches and good fish restaurants. Igneada, 98 km east of Kirklareli, lies sandwiched between sandy shores and the Yildiz Mountains. Kiyikoy (Midye) is another holiday resort town with good accommodation and picturesque dwellings from the Middle Ages. The town and its walls date from the Byzantine period. The best site to visit in Midye is the historic St. Nicholas Rock Monastery.

Also on the European Black Sea coast, only 35 km from Istanbul, are the sandy beaches, and hotels, motels and camping facilities of Kilyos.

Across the Bosphorus, on the Asian shore, Sile's (71 km from Istanbul) long sandy beaches, overlooked by the remains of a Genoese Castle, attract many visitors. The excellent restaurants and nightlife make it a popular weekend retreat for Istanbul residents. Cotton blouses and shirts (Sile Bezi) are sewn and embroidered here.

Originally founded by a Polish prince as a home for Polish exiles, Polonezkoy (25 km from Istanbul) has been transformed into a relaxing resort with guest houses and restaurants serving a delicious selection of fresh local produce. Inland from the coast, the rolling hills and peaceful woods make an excellent area for horseback riding.

Agva (50 km east of Sile), on the banks of a river as well as on the shores of the Black Sea, is surrounded by lovely scenery, ideal for a camping holiday. Kerpe, Kefken and Karasu are three quaint fishing villages east of Agva. Delightful restaurants and limpid water draw a constant stream of visitors.

Inland, between Ankara and Istanbul, is Bolu (262 km from Istanbul and 192 km from Ankara), an important provincial centre with an impressive 14th-century Ulu Mosque and modern thermal facilities close at hand. The Bolu Archaeology and Ethnography Museum has artifacts from the Hittite, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman periods. Southwest of Bolu is the popular and relaxing Lake Abant resort, set in lovely alpine surroundings at an altitude of 1,500 meters. Istanbul dwellers often escape to the lake for a weekend of fresh air and exercise.

In the Koroglu Mountains is Kartalkaya, one of Turkey)s major ski resorts. In the summer you can stop for a picnic at Golcuk Lake. The breathtakingly beautiful Yedi Goller (Seven Lakes) National Park lies north of Bolu. Nearby, the town of Mengen has a reputation for its good cooks and holds the annual Chels Festival of in August, featuring traditional Turkish specialities.

The sites around Konuralp (53 km from Bolu) the ancient Prusa ad Hypium, continue to yield artifacts from both the Roman and Byzantine periods, which are on display in the coast, the levelly beach and comfortable guest houses and hotels at Akcakoca ensure that it remains of a Genoese castle now set amid hazelnut groves.

Alapli is an ideal place for water sports, especially sailing and surfing. Long sandy beaches stretch both east and west on both sides of the town.

Eregli, whose ancient name was Heraklea ad Pontus, stands on a hill adjacent to a Byzantine castle. In the spring the aroma of strawberries, some of the sweetest grown in Turkey, fills the air, making a visit a mouth-watering experience. Eregli derives its name from the mythological demi-headed dog, Cerberus, guardian of the gates of hell. According to Xenophon, Cerberus resided in the cave Cehennemagzi (Entrance to Hell), outside of Eregli near Kavakderesi. Zonguldak is a major centre of coal production and an important Black Sea port. The scenic road on the east side of town leads to the areas of Kopuz and Uzunkum, where tea gardens and restaurants beckon tourists to spend a leisurely afternoon.

Connoisseurs of line handcrafted wood, travel to Devrek, a pretty town, 50 km southeast of Zonguldak, to purchase its renowned wooden canes.

Karabuk, situated 10 km southeast of Safranbolu is the most important industrial centre in Turkey known for its iron and steel industry. Not far from Karabuk lies the charming park of Camlik the perfect place for rest and relaxation. The entire area is dotted with pine forests and there is a lovely tea garden and restaurant in a nice place to enjoy nature. Also inland and further to the east is charming Safranbolu Step back in time in the lovely "old world" style of the town to see some of the most beautiful traditional old homes, unique in Turkey for their outstanding design and construction. The most interesting of these include? Kaymakamlar House, Aygiroglu House, and Asmazlar Havuzlu Konak The Mektepciler House is also noteworthy as is the Haci Memisler House. Pasa House is also restored and has been converted into a lovely cafe and pension as is the Haci Memisler House. Pasa House is also restored and has been converted into a lovely cafe and pension as well. The castle on the hill offers a vista of the town. Be sure to see the Cinci Inn and Hamam (17th-century Turkish bath), the Izzet Pasa Mosque and Library (18th-century), and Kacak Mosque (19th-century), UNESCO has named Safranbolu as an international cultural area.

