Eastern Black Sea Coast Attractions
The Eastern Black Sea Coast has a number of significant attractions.
The provincial capital of Sinop enjoys a charming position on the central section of the Boztepe peninsula. It is both the most northerly point on the Turkish Black Sea coast and also the best protected harbor. It is now a place of little consequence compared with its importance in antiquity when it was a busy commercial city situated at the northern end of important caravan routes from Cappadocia and the lands of the Euphrates. Nowadays, however, communications with the Anatolian Plateau are rendered difficult by the intervening barrier of the West Pontic Mountains. The sandy beaches, with hotels and small airport, to the west of the town are well known. Sinope was an important Black Sea center in the eighth century B.C. when it was a Greek colony. In 413 B.C. the Cynic philosopher Diogenes (the one who lived in a tub and not to be confused with Diogenes of Apollonia) was born here.No buildings survive from the great days of Sinope apart from scanty remains of the citadel, a Temple of Serapis and the town walls near the harbor.
Visitors to the small town of Duragan 133km/82mi south of Sinop on the River Gökirmak will find a Seljuk caravanserai built in 1266 by Pervane Süleyman (Durak Hani). A large summer courtyard surrounded by vaulted chambers stands in front of the triple-aisled winter hall which points north. The corners of the complex are fortified with small semi-circular towers and the external walls reinforced with additional rectangular towers.
Bafra lies some 25km/15mi south of the wooded Bafra Burun where the Kizilirmak (Red River), known in antiquity as Halys, flows into the sea. Bafra is noted for its thermal springs, its tobacco and its caviar. Other sights include a 13th century bath-house and a 15th century complex consisting of a mosque, mausoleum and medrese. To the east of the town lies the coastal lagoon of Balik Gölü (Fish Lake). Further east along the Gulf of Samsun are large tobacco plantations.
Between 310 and 183 B.C. the delta of the old Halys formed the border between Paphlagonia and the Kingdom of Pontos. Now it is the biggest natural wetland area on the Turkish Black Sea coast. The eastern part of the delta is comprised mainly of brackish lakes (Cernek, Gici, Parali, Liman, Balik, Uzungöl, Tatli Göl) and lagoons with extensive reed beds. This delta where most of the Anatolian bird species are found is used primarily as a winter nesting site for waterfowl. In addition, in an area around Balik Gölü and Uzungöl (combined area 1,000ha./4sq.mi) lies a riverside forest (1,500ha./5.5sq.mi) of hornbeam, ash, alder and various species of oak. Sections of the woodland are overrun by climbing plants or covered with thick undergrowth, making an ideal habitat for many woodpecker species. Another phenomenon is the semi-wild dromedary of which there are believed to be about a hundred. Their existence in the area is attributed to the days of the semi-nomadic tribes. The Yürüks, a small tightly-knit tribe from the Adapazari region, settled here in 1915 in dwellings made from straw and they lived off the land.
The provincial capital of Samsun is the largest city on the north coast and it is also the principal port and commercial center. Every July it hosts a Trade Fair. The importance of Samsun is due principally to its good communications with the Central Anatolian Plateau and these include a trunk road and a railroad line. The coastal plain around Samsun between the Kizilirmak delta to the west and the Yesilirmak to the east produces tobacco (the best in Turkey), cereals, cotton, poppy seeds and other oil-producing plants. After being processed in the large tobacco and foodstuff factories, they are exported from the port of Samsun. The sandy beaches in the vicinity of the town offer excellent bathing. The site of ancient Amisos, founded in the seventh century B.C. by Greek settlers from Miletus lay some 3km/2mi northwest of the present-day Samsun. Later the site was occupied by Athenian settlers and called Peiraieus (Piraeus). The name Samsun first appears in the year 1331. It was here that Mustafa Kemal Pasa, later Atatürk (equestrian statue in the municipal park) landed on May 19th 1919 to begin his fight against the foreign occupying forces. This day is celebrated throughout Turkey as the "Day of Youth".The hotel in which Atatürk stayed while in Samsun is now the Gazi Museum. The most notable of the town's older mosques are the Pazar Camii or Market Mosque, built by Mongolian governors in the 14th century and the Great Mosque (Ulu Cami) which dates from the 18th/19th century. The Archeological Museum exhibits material excavated from the Dündar Tepe, the nearby site of ancient Amisos.
Around 80km/50mi southwest of Samsun a number of other places boast thermal springs. The bath in Havza was mentioned in 1650 by Evliya Celebi and was the Roman town of Thermae. In Havza, like many other seaside resorts whose history goes back to ancient times, a bathing business was set up near the 13th century Seljuk building (two baths). Another thermal bath can be found in ancient Laodikea (Ladik) alongside the small, pretty Lake Ladik (Ladik Gölü).
Vezirköprü was named after an old bridge across a tributary of the Kizilirmak. A number of old buildings in the town belonged to the Köprülüs, an upright and respected family of dignitaries which in the late 17th and 18th centuries produced five Grand Viziers including Mehmet Pasa (the Strict), Ahmet Pasa and Amcazade Hüseyin Pasa. To the northeast of the town stands Kapikaya, a rock with a Paphlagonian monument consisting of four front pillars. Other similar cave tombs can be found further north along the Kizilirmak.
Çarsamba lies some 30km/19mi inland on the Yesilirmak delta. The river which was known as the Iris in antiquity flows into the sea northwest of the town at Cape Civa (ancient Ankon). To the east of the cape are numerous projecting spits of land and coastal lagoons created by an eastward movement of the beaches under the prevailing northwest winds, thus gradually producing a more regular coastline.
