Part 3: Sürmene, Surmene Trabzon
The towns of Yomra, Arsin and
Araklı are uninteresting except for good sandy beaches that extend between the
first two. Sürmene, on the other hand, distinguishes itself with the mighty
Yakupoğlu Castle on the coast and the impressive churches of the valley inland.
The valley of Gürçay (Manahoz) provides good hiking opportunities and a few
socio-historical curiosities. The village of Dirlik, about five kilometers
inland, used to be the only Greek settlement in the region before 1923. It
retains two interesting churches. One of them is abandoned and decaying while
the other is kept in tiptop shape as a mosque which has a splendid view over the
valley. A delightful moss-covered stone footpath leads to the church/ mosque
through cherry orchards and walnut groves alongside meticulously constructed
irrigation channels. Both the path and the canals date from the last century and
contrast starkly with the usual haphazard style of Black Sea villages.
The muhtar (village headman) relates that the local priest left in 1923 at the
age of 19 and returns every year with Greek groups to visit his old stomping
grounds. Villagers love it, partly out of instinctive hospitality and partly out
of the hope that, sooner or later, the old man will reveal the whereabouts of
the hoards of gold and silver that all know are surely buried under the church.
Further up the valley past the bustling market town of Köprübaşı one can visit
the Greek-speaking (but devoutly Muslim) villages of upper Sürmene. In the large
village of Yılmazlar (Mezire) seek out old man "Khomeini". He is an exconvict,
ex-world traveler, twice pilgrim to Mecca and veteran of many marriages and will
try to gain instant converts to Islam with an enormous twinkle in his eye. With
his advice it is possible to organize a spectacular six-hour hiking expedition
uzungol over the next valley or climb the yaylas of Soganh Mountain (2870
meters), where the regionally famous
Sultan Murat Martyr's Festival is
celebrated on June 23.
Back in Sürmene, one may have a good fish lunch at the Belediye Restaurant
before moving on. The grand residence of Yakupoglu Memiş Aga-known locally as
the Kastel¬s located approximately three kilometers along the way to Of. It is
somewhat hard to find. The only indication for the motorist is a little teahouse
which advertises itself as the "Kastel Restaurant". The castle itself is located
amid tea fields just off the road. Like its Haznedaroglu cousin in Bolaman, this
is a late-18th century seigneurial residence which belonged to the local dynasty
of derebeyis. It is a graceful stone building with an enormous mushroom-like
roof. Its grim past is hinted at by rifle slots along the parapets and a small
jail located on the first floor. The intricately designed and painted carvedwood
ceilings and superb stone fireplaces of the second-floor living quarters, by
contrast, indicate the highly refined lifestyle of the Yakupoglus.
Inhabited until 1978 by the descendants of Memiş Aga, the Kastel has now fallen
on hard times and seems set for an irreversible decline. This is rather
surprising, given the fact that Mr Cevher Ozden, alias Kastelli. Turkey's most
outrageous billionnaire, is also a Yakupoglu descendant. This flamboyant high
school dropout managed to collect a staggering 40% of the nation's private
savings before going bankrupt in 1982. After a stint in jail, he resurfaced as
the country's biggest real estate mogul but went bust again in 1989.
In former times the castle was only accessible from the sea. The first
Rize-Trabzon highway was built by the Russian occupying army in 1916. To spare
the castle, the Russians constructed the road in a loop around it, with a high
retaining wall that still stands. The current highway was constructed in the
1950s on a strip of land reclaimed from the sea.
One of the best beaches of the whole Black Sea coast is found at the foot of a
steep cliff a few kilometers further east, past Çamburnu Village.
Free Travel Guide of Turkey Pontic
coast: East of Trabzon - Trebizond