Alpine forests? Tea plantations? Billions of hazelnuts? World’s oldest cherry orchards? Turkey’s Black Sea coast comes as a surprise.
The sky is often grey, but the land is green from plentiful rain. Fat dairy cattle munch lush grass and produce the country’s best milk and butter. Fresh sardines are a delicacy. The Black Sea coast is never crowded because overcast is more common than sunshine, and the sea water is chilly.
But that’s fine with the adventurous types who come here for a few days to savour its deep history, its dramatic beauty, its special cuisine, and its prime legend: Jason led his Argonauts along this coast in quest of the Golden Fleece.
The coast’s prime destination is Trabzon (Trebizond).
Surrounded by forests that cover the foothills of Trabzon, Maçka offers a different feeling with each step taken, ranging from cool plateaus to magnificent temples and local delicacies to colourful festivals. The road from Trabzon that leads to the Zigana Mountains reaches Maçka after just 29 kilometres. Leaving the city centre behind, the multi-story buildings are replaced by small villages and fields of corn and beans.
Near Maçka, the scenery changes yet again to top-rated hotels, colourful market stands, elegant restaurants, and open-air cafés. The noisy waters of Coşandere, which brings life to the region, point to Sumela Monastery, one of the treasures of the region.
The Sumela Monastery, barely showing its face through the clouds hanging there in the air, looks like a supernatural chateau carved into Karadağ. This monastery, built into the Altındere Valley in the fifth century by two monks who believed that St. Mary’s grave was there, was added onto for thousands of years, finally taking on its current look. The monastery, consisting of five large buildings lined up in front and around a hundred small buildings hidden at the back, is large enough for a few thousand people to live in. This amazing monastery is composed of churches, chapels, libraries, fountains, and kitchens, in addition to many guest rooms. Some of the chambers are even ornamented with colourful frescoes.
As the road nears Zigana Valley, it becomes even more beautiful with pines, firs, beeches, alders, and chestnuts, and it gets closer to the mountains. As the altitude reaches nearly two thousand meters the road starts passing through the low hanging clouds.
Hamsiköy, located on the foothills of Mount Zigana at an altitude of seven hundred meters, is famous for its rice pudding. Following the Torul-Gümüşhane-Yayladere route, one can reach the Yağmurdere Valley after leaving the Salmankeş pass at an altitude of 2,280 meters behind, one of the most inaccessible parts of the Black Sea region. The district of Dumanlı, located by Yanbolu creek, has been the centre of seven old villages in history. Some of the buildings in those villages situated in narrow valleys at altitudes between 1,500 and 1,800 meters still stand.
Maçka is also home to over twenty plateaus scattered around like emeralds; Kiraz, Lapazan, Çakırgöl, Çatma Oba, Düzköy, Hıdırnebi, Kuruçam, and Mount Sis are only a few to name. One must explore the stone and wooden houses that reflect the traditional culture of the region as well as the plateaus that reflect the character of the region with mountain lakes and avid creeks. With fresh air and high levels of oxygen, the plateaus are enlivened with the sounds of the “horon” (a local dance).
Go to The Rize International Tea Festival in June and be a part of famous black tea harvest time.
g2o Cultural Tip
Visit the Haghia Sophia Church in Trabzon and see the most impressive frieze depicting the creation of Adam and Eve.
g2o Hot Table
Try “mıhlama” (corn flour mixed with fresh cheese and butter) at Zigana Village, “Fried anchovies” and famous rice pudding in Trabzon Körfez Restaurant.