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Pontos, Black Sea Region Turkey travel guide

A travel guide of Turkey Black Sea Region (Antique Pontus Πόντος of Anatolia)

Turkey Travel guide, Turkey travel tips and photos

Turkey Travel tips, guide, photos

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World travel tips, guide, info, photo galleries




Sinop city travel
Sinop travel
situated on a narrow peninsula at Turkey’s northernmost point, Sinop is like a Black Sea island with its good-natured people and streets where time passes slowly.

pontian greek Development of the Pontic Greek Dialect
Development of the Pontic Greek Dialect
Will Pontic Greek continue to be spoken? Bortone (2009) believes Pontic Greek spoken in the Pontos in Asia Minor today will probably disappear. The challenge is to keep the Pontic Greek dialect alive. The more recent work of researchers like Emeritus Professor Peter Mackridge, Assistant Professor Pietro Bortone, Dr Theofanis Malkidis, Ömer Asan, Dr Anthi Revithiadou and Dr Vassilios Spyropoulos have increased our knowledge of the dialect.

Time For to Discover the Black Sea Highlands

Time For to Discover the Black Sea Highlands

Discover the Black Sea highlands in September when time is suddenly rent by a blanket of fog or the cry of a vulture, and make the acquaintance of nature in its most beautiful aspect.

Greek settlements pontos map
Formation of the First Greek Settlements in the Pontos

According to Liddell and Scott’s An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, the word Pontos stands for the sea, especially the open sea. In time, the word Pontos became associated with the north-eastern portion of Asia Minor that borders the Black Sea (see Map 1).1 The Greeks first called the Black Sea, Aξεινος πóντος (inhospitable, unfriendly pontos), but later it was called Εϋξεινος πóντος (hospitable pontos) when they became aware of its wealth in the lands around it ...

Chrypto-christians Trabzon Pontos Matsouka

Crypto-Christians of the Trabzon Region of Pontos

The crypto-Christians (also called cryphi, klosti, Stavriotes, Kromledes) were Christian Greeks who due to the Muslim persecution against Christians publicly declared themselves Muslims. However, in secret, they upheld their Greek language, customs and Christian religious practices...

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Ayder. From the Ardeşen fork on, the Firtina River

 Kackars Wonderland in the clouds

Glacier lakes on one side, yellow rhododendrons on the other, the Kaçkars offer an inviting natural environment. Leaving Rize behind, we start our adventure through the Ayder, Lower Kavron and Upper Kavron Highlands 

Ilgaz National Park ski center travel Turkey *for winter vacation

Even if you like it, snow in the city wears a person out. And if it catches the city unawares, it can mean some pretty tense and annoying days. Dense snowfall in a virgin, unspoiled natural environment in contrast, white as far as the eye can see, is not an ordeal but a pleasure. And Ilgaz, with its natural beauty and texture, can afford you that pleasure.

Gorele Kerasus Pontos images

 Gorele - Modern Coralla Kerasus Giresun

A misty green plateau recedes into the distance. The tinkle of goat bells mingles with the strains of a 'kemençe'. The local folk sway back and forth in native costume. This is Black Sea Giresun's 'Görele' and, as its name indicates, it's well worth seeing.

Imagine a lake secluded amidst pine trees in the foothills of the mountains... Another of the Black Sea's hidden treasures confronts me at Borçka. From there I head first to Macahel on the Georgian border with its natural beauty and beautiful people, and then to the endless valleys of Şavşat
 Smoky mountains and secluded lakes Borcka Savsat
Imagine a lake secluded amidst pine trees in the foothills of the mountains... Another of the Black Sea's hidden treasures confronts me at Borçka. From there I head first to Macahel on the Georgian border with its natural beauty and beautiful people, and then to the endless valleys of Şavşat 
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Travel Turkey

Turkey considered as the gateway between Europe and Asia is an Eurasian country located on the Mediterranean stretching across the Anatolian peninsula in southwest Asia and the Balkan region of southeastern Europe. It is bordered by the Black Sea, the Marmara Sea, the Aegean Sea and Mediterranean Sea.  Turkey is a fascinating country where many important civilizations have flourished since 9,000 BC. Turkey was home from the ancient Hittites, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines to the Ottomans which have left behind them superb architectural, archaeological and historical heritage. Modern Turkey is a secular and democratic Moslem country, founded in 1920 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and from that time, Turkey has been suffering big changes and one of the most notable is its rapidly economic development. Despite of its traditional and Islam roots, Turkey is decidedly western oriented country and today is considered as a candidate to be part of the European Union, which will permit to the country grow up more.

