Article and Photos: ÖMER KOKAL
From Amasra to Trabzon
Turkey's Black Sea Coast
The road running parallel to the coast from Amasra to Trabzon reflects the character of the Black Sea in all its myriad aspects, from nature and culture to history and traditional everyday life.
To those arriving from Bartın, the Black Sea appears suddenly in all its glory just before Amasra. And from this hill where the Black Sea first comes into view, the 'Bird's Rock', built in 41-54 A.D. during the reign of the Emperor Claudius on the tortuous road that winds down to Amasra, speaks volumes about the past of this area, the first stop on our journey. The only Roman road monument in Turkey, it consists of a rock-carved statue of an emperor and an eagle, symbol of Roman power.
Situated on a peninsula and the island joined to it by an isthmus, Amasra's geographical features are not readily apparent to first-time visitors. On one side of the peninsula is the Little Harbor and on the other the Big Harbor, a port sheltered by a breakwater that protects it from the Black Sea's destructive waves. The promontory at the tip of the peninsula is encircled by high Genoese-period defense walls, whose walls are laced with marble fragments left from previous civilizations.
Amasra, which awed Mehmet the Conqueror with its spectacular view in 1460, continues to be remembered in the Sultan's words as the 'Eye of the World'. When he saw the city and conquered it, he is said to have turned to his tutor Ak ?emsettin who was at his side and asked, “Is this the 'Çeşm-i Cihan'?”, virtually conferring a second name on the city.
WINDING ROADS,PRISTINE VILLAGES
The coast road from Amasra to Sinop is one of Turkey's most pleasant highways. A little rough in places, it nevertheless preserves the pristine quality of nature on the coastal strip. Villages nestled in greenery, tiny settlements cheek by jowl with the sea, and charming golden sand beaches are some of the surprises that greet you every step of the way.
The Kapısuyu, Çakraz, Tekkeönü and Kurucaşile beaches rather astonishingly call to mind the beaches of the Mediterranean, Çakraz especially being a typical summer resort. Kurucaşile meanwhile is a virtual shipyard with a boat under construction in the yard of almost every house here, where the highest quality yachts in Turkey are said to be built. But the most interesting settlement of all along this road is definitely Gideros Bay near Cide. This cove, with its narrow entrance, is especially well-sheltered. A tiny village with just a handful of houses adds color to Gideros. From Cide to Inebolu, the road snakes through a sea of green trees.
After Inebolu, the village of Beldeğirmen attached to Bozkurt makes a pleasant stop. A restaurant here in the shade of a stately, 700-year-old plane tree along the shore where boats are moored is attractive more for its setting than its food. This is a special spot, thanks in large part to the well-preserved, barn-red wooden houses that surround it.
ANOTHER BLACK SEA LANDSCAPE: SINOP
After Çatalzeytin and Ayacık, Sinop, which has preserved its existence for centuries in a geography that could be termed a natural wonder, awaits visitors with yet another of the Black Sea's fascinating landscapes. Originally established by colonists from Miletus and home to a number of civilizations up to now, Sinop is one of a handful of sheltered harbors on the Black Sea.
A thriving commercial port well into the period of the Seljuks, Sinop strikes the eye immediately for its many Seljuk monuments, of which the five-domed Alaaddin Mosque and the Pervane Madrasa which dates to 1262 are two of the most outstanding. The 4th century B.C. Temple of Serapis is the city's most ancient structure, only a few columns and pedestals of which remain now in the garden of the Archeological Museum. Another important museum in the city is the Aslan Torun Bey Konak, a quintessential three-story Ottoman mansion which has been converted into an ethnographic museum.Sinop's Erfelek Falls are a wonder of nature in every sense of the word. A series of 28 separate cascades large and small, Erfelek Falls are unique in the world in this respect.
FOLLOWING HISTORY, FROM SAMSUN TO GIRESUN
A visit to a replica of the steamship Bandırma, which brought Ataturk to Samsun in 1919 to launch the Turkish National Struggle, is de rigueur for visitors to the city. Models of Ataturk and his comrades-in-arms in the meeting hall and of ordinary soldiers on the deck recreate a sense of those days.
Continuing from Samsun, the coast road passes through Ünye with its famous beaches. The largest township of the province of Ordu, Ünye also boasts a castle well worth seeing from the period of the Kingdom of Pontus.
The Paşaoğlu Konak, another mansion converted into an Ethnographic Museum, gives visitors an idea about traditional life in the city and the region in general. What's more, Boztepe, just 6 kilometers from the city center, draws attention for both its natural richness and its landscape. Giresun Castle rises on a steep hill smack dab in the city center. Its walls, which also date to the period of the Pontian Kingdom, remain in quite sound condition today. Not only that but the tea plantations on the side of the castle overlooking the town are an ideal place to rest and enjoy the spectacular view.
TRABZON: BLACK SEA CULTURE CAPITAL
Trabzon is one of the richest cities on the Black Sea coast in both history and culture. The Ayasofia Church in the city center has been restored and opened to visitors as part of an environmental improvement project. Situated atop a hill at the entrance to the city, this church catches the eye immediately for its impressive architecture. It was commissioned by Manuel I, one of the kings of the Comnenus dynasty that ruled here in the 13th century.
The Church of St. Mary the 'Goldenhead', which dates to the 12th century, is used today as the Ortahisar Mosque. And the Church of Saint Eugenios, whose construction date is unknown, continues life as the Yeni Cuma Mosque. But it is the Sumela Monastery in the Trabzon township of Maçka that is one of Turkey's most important legacies of past cultures. Located inside the Altındere Vadisi National Park, this monastery was built in 375 A.D. The frescoes inside the rock church that constitutes the nucleus and oldest part of the monastery are of thrilling beauty. Other parts of the monastery include the 'ayazma' or spring where the holy water dripping from the rocks collects, a chapel, the monks' cells, food cellars and a library.
At almost 850 meters in length, the route from Amasra to Trabzon, at the point where the green meets the blue, reflects the Black Sea not simply in green and blue but in all its many colors.