These verdant shores, where densely pine forested
mountains give way to tea terraces, hazel nut groves and
tobacco plantations, confound those who envisage Turkey as
sun-baked steppe land.
The rugged Pontic Mountains plunge steeply down towards
the sea, making this coastline one of craggy cliffs and
headlands interspersed with sandy beaches. Owing to the
mountainous character of the region, much of the
settlement is scattered over hill slopes, and the only
agglomerated settlements are towns and fishing villages on
the narrow coastal belt.
Cut off from the rest of Turkey by Pontic Chain, Black Sea
coast has pursued somewhat independent history. According
to the legend, these shores were the land of Amazons, and
an Amazon queen is said to have founded Sinop.
In 1st century BC, Kingdom of Pontus, comprising the whole
of this coast, was ruled by Mithradates VI Eupator, who
successfully defied Rome for 22 years, until he was forced
into flight and suicide by Roman General Pompey.
In the later Middle Ages, the coast once again became the
center of an independent empire, Comnene Empire of
Trebizond (now Trabzon). In fact Trebizond was the last
Byzantine city to hold out against Ottoman Turks, and it
was only 8 years after the fall of Constantinople that the
last Comnene Emperor surrendered to Sultan Mehmet II, the
Along the Western part of Black Sea cost are several small
resorts with sandy beaches, such as Kilyos (on European
side of Black Sea coast), Sile and Akcakoca (on Asian
side). The succession of resorts is interrupted by Eregli
and Zonguldak, Turkey's largest coal and steel centers.
Beyond Zonguldak is the picturesque town of Amasra,
clustered around Byzantine citadel on promontory between
Following the Eastern Black Sea coast, from Sinop to Hopa,
greatly facilitates sightseeing. Sinop is famous as the
birthplace of great Cynic philosopher Diogenes, and there
are several interesting Seljuk buildings.
From Sinop to Samsun, the road passes through maize and
tobacco plantations, for which the region is famous.
Though the settlement of Samsun is ancient, little remains
to testify to its past. Nevertheless, the town has
important place in modern Turkish history, since it was
here that Ataturk landed to organize the national
resistance that liberated Turkish territory from foreign
Covering the hill slopes from Samsun to Trabzon are hazel
nut groves, which made Turkey the world's largest exporter
of this crop.
Unye, the ancient Oinoe, is attractive resort surrounded
by sandy beaches. Much resembling Unye is the port of Ordu,
from where Xenophon and his 10,000 mercenaries embarked
for Heraklia ad Pontus in 401 BC.
Giresun is beautifully set around high rocky peninsula,
crowned by Byzantine fortress. The town is surrounded by
lush cherry orchards and it was from here that Roman
general and gourmet, Lucullus, brought back the first
cherry trees to Europe.
Trabzon, Byzantine Trebizond, was well fortified city, on
sloping table of ground beyween two ravines, and it was
one of the few Byzantine cities to resist attacks by
Seljuk Turks and Mongols.
Remains of Trabzon's Byzantine fortress can still be seen,
and also in the city there are many buildings reflecting
the two hundred years Commune rule, such as Church of St.
Sophia with its interesting frescoes and relieves.
Outside Trabzon in Zigana Mountains is Monastery of Sumela,
set like swallow's nest in sheer rock face. Most of the
monastery was built in 14th century during the reign of
Alexius III Comnene, and contains many fine frescoes.
After Trabzon, the land of tea terraces begins, while
covering the uncultivated slopes are purple wild
rhododendrons, another plant that originated in this
fertile region . Rize is the center of this tea producing
region, which supplies Turkey with tea.