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Istanbul is often described as "the crossroads of Europe and Asia"...
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The third largest, and one of the most beautiful provinces is Izmir...


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Artvin travel 

Autumn in the south Rize province on the eastern Black Sea


A Laz tradition: Hawking in Turkey’s East Black Sea region

Black Sea Cuisine, Pontos culinary and recipes

Pontic Mountains of Turkey: The Kaçkars travel tips and photos

Borçka – Şavşat, Macahel on the Georgian border

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Traditional man clothes from Trabzon

Traditional woman clothes from Trabzon


Black Sea Personality" Directly or in spirit, the Black Sea people are descendants of the wild mountain tribes that Xenophon described 2400 years ago. To be sure, they are neither wild nor at all primitive today. But one can still sense how their independent and assertive spirit made generations of imperial chroniclers and would-be dominators so wary of their manners. They are an idiosyncratic lot. The "Black Sea personality" reflects a distinct culture that is far removed from either the dour fatalism of the Anatolian interior or the easygoing style of the Mediterranean seacoast. Two aspects of the land may have shaped its traits.
First, the topography. Inaccessible valleys among trackless mountains constitutes the setting that has traditionally defined the Black Sea lifestyles. Like mountain people all over the world (one thinks specifically of the Scotsmen, the Basques or even the Swiss), their inhabitants have a highly developed sense of clan and community loyalties. They are intense and proud people, quick to respond to any perceived attack on their territory, honor or freedom-if necessary, by taking the law into their own hands. The manufacture and use of guns is a passion. The delimitation of highland meadows among villages and clans has traditionally given rise to serious hostilities that sometimes last for generations. But the same feeling of territory and honor also gives rise to an equally strong sense of hospitality. Any outsider who takes the trouble to visit these far-away valleys is automatically a guest and will be treated to the most cordial welcome. The open and friendly hospitality of the Turkish people is often cited as one of the main pleasures of traveling in Turkey. But the Black Sea region surpasses the rest of the country in this respect.
Second: The land may be wild but it is also prodigiously fertile. Unlike the interior highlands where culture has been shaped by centuries of grinding poverty, the Black Sea man tends to be merry, extroverted and colorful. People enjoy having fun to a degree that the more conservative parts of the country would consider scandalous. Their music is fast and boisterous, its lyrics often risque, its rhythms utterly unlike the melancholy strains of most Turkish music. Alcohol is consumed with gusto. Wit and a certain panache are appreciated, and eccentricity tolerated as a character trait. Telling tall tales is a regional specialty. These characteristics grow more accentuated as one moves eastward. At the eastern end one encounters an extraordinary quota of idiosyncratic individuals, with the unmistakable glint in the eyes and self-deprecating wit that are the Laz hallmarks.

