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Unruffled lakes and rushing streams: SALAÇUR
2002 / AUGUST

The mountains of the eastern Black Sea region are characterised by lush vegetation unequalled elsewhere in Turkey. Even at the height of summer these mountains, which rise in places to over 3000 metres in height, remain emerald green thanks to the abundance of water. This mountain barrier running parallel to the Black Sea coast causes the clouds to empty their moisture on its slopes, so that precipitation occurs an average 250 days of the year, and levels are the highest in Turkey. Plentiful water nurtures thick forests up to an altitude of 2000 metres, and above the tree line the alpine pastures are green throughout the year and carpeted with colourful flowers in spring and summer. Streams fed by melting snow and rain give life to hundreds of species of flowers and fill the spectacular glacier lakes. The Salaçur Valley running from south to west is one of the best places to enjoy the flora and breathtaking scenery of the eastern Black Sea mountains.

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Unruffled lakes and rushing streams: SALAÇUR
2002 / AUGUST

Against a backdrop of soaring snowclad peaks you can explore glacier lakes, rushing streams and rivers, thick forests, flower bedecked meadows and charming mountain villages. The mouth of the valley is located near the town of İspir at the confluence of the Aksu and Çoruh rivers (the Çoruh by the way being one of the best ten rivers in the world for white water rafting). A few kilometres after entering the valley you come to the village of Aksu, also known as Salaçur, where wooden houses cling to the rocky slopes above while the lower part of the village nestles in woodland. Here we called in at the tiny coffee house shaded by a great plane tree, and were delighted to find Asik Canimoglu, a traditional ministrel, singing ballads. We ordered tea, only to discover that in Aksu this means a magnificent breakfast complete with the local speciality, dried cream, and alpine flower honey.

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Unruffled lakes and rushing streams: SALAÇUR
2002 / AUGUST
From Aksu we drove to the village of Çatakkaya, where apart from the tiled roofs the houses are built entirely of wood. This village lies just above the tree line in a side valley to the north. As one of the few villages which has never been ravaged by fire, Çatakkaya preserves its original wooden architecture intact, and is like an openair museum. Moreover, since many of the younger people have moved away and the elderly inhabitants who remain continue their traditional lifestyle unchanged, time seems to have stood still here. The last village in the valley is Yedigöller at an altitude of 2000 metres. In this typical mountain village the inhabitants make their livelihood from animal husbandry, beekeeping and agriculture.
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Unruffled lakes and rushing streams: SALAÇUR
2002 / AUGUST
If you decide to venture higher into the mountains it is advisable to consult the local people about routes and conditions first. It is also possible to hire horses so that you can explore unimpeded by heavy packs. At an altitude of 2200 metres above Yedigöller the valley begins to broaden out, and alpine meadows whose grass is later cut for winter hay stretch far into the distance. Mountain streams pouring off the higher plateaus and mountains above this point swell the waters of the Aksu River. The most beautiful and well watered of these plateaus is the 3000 metre Yedigöller, a bowl surrounded by mountains in which lie seven glacier lakes amidst flower-strewn meadows. This is undoubtedly one of the most unforgettable mountain views in Turkey. Göbekli Göl (Navel Lake!), so named after the tiny island in the centre, is the largest of these lakes whose calm surfaces mirror the blue sky. And when you get close enough to see reflections of snow capped peaks in their waters, the view is nothing short of magical.
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Unruffled lakes and rushing streams: SALAÇUR
2002 / AUGUST
Çifte Göller, the Two Lakes, is another plateau lying to the west at an altitude of 2800 metres. Here a great rock rises dramatically from the beds of the two lakes to a height of several hundred metres. Deli Göl is a small but beautiful lake at 3100 metres, set in a bowl encircled by high mountains. When you stand on the shore of the lake and shout the echoes reverberate for so long that you wonder if they might go on for ever. It is probably this phenomenon that inspired the name, meaning Crazy Lake. From the top of a 3250 metre high ridge you get your first view of the largest lake of all, Mal Gölü, and the 3711 metre peak of Mount Verçenik towering behind.
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Unruffled lakes and rushing streams: SALAÇUR
2002 / AUGUST

With its mountains, glacier lakes, alpine flora, unique architecture and a way of life that remains in many ways unchanged, the remote Salaçur Valley is one of the most amazing places in Turkey.

* Ali Ihsan Gökçen is a photographer and freelance writer

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