On my recent trip to one of Turkey’s most beautiful regions, I made one big mistake: I didn’t stay long enough. I didn’t realize that there was so much to do and see, which simply couldn’t be crammed into just three days. This however is easily remedied, because I’ll be back some time in the future and this is what I’ll do:
I will not make the city of Trabzon my base, as I did this time around. Although pleasant enough, there is not all that much to see in Trabzon proper. Certainly no ancient ruins or wonders of nature nor extraordinary beautiful beaches. Bear in mind, that you can cover about 600 miles all along the Black Sea from Istanbul to Trabzon, always going east. Along the way, you will discover a plethora of lovely beach resorts, because on a visit to the Black Sea you want to combine beach vacation with trips into the Pontic and Koroglu mountains and all the impressive sights they have to offer. On my recent stay I did not once hit the beach or dip my toes into the water, I was too hellbound on going on my trips.
Next time, I’d choose places like Agva, Sile, Giresun or Amasra to park myself for about a week. They all have a decidedly Mediterranean feel to it, without the hype and glamour of the Costa del Sol or the seedy atmosphere of Bulgaria’s Sunny Beach. The beaches are pretty and very clean, many enclosed by coves which makes them sedate and quiet. Giresun in particular has a doubke harbor and, just a few miles off, boast the only island in the Black Sea, Girsesun island. It’s topped by a roofless temple and surrounded by endless legends.
Each of the beach resorts has a promenade with tea gardens, kids play grounds and other attractions, not to mention tip top hotels and restaurants. The secret however is, that the entire region is not a touristy affair at all. Few foreigners, drawn to the attractions of Istanbul and/or Cappadocia venture here and even Turks are rather sparse. This of course, has a lot to do with the weather. The waters is cool even in the height of summer, the sky is often grey or overcast and it rains… a lot. Which in turn is the reason for the boundless green vegetation, the best orchards in the country, the tea plantations around Rize, the fabled hazelnuts, cherries and apricots. Streams, some ending in awesome waterfalls, cut through the mountains which rise to about 4000m and are covered in forests nearly right up to the top.
I was lucky to have three days of uninterrupted sunshine in July which was bliss. Always a cool breeze from the sea and the green sparkling like a sea of emeralds. Just observe the weather forecast when you plan to go.
Having mad me new base in either Giresun, Ordu or Amasra, I’d repeat the trips I went on. First to Sümela monastery which is one of the most famous sights in all of Turkey.
Then, again, to the beautiful Lake Uzun and to the fabulous mountain town of Ayder which makes you feel as if you have come to Switzerland. Don’t miss out on Rize and the tea plantations and a chance to sample the best, fresh tea, black or green and to try out tea cologne which smells very nice and not at all of tea.
One day trip I missed out on this time and which I will definitely make next time is across the border to Batum in Azerbaijan .
It might also be a good idea to hire a car, although there are plenty of tours available. I’m not usually fond of guided tours, but these are just a cheap and easy means of transport to get you to your destination. Then, you are left alone and can do what you please until it’s time to return. No ‘tour guide’ drags you into a factory, carpet shop or ceramics workshop or recommends a ‘typical’ restaurant. Which is yet another indication that a trip to the Black Sea feels like travel and not at all like tourism. Hopefully, it’ll stay like that for a while longer.
And lastly…even if you go in the best of weather, don’t forget to bring sturdy shoes and a cardigan for your mountain trips. Sandals won’t get you up the cliff to the Sümela monastery.