Reflections on the Hero3A Trip to the Eastern Black Sea Region – 22 – 27 May 2014

This report is not intended to be a detailed account of what happened each day, nor is it designed to be a detailed description of everything we found there. To write a piece like that would require a lot more narrative text – such a lot happened! Rather it is designed to provide the reader with a flavour of the most memorable aspects of the trip, using photos.

Overview

On Thursday 22nd May 2014, 43 people flew from Bodrum to Trabzon (via Sabiha Gökçen Airport Istanbul).  The itinerary and guide for the 5-night 6-day trip were provided by Panagia Sumelatours (Trabzon).  The tour started and finished in Trabzon on the shores of the Black Sea. We travelled further east each day, branching off the coastal D010/E70 road at regular intervals. This is the only way to access the towering mountains and highlands of the coastal hinterland because there are no easterly roads across the mountains. But the scenery along the way is spectacular so this was no hardship. We reached the Georgian border on day five.

The steep roads and cloud-covered narrow mountain passes of this region meant that we regularly had to change our tour bus for smaller minibuses – these could cope better with the difficult terrain. Sometimes we drove on roads so high we were travelling through the remnants of the winter snows. Our drivers’ skills were frequently tested by potholes, fog, flowing water on the road, patches of snow – and the occasional herd of goats.

The people of the area reflect the diverse influences on the region. Their languages, dialects and dress all point to a rich culture – Laz, Georgian, Greek, Armenian, Turkish, Ottoman, Muslim and Christian. It is a fertile region, with rain for 250 days a year. The many tea plantations in the Rize area are more often vertical than horizontal – how do all those women and men manage to pick the tea without tumbling down those steep slopes? Hazelnut trees are plentiful around Trabzon and look less risky to harvest. More people in this region live in villages than in towns – it is the only province of Turkey where this is so. Villages are perched on the sides of steep valleys and on the tops of mountains and plateaus. The wooden houses and mosques are strung out in long lines rather than in groups – this is characteristic of Black Sea villages. Wooden and stone bridges are frequent features due to the large number of rivers and streams tumbling down to the coast from the mountains. Large wooden bins for storing grain – set up on stilts to deter rodents – are seen in the fields beside the roads.

The furthest easterly points we reached were the small mountain villages of Muratli and Camili (right on the Georgian border) and the larger towns of Hopa and Artvin. By the time we arrived back in Trabzon on 28th May, we had travelled about 1500 km, a lot of it on winding roads through the spectacular mountains and impressive forests of this exciting part of Turkey.

Conclusion

It is true to say that several logistical and accommodation problems arose during the tour which caused considerable frustration and annoyance to the group. However, it is also true to say that the lasting memories and impressions of this region are overwhelmingly positive. For those who had never been to this part of Turkey before, it was a chance to explore a large area in a short time – any future visits can now be based on personal experience. For those who originally came from this area, it was a chance to re-live memories and to re-visit the area with friends. Well worth the trip!

Helen Franklin

For more information about the Eastern Black Sea region, see www.karadenizgezi.net (Turkish), www.roughguides.com/destinations/Europe/Turkey/black-sea-coast (English)

Text: Helen Franklin
Photos:  Cheryl Sabey, Helen Franklin, Kim Gould

Hero3A Eastern Black Sea Tour/Doğu Karadeniz Gezisi– Route/Rota

Day/Gün 1.  22 May/Mayıs 2014

Bodrum – İstanbul – TrabzonCephanelik, Boztepe – Ayasofya Muzesi – Atatürk Kosku –  Trabzon old city/eski şehir and/ve market/pazar – Hidirnebi Yaylakent (in the Karacan mountains/daglarinda, 35 km Trabzon’dan)

Trabzon Old Town

Trabzon Old Town

Trabzon Old Town

Trabzon Old Town

Hazel Nut Shop and Truck

Hazel Nut Shop and Truck

Lunch at Cephanelik, Boztepe, Trabzon

Lunch at Cephanelik, Boztepe, Trabzon

Ayasofya Muzesi

Ayasofya Muzesi

3 Ayasofya Muzesi, Trabzon

Day/Gün 2.  23 May/Mayıs 2014

Hidirnebi Yaylakent – Sumela Manastir – Zigana Yayla Tatil Köyü – Gümüşhane Torul Karaca Cave/Mağarası – Hamsikoy (sutlaç) – Zigana Yayla Tatil Köyü

Hirdirnebi Yaylakent

Hirdirnebi Yaylakent

Morning in Yaylakent

Morning in Yaylakent

Walking up to the Sumela Monastery

Walking up to the Sumela Monastery

Sumela Monastery

Sumela Monastery

4 Sumela Monastery

Sumela Monastery

Sumela Monastery

Sumela Monastery

Sutlac at Hamsikoy

Sutlac at Hamsikoy

Barns on stilts for storing grain

Barns on stilts for storing grain

Zigana Yayla Tatil Köyü/Holiday Village

Zigana Yayla Tatil Köyü/Holiday Village

Day/Gün 3.  24 May/Mayıs 2014

Zigana Yayla Tatil Köyü – Sürmene – Of (Özçay tea factory and garden/çay fabrikasi ve bahçe) – Uzungöl

View from Zigana Holiday Village/Tatil Köyü

View from Zigana Holiday Village/Tatil Köyü

Kemençe maker in Sürmene

Kemençe maker in Sürmene

Sürmene Memişağa Konağı

Sürmene Memişağa Konağı

Özçay Tea Factory

Özçay Tea Factory

Day/Gün 4.  25 May/Mayıs 2014

Uzungöl – Kiremitli wooden bridge/köprü – local fabric factory/yerel bez fabrika – Rize – Firtina Deresi – Kavrun, Kaçkar Dağları Milli Parkı – Ayder

Wooden covered bridge at Kirimetli, Uzungöl

Wooden covered bridge at Kirimetli, Uzungöl

Kirimetli, local fabric factory/yerel bez fabrika

Kirimetli, local fabric factory/yerel bez fabrika

Crossing the river at Fırtına Deresi

Crossing the river at Fırtına Deresi

3 Firtina Deresi

Crossing the river at Fırtına Deresi

Macahel mountain village in Upper Kavrun

Macahel mountain village in Upper Kavrun

Dinner at Ayder

Dinner at Ayder

Day/Gün 5.  26 May/Mayıs 2014

Ayder – Borçka – Macahel – Muratli – Camili – Karagöl – Artvin

A sunken mosque near Borçka

A sunken mosque near Borçka

Making lunch at Borçka!

Making lunch at Borçka!

Camili, on the Georgian border

Camili, on the Georgian border

Wooden mosque in Camili

Wooden mosque in Camili

Wooden mosque in Camili

Wooden mosque in Camili

Wooden mosque in Camili

Wooden mosque in Camili

Wooden mosque in Camili

Wooden mosque in Camili

Wooden mosque in Camili

Wooden mosque in Camili

Karagöl

Karagöl

Day/Gün 6.  27 May/Mayıs 2014

Artvin – Hopa – Husrev, Cayeli – Sürmene – Camburnu – Trabzon airport/havalimani – İstanbul – Bodrum

The Koru Hotel at Artvin

The Koru Hotel at Artvin

View from the Koru Hotel at Artvin

View from the Koru Hotel at Artvin

Refreshments on the shores of the Black Sea

Refreshments on the shores of the Black Sea

Lunch – Huznev’s famous kuru fasulye

Lunch – Huznev’s famous kuru fasulye

A typical tea plantation

A typical tea plantation

Our plane arriving to take us back to Bodrum

Our plane arriving to take us back to Bodrum

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