I don’t like travel blogs
So, to be honest – I do not like travel blogs, neither do I like people who write travel blogs. Still, this place needs more travel blogs – as it is just a place you should visit when looking for a real local adventure “off the path”. The Black Sea Coastline area is different from any other coastline I’ve travelled before – but being so “non-touristic”, that’s where the charm of this area lies in. You should know some basic Turkish words, as it might be one of the few places where English doesn’t help you. And you don’t know how much “Köfte” you can eat until you’ve travelled Northern Turkey 😉
When planning your trip to North-Eastern Turkey, you should not expect to come to a place where you can find entertainment or anything that you normally associate with a “holiday on the beach” – you will barely find any bar, fancy restaurant or chill out beach club. People here seem to make nothing out of pleasant places or nice atmosphere. On the other hand, visiting this area really will push you to Turkish urban or rural life as it is. This place is raw, basic, honest – and so charming. And the gorgeous landscape makes up for everything you would miss in terms of luxury stuff. This area is for “explorers” more than “tourists” – and if this is your thing, you’ll have a great time here.
When we first heard about this area, we thought the religious influence (especially the role of women in Islam) would be stronger. We were kind of surprised, that young women wore t-shirts, sit together in restaurant in the evening without their men and didn’t cover their hair. But don’t understand this wrong – people here are very traditional and, in some areas, literally every fifth building is a mosque. And to find alcohol you have to search for the rare liquor stores, where you can buy your drinks packed in a black bag.
Communicating ain’t easy because almost no one speaks English. But if you meet someone to have a serious talk to, you find that people are very friendly and nice. And here it’s the same as almost everywhere in the world: A smile and a friendly face will make the difference how people treat you – even if you have to use Google Translate to find out that they only have Köfte today.
Speaking of Köfte – the food in the north of Turkey is delicious, but very limited in variation. There are no international options like Asian or Italian food. So, there are some restaurants where you have Pide and Turkish pizza (Lahmacun)– sometimes (in the mountains) they don’t. But what you will get everywhere is grilled chicken, grilled meat and grilled meatballs, the famous Köfte. It comes with the great flavor of the wooden-fired grills, and always ask for salad on the side. Have a lentil-soup as a starter if you’re hungry and drink an Aryan with it.
Black Sea Coast
When discovering the Black Sea coastline in Turkey, there are two main entry points (Samsun and Trabzon) and we took a flight to Trabzon via Istanbul. At Trabzon airport, there are plenty of car rental companies and I feel, a rented car is the best way to explore this area. Apart from getting a car at the airport, you should buy a local SIM card right on the airport (the small kiosk next to the Eurocar outside the international airport terminal)!
We spent the first night in Trabzon – and one night in Trabzon is enough. From my point, Trabzon is just a noisy and dusty city, good for getting an impression on the area – but don’t spend too much time there. We’ve found a suitable accommodation (Andalous Suite Hotel), close to the airport (which is straight on the coastline), with affordable and clean rooms (35€/double room) and plenty of Köfte-Places in walking distance (and free parking space). Breakfast in the Hotel’s garden is amazing!
Coastline from Trabzon to Giresun
The coastline western to Trabzon is not really disappointing – it’s rather “different” if you expect a coastline to be filled with beaches. Here, on the Black Sea, there’s a highway straight along the coastline – but no beach and no beach hotel. Still, there are plenty of local Cay bars, where you can pass by from time to time. Every city seems to be as dusty as Trabzon- but that’s what makes this area so special. Keep in mind, that they don’t serve Turkish Coffee here – don’t know why, it’s only Nescafé here.
We’ve spent the second night in Giresun, which is a big, but quite lovely city approximately 3 hours drive from Trabzon on the coast. Huseyin Hotel is amazing – it’s right on the sea shore with rooms offering a 270° view on the coast and a garden right on the shore! Prices are affordable (30€/double room, incl breakfast) and the staff is really helpful. Alcohol isn’t easy to get in this area – but if you look for a good Cocktail or Wine, go to LookLook Bistro in the Old City of Giresun and chat with the guys there! When travelling in August, you will see the hazelnut harvest – they harvest them in the closeby mountains and do dry them everywhere along the highway.