Safranbolu originally takes its name from the saffron fields that dotted the area in the 19th century. Today, saffron fields abound in the village of Davutobasi, 20 km away, where a thriving saffron business continues. Before leaving, be sure not to miss the Arasta (Old Bazaar) where you can watch craftsmen at work and bargain with them for their goods. The "lokum" (Turkish Delight) is also a special treat, unique among lokum connoisseurs and a must to sample.

About 36 km. south of Karabuk is Eskipazar, where the old Omer Beyler mansion is located. It is now restored and famous for its ornately decorated ceilings.

Bartin (80 km east of Zonguldak) is a pretty city of timbered houses that holds a strawberry festival every year in the spring. The remains of a Roman road dating back to the reign of the Emperor Claudius can still be seen. A boat trip on the Bartin river makes for a delightful excursion. Nearby Inkum has been developed into a holiday village with a sandy beach, restaurant and guest houses.

Amasra (17 km from Bartin), one of the most beautiful towns on the Black Sea coast, was called Sesamos in ancient times, when it was founded by the Miletians in the sixth century B.C. It stands on a peninsula made by two inlets. The eastern side enjoys a reputation for good swimming. On a rocky promontory rise the ramparts of a Byzantine citadel, inside of which is an old church, now the Fatih Mosque. The necropolis dates from the Roman period. Remnants from Amasra's entire history are displayed in the Archaeology Museum. You can purchase a lovely hand carved wooden souvenir on Cekiciler street. Continuing eastward along the coast, you arrive at Cakraz (15 km east of Amasra) a typical fishing village with excellent beaches, friendly accommodation and fine restaurants. The winding road between Cakraz and Inebolu has steep mountainsides and offers a spectacular panoramic view.

Beyond Cakraz Kurucasile, a town known for its fishing boat manufacturing. Cide, 28 km farther, has good hotels and a pleasant beach, providing comfort and relaxation. Gideros Bay will make you think a dream has come true.

Inebolu (100 km east of Cide) is a typical Black Sea town set in lush greenery displaying many fine examples of traditional Turkish architecture. East of Inebolu is Abana, another good holiday centre.

Situated inland amid beautiful forests, the provincial centre of Kastamonu (90 km south of Inebolu) also blasts several important monuments: the 12 th-century Byzantine castle, the 13 th - century Atabey Mosque and the Ibni Neccar Mosque of 1356. The Archaeology and Ethnography Museum displays artifacts found in the region and the Liva Pasa Mansion Museum also has local ethnographical artifacts. Near the town is Evkaya, a rock tomb dating from the sixth century B.C. In the village of Kasaba, the 14 th - century Mahmut Bey Mosque retains some of the finest wood carvings found anywhere in Turkey. About 41 km west of Kastamonu via Daday, Comlekciler village has traditional timber houses and farms offering country horseback riding tours. Then, 63 km south of Kastamonu is Ilgaz National Park, a delightful protected area in the Ilgaz Mountains, in which also is a ski centre and good accommodation. East of the park by the Devrez and Kizilirmak rivers, is Tosya where extensive rice fields cover the landscape. Ilgarini Cave, in the region of Pinarbasi (northwest of Kastamonu), is one of the largest caves in Turkey. It is a wonderful place trekking and exploration off the beaten path.

THE EASTERN BLACK SEA COAST

Sinop (192 km northeast of Kastamonu) is one on the most beautiful natural harbours of the Black Sea. It was founded in the seventh century by Miletian colonists and was the birthplace of the third - century philosopher, Diogenes the Cynic. The town's citadel and the foundations of a temple dedicated to Serapis date from that period. The Archaeology Museum exhibits several beautiful golden icons and the 18 th - century Aslan Torunlar Mansion Museum displays ethnographical artifacts. Other important monuments include the 13 th - century Alaeddin Mosque and the Alaiye Medrese. Excellent fish restaurants along the charming fisherman's wharf serve tasty meals while brightly coloured boats bobbing in the water complete the picturesque setting. Sinop is also known for its traditional nautical wooden carvings. Seaside hotels and holiday villages provide accommodation in all price ranges. Some 35 km to the southwest, high in the mountains, lie the yaylas (mountain plateaus) of Guzfindik and Bozarmut. At an elevation of 1,350 meters, these green pastures with their summer residents offer a o glimpse into a traditional way of life.

Gerze is situated on a peninsula 40 km east along the coast and is surrounded by parks and beaches. Farther along the coastal road, you arrive at Yakakent, a fishing village with clean, sandy beaches. Camgolu, a large forest which slopes to the sea, has camping sites, guest facilities and restaurants.

