Alpine forests? Tea
plantations? Billions of hazelnuts?
World's oldest cherry
Turkey's Black Sea coast (map) 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 cloud
is more common than sun, the sea
water is chilly, and most of the towns are sprawling masses of concrete with only scarce traces of ancient times.
But that's fine for
the adventurous types who come here
for a few days to get off the beaten track.
Unless you have a special interest in some aspect of Black Sea coast history—or hazelnuts, or cherries—, I suggest that you fly to Trabzon, the coast's prime destination, and use that as your base for further explorations.
Here's the run-down on Black Sea towns, from west to east:
Founded in 1849 as the port for shipping coal from nearby mines, Zonguldak is still a gritty industrial town.
Not to be confused with the similarly-named inland town of Amasya, Amasra is a historic small town on a dramatic promontory is well off the beaten track. Popular with Turkish vacationers, it makes sense to visit if you're also planning visit Safranbolu. More...
The most northerly town on Turkey's Black Sea coast has had strategic importance since ancient times. It has mighty stone walls and several old mosques to show for it, but may not hold your interest for too long. More...
Samsun , the largest city on Turkey's Black Sea coast, is
a big, bustling, modern, congested, concrete city extending along the Black Sea coast for kilometers. With
lots of services—hotels, intercity buses, an airport—but little to see, Samsun can be an overnight stop if you're driving long distances (which I don't recommend). More...
This smallish coastal town concentrates on growing, processing and selling hazelnuts (filberts, fındık).
Another hazelnut-growing town, Ordu is a port, has some pleasant seaside parks and a few historic buildings such as the Taşbaşı church...but not much else to hold you long.
Its history is illustrious: this is where the Romans discovered cherries and spread them to the world, but Giresun harbors little of Roman Cerasus. If you want to look, there are hotels and other services. More...
Famous in ancient times as Trebizond, modern Trabzon has also buried much of its past beneath modern concrete, but enough interesting places remain to reward a visit. Trabzon makes the best base for explorations of the eastern Black Sea shores and mountains. More...
Center of Turkey's tea-growing region, you can easily visit Rize from Trabzon to see the tea plantations climbing the steep hillsides of the Pontic mountains.
This transport town near the eastern end of Turkey's Black Sea coast has grown exponentially since the opening of the Turkish-Georgian border-crossing point at Sarp. Hopa is where you turn right and climb the mountains to reach Artvin, Kars, the Kaçkar Mountains and Erzurum, but has little else to hold you.
About Those Hazelnuts...
It's likely that the hazelnuts/filberts in your Nutella, chocolate bar, or hazelnut-flavored coffee come from Turkey's Black Sea coast. In 2014, Turkey exported more than 252,500 tons of hazelnuts to over 110 countries, meeting 70% of world demand and earning US$2.3 billion.
—by Tom Brosnahan