From Şile To Ağva: A Refreshing Summer On The Black Sea

The Road From Şile To Green Haven Ağva Makes A Refreshing Summer Trip. And Şile Is Gearing Up For The 26th Annual Şile Bezi Art And Culture Festival, July 13 To 15.

Perched on a promontory high over the Black Sea north of Istanbul, Şile is ideal for a few days getaway. There is a surprise marketplace in the center of town, where you will come across a statue of a young girl weaving the famous Şile bezi cotton cloth. The shops along the avenue are a rainbow of color with embroidered tablecloths, curtains, dresses, shirts and countless other items, all made of Şile bezi, a lightweight, naturally crimped fabric made of natural cotton. It’s perfectly delightful to enjoy the refreshing breeze and gaze at the sea from the rocks at the harbor, where crates laden with fresh fish are carried from the boats direct to the restaurants. Whatever comes out of the sea is immediately offered to the customer. The patch of defense wall on the steep cliff opposite dates back to the Byzantines. Next to the harbor, swimmers frolic on the public beach, where the town’s world-famous beach volleyball matches are played. Acrobatic gulls are the real owners of the palisades overlooking Kavala Park, and the historic Şile Lighthouse complements the scene. Built in 1858, this 20-meter octagonal structure is described as Turkey’s oldest lighthouse in its promotional brochure. Further down the road are the Weeping Rocks, so called because the water seeping through these intriguing rock formations worn down by centuries of wind and waves have been compared to tear drops. A little further on, the area around the windmill at the tip of a green headland is ideal for a walk. Swimming, sunbathing, picnicking, or a fresh fish feast… The possibilities are endless at Şile.

We set out now to see the villages of Şile. Kabakoz, about 10 kilometers outside of town, lies at the foot of a wooded slope. Known since time immemorial for weaving Şile bezi, the town’s people engaged in the craft have dwindled sharply today. Kabakoz’s next door neighbor Akçakese is a former Ottoman village. The newest of its wooden mansions, built by the same masters who constructed the houses at Safranbolu, is a hundred years old. Most of these houses with their columned balconies, symmetric al facades and ornamental eaves have been restored.  And the village’s long beach with its log cabins is reminiscent of the tree houses at Olympos near Antalya. Ağva, too, is not far away, nestled between two rivers that empty into the Black Sea at the end of a road that winds through the woods. Named for the jungle-like vegetation along its coast, Yeşilcay (Green Stream) is a natural harbor, where colorful boats are moored to wooden piers along the length of the river. A wide beach extends from the point where the river empties into the sea. Göksu Çayı meanwhile, so-called because the blue sky is reflected in its waters, is known for its river hotels. According to the local guides, there are exactly 32 hiking trails in the area. The best known are Kalemköy, where you can see Roman ruins, Geredeli with its Genoese harbor, Gürlek Cave at Hacılı, which bears traces of life from the 3d century, and the Genoese defense walls at Hisartepe. Only 15 minutes from Ağva by boat, the coast is chock full of interesting rock formations, tiny islands and caves. You can choose your own private cove and have a dip in the cool waters off these coasts, which are almost always deserted. The best spot for magnificent sunsets at Ağva is obvious. We settle down to wait next to the lighthouse at end of the breakwater. The sun sinks slowly, staining the Black Sea myriad shades of red.

Only two of the 355 blue flag beaches in Turkey are in Istanbul: the Ayazma and Ağlayankaya beaches at Şile. Awarded to beaches that meet  the 32 criteria set out in the European Union Bathing Water Directive, the blue flag is actually an international environmental award. Water samples are taken at 15-day intervals during the season and analyses made at the microbiological level to determine quality.