Turning inland, the road takes you to Bafra (30 km east of Yakakent) a town famous for its tobacco, caviar and thermal springs. Its 13th-century hamam and 15th-century mosque-medrese complex are sights worth seeing. Ikiztepe, 7 km northeast of Bafra is an archaeological site from the early Bronze Age that uncovers much of Black Sea regional history. The artifacts, including jewellery, which is especially important, can be seen in the Samsun museum.

Samsun (418 km northeast of Ankara) is a modern industrial city that has served as a major port for centuries. Products from all over the region are exported from this city, which annually hosts the Samsun Trade and Industrial Fair. Samsun found itself at the centre of the Turkish War of Independence on May 19, 1919, when Ataturk landed here to organize the defence of Anatolia. The Ataturk Museum houses many objects and documents relating to the war. An equestrian statue honouring the founder of the Republic stands in a prominent place in the city park. The 14 th-century Pazar Mosque and the 19 th - century Buyuk Mosque reflect two different Turkish architectural styles and are interesting to compare. The Archaeology Museum not only displays the finds from Ikiztepe but also artifacts from Dundartepe and Amisos, as Samsun was known in ancient times.

The charming little port of Unye (93 km east of Samsun) is one of the nicest holiday towns on the eastern Black Sea and justly boasts of its excellent beaches and camping facilities. Do not miss the extraordinary 18 th - century town hall. Within easy reach of Unye is the beautiful Camlik Beach.

After Fatsa (22 km east of Unye), another holiday town on the road to Ordu, the ruins of the Byzantine Jason Church, now a museum, stand on the Camburnu promontory. Legend has it that the Argonauts landed here on their quest for the Golden Fleece. Fish restaurants serving the finest tea found in the region dot the 50 km of scenic road to Ordu. Sea snails, a regional speciality, are particularly delicious at Yalikoy.

Returning from the Babylonian campaign, the survivors of "Xenophon's Ten Thousand" left Anatolia from Ordu in their retreat to Greece. Today, it is a beautiful port situated at the foot of a forested hill. In the Pasaoglu Konak (mansion), now the Ethnographical Museum, see how a rich and influential 19 th - century family lived. Hazelnut productival. Be sure to sample the delicious chocolate nut candy. It is worth spending some time at an 18th century church, 2 km of town, and the pretty beach of Guzelyali is worth Cambasi offering beautiful mountain views. The yayla of Keyfalan, at 2,000 meters, is another popular summer destination for local residents. The ruins of a Byzantine fortress offer a wonderful panorama of Giresun. It was from this city, ancient Cerasos, that the Roman general Lucullus exported the first cherry trees to Europe. An 18 th-century church (now a museum) makes a short visit worthwhile. Outside of town, Giresun Adasi (Giresun Island) is said to have once belonged to the Amazons. A ruined temple supports this theory. The Aksu Art and Culture Festival is a yearly event in May. To get off the beaten track, take an excursion to the high mountain yaylas of Bektas or Kumbet.

Between Giresun and Trabzon, are the quaint coastal towns of Kesap, Tirebolu, Gorele, Vakfikebir and Akcaabat squeezed between wooded mountains and the Black Sea waters. Stop at Gorele for delicious, submarine-shaped meat and cheese 'pitas', at Vakfikebir for the best butter and at Akcaabat to sample the best kofte (meat rolls).

Trabzon, the major city of the region, was founded in the 7th century B.C. by Miletian colonists, and was later at the centre of the Comegene Empire established after the fall of Byzantine Istanbul. The exiled Byzantine court ruled until 1461 when the Ottomans conquered the area. The jewel of Trabzon's monuments is the resorted 13th century Byzantine church, used for centuries as a mosque and now as the Ayasofya Museum. Splendid frescoes, some of the finest examples of Byzantine painting, cover every one of the interior church walls. Several other churches were converted to mosques, two becoming the Fatih Mosque and the Yeni Cuma Mosque. The Ottoman Gulbahar Mosque, a typical provincial style building, is set in a lovely tea garden. Wooden houses fill the old quarter nestled in the ancient fortifications, which still retain the spirit of a medieval town. The house which Ataturk stayed has been made into a museum. One the hills above Trabzon, Boztepe Park offers a beautiful view of the city and coastline. On the western slopes of Boztepe Hill stands the Irene Tower, built by Empress Irene of Trabzon in 1340. Just east of the city, the village of Surmene has an impressive 19th century mansion known as the Kastel.