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Byways of the Black Sea region
2003 / March

Misty peaks, festive gatherings on mountain pastures, fiery-natured people, luxuriant vegetation, hazelnuts, tea and anchovies are the images that come first to mind when thinking of the Black Sea region. And when we speak of the eastern Black Sea, we think first of the Kaçkar Mountains that stretch from Trabzon to Artvin. But geographically, the eastern Black Sea begins at the Melet river in the province of Ordu. So sharp is this natural boundary that the Caucasian spruce (Picea orientalis), that symbol of the eastern Black Sea forests, cannot be seen west of the river. This area attracts relatively few visitors from other parts of Turkey, and is consequently little known by any but its inhabitants. So we set out on a journey of discovery. Heading south from the city of Ordu we halted on the bridge over the Melet to cast our gaze upon the towering Kurul Rocks, before leaving the river behind and entering the eastern Black Sea region. The winding road climbed between hazelnut orchards and through the towns of Kabadüz and Yokusdibi.

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Byways of the Black Sea region
2003 / March

After a while the hazelnuts made way for mainly coniferous forest, and we began to see steep tracks leading up to the yaylas or mountain pastures. We began our trek through the forest up to Turnalik Yayla. Any tiredness we might have felt was immediately forgotten at the sight of the splendid waterfall and the crystal clear waters of the stream into which it poured. The sun shone from a bright blue sky all the time we were walking, but that evening thunder reminded us that this was the eastern Black Sea. Flashes of lightning lit up the countryside like day, and then the rain began to fall in a torrent. We were staying that night in the climbers' hut at Çelikkiran Obasi, and our glasses of tea brewed over the woodstove tasted even better accompanied by the tapping of the rain outside. In the morning the weather was clear again, and we went on to Ablaktasi, a high rock from which there was a spectacular view over the wooded valleys below.

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Byways of the Black Sea region
2003 / March
Our route that day would take us through the forest. Due to the high rainfall in this region, the undergrowth in the forests here runs riot. The most common species is the rhododendron, whose showy yellow and purple blossoms splashed our path with their bright colours. The path then followed the banks of a stream for some way before bringing us to the camping site at Ikidere, where the Volkswagen Festival is held every July. Here we enjoyed a well earned rest before setting out again for Çambasi Yayla at an altitude of 1850 metres. This yayla is the highest mountain pasture in the province, and in the past the inhabitants of the city of Ordu used to move here for the summer. Old people recall that even official institutions, including the court and prison, moved up into the mountains during the summer months. In appearance it is just like a town. We did not stay here, but set out again. There were three possible places where we could camp that night: Ertas Trout Farm, and the villages of Semen Oba and Yaprakbasi Oba.
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Byways of the Black Sea region
2003 / March

The word oba literally means encampment, and refers to small villages around the pastures that serve as centres for obtaining provisions. Now we were climbing into the Karagöl Mountains that rise to a height of 3107 metres, and whose six glacier lakes reflect the peaks and the sky like mirrors. Our goal was Lake Aygir, the westernmost of the six. We drove part of the way, and from there an hou'sr walk along a steep path brought us to the lake at 2600 metres. Its banks were bright with yellow and purple violets, snow carpeted the surrounding slopes, and segments of ice floated on the surface. The view was magical. We spent the night at Bektas Yayla, a lively little town with shops and a 50-bed hotel. That morning we decided to hike to Lake Sagrak, the glacier lake furthest to the east. Our route took us first to the village of Aksu, and then to Kaginagil Oba. Although the road continues on to the lake, the snow had still not melted in places and the road was impassable for vehicles. This meant a two hour walk.

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Byways of the Black Sea region
2003 / March

Colourful flowers lifted their delicate necks amongst the rocks, displaying such tenacity under harsh conditions that those of us not used to demanding climbs found new strength. From all around came the trilling sound of streams created by the melting snow. The view of the lake was was breathtaking. There was far more snow here than at Aygir, and most of the lak'sh surface was still iced over. As we continued our journey northwards, it seemed as if nature had pulled every shade of green out of its magiciasdi box. We passed through green valleys and over green hills. The friendly reception we received at the obas around Kulakkaya warmed our hearts. Sharing both their food and joy of life, we made our way upwards along the forest paths to the summit of Mount Çal. From this 2030 metre vantage point we could see the Black Sea sparkling on the horizon, the island of Giresun directly facing us, and Mount Sis marking the boundary of Trabzon province.

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Byways of the Black Sea region
2003 / March
The view over this vast landscape was obliterated when mist, wind and rain again reminded us of the temperamental climate of the eastern Black Sea region. Our return journey took us via Çigdibi and Süllüköy, where concrete has not yet encroached, Pinarlar Waterfall, Uzundere Valley with its delicious trout and rare flowers, Kümbet Yayla and Koçkayasi Holiday Village consisting of log cabins, Çakrak Yayla with its church and stone bridges, and finally into the town of Giresun. Our journey was over, but vivid memories remained with us of smiling hospitable people, wild orchids, spectacular views, and the many other sights of this beautiful region.

* Halil Ibrahim Tutak is a photographer and freelance writer
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