A beatiful Beach and Costline at Ordu
The most beautiful beach on the Eastern Part of the Coast is found one hour’s drive away from Giresun, at Ordu. This place feels like a little island – and the coastline is surrounded by lush green forests, cozy restaurants on the beach and stunning views. The atmosphere is as calm as nowhere else on the Coast, so take this place to have a swim in the Black Sea.
The Pontic Mountains
The unexpected ‚Black Forest‘
After dabbing in the Black Sea, we headed into the Pontic Mountains. Taking the road to the mountains from Giresun, you only need 20 minutes by car to reach an entirely different world, that you should not miss! The steep and windy mountain roads offer you great views and temperature gets really chilly due to the height of nearly 2000 hm. The change in view, feeling and atmosphere is profound, it starts with the jungle-like thick green of Hazelnut-trees as you climb with your car through the spread but plenty of houses on the steep sides of the mountains.
Suddenly, you feel like being in the middle of the Alps or Black Forests as clouds are stuck between the peaks and flora has changed into huge Black Forest Trees. We spent the night in Yavuzkemal, a tiny settlement on 1800 Hm with only 5 houses, 8 Köfte places and one Hotel (“Kulakkaya”). We had a clean room with bathroom and mountainview for 20€/night and the best Köfte in town at the family’s restaurant. Next day, just following the only road, we passed by a waterfall (Mavigöl Kuzalan Selalesi), that it is a real popular touristic attraction for local families. Kümbet (one-hour drive from Yavuzkemal) is a nice place to have lunch (it was Köfte), as the road up there is spectacular and Kümbet is just such an authentic, Turkish, very small city with a “Wild West” atmosphere.
Leaving Kümbet behind and taking the road to Şebinkarahisar was the highlight of our road trip. Landscape suddenly changes from “Black Forest Style” to a kind of Savannah, only some cows chilling on the streets and the road winds up to 2200 hm. Another hour driving, and we arrived at Şebinkarahisar and visited the fortress ruins – one of the most underrated places on earth. The fortress is located “Acropolis-style” on a mountain peak, where you have a 360° view on this stunning landscape, which is a mix of desert and green valleys. Şebinkarahisar fortress would be a widely known attraction in the middle of Europe, but here it’s just there and being littered by the locals. It is a dream for everyone who likes to climb up some walls, and we shared the whole place with only 4 other local tourists.
Further, Şebinkarahisar is a good place for filling up your provisions (Internet data, petrol, wine). We left Şebinkarahisar on the main road direction of Gemüshane, fortunately in “Golden Hour Time”, which made the next 90 minutes drive just gorgeous. The road takes you along a dry river valley surrounded by high mountains and cypress trees – and here you get a feeling of how the heart of Turkey looks like. Especially, all these mosques, shimmering in Silver and Gold on the mountains, with Muezzins calling made this part most amazing. We spent the night in the quite usual city of Siron (Hotel Grand Yeniceri, 4 stars for 22€ in the so-called city center), still this gives us an impression of how usual Turkish back land cities look like. We learned that these cities around here do not offer too much nightlife – being glad for the wine we’ve hunted earlier.
Torul Karaca Cave and the Sümela monastery
Heading back towards the coast, it’s all about “the journey is the reward”. The landscape is stunning, take your time to enjoy it! We took the main road direction of Torul and had some Köfte for lunch at the Turkish kind of highway restaurant. It is remarkable that they have so many restaurants directly on the highway, actually offering spectacular views on the valley – but all the tables are placed on the side of the restaurant offering a view on the busy truck filled highway instead of the lush green valley 😉
Go to visit the stalactite cave (Torul Karaca Cave) quite close to the highway – it is sooo beautiful!
Next stop was Sümela monastery, which might be the most famous sight in Eastern Turkey. A monastery, built since 4th century AD, on a high cliff in the deep mountains. We still wonder what kind of mushrooms the first two monks drove to build a monastery in this super remote location during the reign of the emperor Theodosius I (375 – 395 AD). It’s crazy! And it’s definitely worth a visit!
Back to the coast we found a lovely hotel with a stunning terrace right above the water (lower part was still in construction) and beautiful view over the sea, the Dora Butik Otel. This was one of our last stops in the northeast of Turkey – an area worth visiting if you are about travelling and gathering experiences more than the amenities of blunt tourism.
(BTW, this was my first trip with my Thule Alltrail 35X, and I LOVE it! Especially the shape with the slim bottom. I think I’ll write a post only about the 35X.)