A little way south of Calti Burun (ancient Heracleum Promontorium or the Cape of Hercules) lies this small town on the Terme Çayi, which is probably the ancient Thermodon.The ancient town of Themiskyra was situated at the mouth of the river. Themiskyra was also the name of the plain which according to Strabo began 60 stadia (10km/7mi) behind Amisos (Samsun). It extended to the River Thermodon and was noted for the fertility of its soil.
Themiskyra was believed to be the home of the Amazons, the warlike man-hating women of Greek mythology who were said to be descended from the god Ares and the nymph Harmonia. According to the legend, the women cut off their right breasts the better to use a bow and arrow. Amazon in Greek means without breasts. One of the Labors of Herakles (Hercules) involved him in going to Themiskyra and taking back to Argos the girdle of the Amazon queen Hippolyte. When the Greeks came to the area to establish their colonies, they found no Amazons and concluded that Herakles had either killed them all or driven them away.
Ordu occupies the site of ancient Kotyora, an Ionian colony. Here Xenophon and his Ten Thousand Greeks are said to have embarked for Sinope in 401 B.C.. When King Pharnakes moved families from Kotyora to occupy Pharnakeia (Giresun), the town started to decline. In the Middle Ages the area around Ordu belonged to the empire of Trebizond. In 1913 much of town was destroyed by fire.
The administrative center of the province, Giresun lies on a small rocky peninsula which was once fortified. It is a port exporting wood and hazelnuts. Notable sights include the tombs of Seyyidi Vakkas and Osman Aga and an 18th century church. From the town a wide depression leads up to a flat-topped conical hill crowned by a Byzantine fortress. Just outside the harbor is the little island of Giresun Adasi (ancient Aretia) where according to legend the Argonauts landed. The island was uninhabited and had a temple dedicated to the war god Ares. The ruins of a Byzantine monastery can be found there.Giresun occupies the site of ancient Kerasous, founded by Miletus in the seventh century B.C. Xenophon and his Ten Thousand halted here on their march back to the sea. The place was later named Pharnakeia after King Pharnakes (grandfather of Mithradates the Great) who settled families from Kotyora (Ordu) in the town. During the war with the Romans, Mithradates moved his harem to Pharnakeia.The present name of Giresun apparently owes its origins to the Roman general Lucullus who found a particularly good type of cherry here (Greek = "kerássi", Latin = "cerasus" and Turkish = "kiraz") which he later took back to Rome.
The coast road continues east to the small peninsula of Fener Burnu (Cape Yeros), one of the highest capes on the Black Sea coast. In antiquity it was known as Cape Hieron Oros or Holy Mountain. In order to secure the town of Trapezunt, the Byzantine emperor Alexios II built a castle here. Earlier Justinian is said to have founded the St Foca Monastery on the site. The cape has been a well-known landmark to seafarers since the days of the Argonauts.
The little town of Sürmene (Hamurgan) is situated some 40km/25mi east of Trabzon. Known in antiquity as Susarmia or Augustopolis, it lies on the River Kora (Manahoz Deresi) and is best known as the place where Xenophon and his Ten Thousand fell sick after eating wild honey, an event which was confirmed by the local people. In the village of Sürmene Kastil, 5km/3mi to the west of Sürmene, stands a ruined medieval castle as well as the impressive 18th century Yapukoglu Konagi mansion (Derebeyli Kale). It was formerly the seat of the Yapukoglu family, who lived here as rulers (derebey) of the surrounding region relatively free of interference from the Sublime Porte in Istanbul.
A number of monasteries are located in the isolated hilly region behind Sürmene. They lie to the south of Küçükdere and Köprübasi, both of which are accessible by reasonable roads from Sürmene (20km/12mi). Until 1923 they were used by Greek monks. Most of these monasteries now have ruined interiors and three of them can only be reached on foot and with the help of a guide: Charveli and Oma monasteries (20km/12mi south of Köprübasi on the heights of the upper Manahoz Deresi) and the Seno Monastery near Küçükdere to the south.
Situated on a narrow coastal strip in a small bay at the foot of the steeply rising Pontic mountain foothills (new town) stands the provincial capital of Rize. The port which exports tea and wood, tea production and more recently tourism (excursions into mountainous hinterland and tea plantations) are the main sources of income. In antiquity the town was called Rhizion (Rhizous, Rhition, Rhitium) and was a port for the territory of Kissioi. In medieval times it was known as Risso. In 1461 after Mehmet II captured Trebizond it became part of the Ottoman Empire.Offering a fine view over the town the ruined castle (Rize Kalesi) with its tea garden dates from the Middle Ages. The view of the town from the Botanical Gardens (Ziraat Bahçesi) is also particularly impressive. The garden itself which can be reached from a steep road near the western entrance to the town has a collection of sub-tropical flora including an informative range of tea plants.
On a plateau about 8km/5mi southeast of Rize and surrounded by woods lies the town of Ayder with its small thermal spring.A hotel was developed here to encourage tourism.
Southeast of Rize the wild mountainous country of Lazistan (Tatos Daglari) stretches up to the snow-tipped Kaçkar Dagi peaks just under 4,000m/13,120ft high.
Camburun Plaji, Turkey
About 11km/7mi to the east of Rize near the village of Çamburun (Pine Tree Cape), some fine beaches are situated under a steep rocky cliff face. They can be reached by descending 211 steps which have been cut into the rock.
A visit to the small regional center of Çamlihemsin 80km/50mi east of Rize will entail an exhilarating journey through the tea plantations and along the wild Firtina Çayi valley with its stone bridges and enormous old farmsteads.
Located on a overhanging rock face the medieval castle of Zilkalesi (Ziykale) lies in the mountainous Üsküt Dagi region 12km/7mi southwest of Çamlihemsin high above the Firtina Deresi valley.
Hopa is the most easterly Turkish Black Sea port and lies in a wooded setting 8km/5mi from the Georgian border at Kemalpasa (hotel).