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Green tour (Black Sea Region)


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Posted 01 September 2004 - 12:38

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Tourism in Turkey isn't all about 'sun, sea and sand'. If you want a holiday off the beaten track, then head to the Black Sea!

Why the Black Sea?
To learn more about the natural wonders of the verdant Black Sea region, we spoke to Bülent Saraloğlu, a tour guide with Buklamania, a travel agency that has specialised in tours of the region for 13 years.

"The Eastern and Western Black Sea regions have the only sub tropical rain forests in Turkey. These are 'ancient forests' that have grown naturally. The Black Sea has 215 varieties of endemic plant life--more than the whole of Europe. The area has Caucasian-Siberian ecology, but includes many smaller ecosystems. The Kaçkar National Park is Turkey's largest at 52,000 hectares. It is a single ecosystem made up of many smaller ones. The Black Sea also boasts a wide range of wildlife. Almost every bird of prey can be found here as well as otters, goats, lynxes and wildcats. We take small groups on cultural tours of the region where they can gain first hand knowledge about the lives of the local people: their joys and sorrows, their weddings and funerals, their habits and how they support themselves. We take them into peoples' homes and onto the fields. They harvest tea with the locals, they share a table with them, learn how to churn butter and see how they really live.

There are four ethnic groups in the Western Black Sea region: the Georgians from the south of Artvin on the Georgian border; the Laz from the shores of Artvin and Rize; the Rums of Pontus Greek extract from the inner, western regions who speak a regional variety of Greek centred in Trabzon; and the Hemşinli of Armenian extract. But their cultures and kitchens are very similar. The basic elements of their cuisine are corn, cabbage, cheese and fish. Their lifestyle is very different to that of the Anatolian Turks."

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A short journey from West to East
Sinan Ercan, another tour guide from Buklamania, gave us a brief description of the Black Sea region. "The westernmost province on the Black Sea is Bolu, home to the Aladağ mountain which stands 1200m above sea level. The area is near enough to Istanbul to enjoy day trips to the plateaus in the summer or treks through the snow in winter. The Yedi Goller (Seven Lakes) are very beautiful. You can go camping or stay at one of Bolu's many fine hotels. Mudurnu boasts many original Ottoman houses. And Kartalkaya is an excellent ski centre.

Heading east, the next province is Zonguldak. Here, visit the Gokgol Cave, which measures 3.5km long and is 875m deep at some points. An underwater stream runs 500m below the ground. The ceiling is 40m high in some caverns. There are all sorts of fascinating rock formations.

Meanwhile, Safranbolu is on the UNESCO World Heritage List thanks to its Ottoman architecture. Kastamonu feels like a Central Anatolian city. Bartın is 13km in from the sea and boasts the only stream that can be used for shipping.

Amasra is famous for its fish and hearty salads. Devrek is renowned for its walking sticks which used to be made with deer hooves. There are rice fields on the road to Sinop. Sinop is home to Turkey's only fjord, the Akliman Fjord.

The region surrounding Unye is famous for its year round festivals. Giresun is the land of tea and hazelnuts. The Black Sea plateaus begin after Samsun.

Trabzon is the first province in the Eastern Black Sea. The city boasts many Christian structures, including the Church of Haghia Sophia and the Sümela Monastery. Visit the Karaca Cave in Torul. In Rize, make sure to buy some Rize fabric. Don't miss the Cicekli and Anzer Plateaus, famous for their honey. The Firtina Vadisi (Valley of Storms) in Camlihemsin is one of the top 100 bird sanctuaries in the world. Turkey's only box tree forest is here. The area is filled with many plateaus. A mountain range stretches from here to the border. Glacial lakes dot the foothills of the mountains. The plateaus are usually inhabited in the summer. There are many lovely wood and stone houses. Artvin is famous for its churches and fortresses. Savsat has perhaps the most beautiful countryside in Turkey. The Kackar Mountains begin after Herek. Grab your backpacks as the rest of the road is uphill!"
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Like a joke
The Laz people of the Black Sea are the butt of many Turkish jokes. Sometimes, reality bears a great similarity to fiction! Our friend the tour guide visited a state-of-the-art trout farm near the Ayder Plateau that generates its own electricity and manufactured its own feed. The tour guide asked how old the fish in the pool were. "In six months, they will be a year-and-a-half old." The guide said, "You mean they are a year old." Nonplussed, the man replied, "I guess you could put it that way."

The Gate's Black Sea guide

Where to stay
Emirgan Hotel: Downtown Zonguldak. Set atop a cliff. Tel: +90 372-253 14 01. Zitas: Between Macka and Torul just before the Zigana pass. Holiday village bungalows. Near the ski centre. Tel: +90 462-542 62 62. Sumela Hotel: 4-star hotel in Macka. Tel: +90 462-512 35 40 www.sumelaotel.com Grand Zorlu: The best 5-star hotel in Trabzon, if not the whole Black Sea. Tel: +90 462-326 84 00 www.zorlugrand.com Dedeman: 4-star hotel on the shore in Rize. Tel: +90 464-223 44 44. www.dedemanhotels.com Kuşpuni Dağ Evi: A 16-room pension located in a wooden house. The best place to stay if you are visiting the Ayder Plateau. Tel: +90 464-657 20 52.

Where to eat
Cesmi Cihan: Downtown Amasra. On the seashore. Great fish and salads. Tel: 0378-315 10 62. Uzunsacli: On the left at the end of the Bolaman slope after Ordu Fatsa. Famous for its freshly brewed tea. Midi: On the sea in Ordu. Enjoy local Ordu dishes made with greens, fish and a selection of "pide". Tel: 0452-214 03 40.

By The Gate Magazine



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