The Eastern Blacksea

In past years when the region was ruled by a closed economy, flax (feritiko) was grown in all the villages. Indeed, the linen that was woven here was the fabric of choice for sails, due especially to the length of its fibers.

Fishing was common on the coast, linen was woven from hemp, and a sort of stone vessel was produced that was used for making the bread known as ‘pileki’. These products were sent by boat from Samsun all the way to Batum, and in return the area got kerosene and sugar from Batum and salt from Central Anatolia.

Although the Eastern Black Sea has not always been generous to the living creatures that have inhabited it from time immemorial, it has never failed to supply the necessities of life. And the city of Rize stretching along the coast as well as the enthusiastic young fans of Trabzonspor are hopeful for the future.

EYOF 2011 Fever
The Black Sea is awaiting 2011 with bated breath because all eyes are on the 2011 European Youth Olympics, to be held in Trabzon between 23rd - 30th of July… A major event that will galvanize the city’s social fabric and economy, the games will bring together some 4,000 athletes from 48 countries. And the Olympic mascot is a cute anchovy…

The Black Sea region once paid its tax to the Ottoman palace in the form of beeswax and honey. The Caucasus bee that produces this famous honey is now facing extinction due to the itinerant bees that have been introduced into the region and the parasites they carry.

Spearheaded by the TEMA Foundation, efforts are currently under way to preserve and propagate the Caucasus bee, which is managing to withstand the local climate and weather conditions.

“The important thing here in these lands is to work hard and want little. A couple stalks of corn is all I hope for in the harvest every year, and that is what binds me to life and this place. First I sow the yellow seeds in the black earth, then I wait for them to become pale ears of corn…”

Founded in the name of the Virgin Mary, Sumela Monastery takes its name form the word “melas”, meaning black. Its Latin name meant “Virgin of the Dark Mountain”. Although this name is believed to derive from the “Karadağlar” or “Black Mountains” where the monastery is situated, the word Sumela is actually connected with the depiction here of Mary.

Perched on a steep rock formation in the foothills of the Karadağ overlooking the valley of the Altındere, Sumela Monastery remained in active use even after the region came under Ottoman rule in 1461.

Tea growing, which has taken hold in the region in the last fifty years, has caused perceptible changes in the area’s social and cultural fabric. The old highland traditions are dying out with the rise of tea growing, and giving way to the concept of summer houses.

In recent years, highland houses that are hundreds of years old have started to become resort homes for natives that have migrated to the big cities.

Tea... the work, the pleasure, the passion of the Black Sea people.

Highland Fun
The highlands are an incomparable place of escape on hot summer days, and highland festivals are the sine qua non of the season, which lasts from June to August.Highland tourism has taken off in recent years with an inevitable rise in the number of people taking part in the fun.

There is no need to describe the mist here at length, for one merely lives enveloped in it 365 days of the year. If you don’t see valleys filled with clouds, it means you have reached one of the ridges of the Black Sea range running parallel with the sea and are looking at the southern slopes.

Hand-carved wooden objects, handwoven textiles, elaborately carved knives, walking canes, old pots and pans and door knockers are sold at shops in the area’s historic markets. You won’t return empty-handed.

Kale soup, anchovy bread, ‘mıhlama’ (Black Sea fondue made with corn flour), sauteed green bean pickles, boiled corn on the cob, country flatbread, cottage cheese and, of course, tea. The Black Sea’s legendary appetite knows no bounds.

The handwoven, printed headscarves with a dark red border worn by the local women, natural-dyed linen bath towels, woolen socks, and colorful scarves are sold in the local markets.

Glacier lakes, U-shaped valleys and solid crystalline ice masses going back to the Ice Age can be seen at elevations above 2,800 meters.

Accommodations ranging from five-star hotels to log cabin bed&breakfasts are available in the Eastern Black Sea.

The world’s finest hazelnuts are grown in the Eastern Black Sea, and women play the lead role in their production.

IN THE CLOUDS
Uzungöl (literally, the Long Lake) was created when a great avalanche closed off the Haldizen River. The characteristic old wooden houses in the nearby village of Şarah complement the area’s natural beauty.

Bears, wolves, wild goats, foxes, and the Caucasian black grouse inhabit the mountains around the lake, which measures seven km around with a depth of 20 meters.

A cheese dish unique to the Black Sea, “kuymak” is made by melting chunks of cheese in red-hot oil together with corn flour and water. In some areas, clotted cream is added to this traditional dish. 

The area boasts many monumental churches. Among the finest examples of such churches, built in the 9th and 10th centuries, are Porta (Ardanuç), Rabat (Bulanık), Tbeti (Şavşat), Barhal (Yusufeli), Dörtkilise (Tekkale), İşhan (Olur).

The mist is not without its advantages. For example, you can shiver with cold in summer when others are sweltering in the heat. You can also experience all four seasons in a single day, even within a few hours, when the clouds burst. Everything you will see around you is like something out of a fairytale.

The lands of the Black Sea are not suitable for modern agriculture, so farming in the region has depended on human power over the centuries. The cultivation of corn is thought to go back two hundred years.

Barley and oats were the grains grown here before the introduction of corn. If wheat is sown among the oats, and if the weather cooperates, the wheat will thrive, supplying the need for grain even if the oat yield is low.