pontus people anatol'an turks laz greeks
The combination of intensity, wits and a good measure of clan solidarity seems to ensure business success. Spreading around the country, Black Sea people have earned a reputation (or notoriety) for gaining control of crucial businesses everywhere. Much of Turkey's real estate and construction industry is owned by people from
Trabzon and Rize. Most shipowners and seamen also come from there. The bread industry belongs to people from Of while (Çamlihemşin has a near-monopoly on pastryshops. The quirkiest financial genius of modern Turkey, thrice-bankrupted billionnaire Cevher Ozden, alias Kastelli, hails from Surmene. The country's biggest export trader of recent years, Hasbi Menteşoglu, is an elementary school dropout from (Çarşamba.
Politics is another field of prominence.
Three major political parties have seen their
Istanbul chapters led by men from Rize and (Çayeli in the last decade. A sin¬gle village in Sürmene boasts two major politicians and two top public servants while Of has produced two party general secretaries.
Predictably the Black Sea man, or the "Laz" as he is called with a mixture of affection and sneer, has become a stock figure of the Turkish social typology, The stereotypical Laz is called either Temel or Dursun. He sports a majestic nose and speaks Turkish with an outrageous accent. His diet consists of hamsi (Black Sea
anchovies), cooked to the legendary one hundred recipes that include hamsi bread and hamsi jam, with corn bread and dark cabbage to accompany. He dances a wild horon to the syncopated, manic tunes of his kemençe.
His oddball sense of humor makes him the butt of an entire genre of jokes. To a certain extent these jokes correspond to those of the Polish, Scottish, Marsilian or Basque variety, but they lack the crude ridicule that characterizes some of the latter. In most stories Temel either pursues an altogether wacky idea, or responds to situations with an insane non-sequitur. The best ones contain a hint of self-mockery, and it is not really clear who the joke is on. Inevitably the most brilliant Laz jokes are invented and circulated by the Laz themselves.
Laz and Not-So-Laz Underneath these broad generalizations, the population of the Black Sea region forms in reality a crazy-quilt of different ethnic, linguistic and cultural units. The patchwork diversity of the Swiss or the indigenous cultures of the North American Pacific are the parallels that come to mind.
Take the Laz. For the average Turk any native of the Black Sea region is a "Laz". But the average Turk who knows all about Temel and Dursun is often not aware that there exists a specific people called the Liz, who form only a small fraction of the people of the Black Sea. Numbering less than 150,000, the Laz in the proper sense of the term inhabit the five townships of Pazar, Ardeşen, Findikli, Arhavi and Hopa at the far eastern end of the Turkish coast as well as a few villages beyond the Soviet border. They have their own language, unrelated to Turkish, and their own history going back thousands of years. The Mingreli who live north of Batumi in the Soviet Union speak a version of the same language and differ mainly in that they remained Christians while the Laz converted to Islam some 500 years ago.
The Laz first surface in history when a kingdom bearing their name came to dominate Colchis through an obscure series of events in the I st century BC. The usual assumption is that they were originally a
tribe or sub-unit of the
Colchians. Romantics have speculated about a possible connection between the predominantly blond, blue-eyed Laz and the horde of Goths who devastated Trebizond in 276 AD and then dropped out of sight in this vicinity. No one has studied their language for Germanic traces. In its basic structure it is a linguistic relative of Georgian that is laced with a surfeit of borrowed Greek and Turkish words. It does not have a written form and, with the successful integration of the Laz into Turkish society, it is likely to disappear as a living language within a couple of generations.
The inhabitants of the Trabzon and Rize countryside, too, are often given the blanket appellation of Laz, although they would never refer to themselves as such. The stereotypical "Laz" variety of Turkish is in fact a characteristic of this region. Despite a common accent and other unity¬ing traits (notably female dress), this area presents a kaleidoscope of different cultures. The valleys of Of and (Çaykara, for example, speak a
dialect of Greek as their first language and display a marked sense of distinct identity. They also boast the highest proportion of mosques, Quranic schools and bearded Muslim scholars in the whole country The valleys of Tonya and Maçka speak Greek, too. But they tend to take the precepts of Islam with a grain of salt and heap scorn on the pious antics of their linguistic relatives in Of. Both groups earnestly deny being at all of Greek descent-which may be partly an effect of Turkish Republican education, but more likely reflects a dim memory of the times when the Empire of Trebizond forcibly Hellenized the native tribes in these same mountains.
Turkish is the native language in other cantons of the Trabzon-Rite area. Little over 300 years ago though, the traveler Evliya (Çelebi reported that at least two more now extinct native languages were spoken in this area in addition to Turkish, Greek, Georgian and Laz. He recorded one specimen which seems heavily mixed with Greek but is otherwise unintelligible.
There is more to the collage. The dis¬trict of Çamlihemsin in the
Kaçkar highlands behind Pazar and Ardesen is inhabited by an altogether different people who are called the Hemsinlis. They display their own sense of communal identity, with their own music, traditional female dress and linguistic peculiarities. They are loath to he called Laz. Hemsinli communities settled further northeast in the mountain villages of Hopa speak a language called "Hemsince", which turns out to be a dialect of Armenian.
The kemençe, a sort of piccolo violin with a tinny short-breathed sound perfectly suited to the neurotic accents of Black Sea music, is used in the Trabzon-Rite area and along the Laz coast east of Rize. The Hemsinlis and the villagers of the Artvin region, by contrast, play the tulum-a bagpipe made of goatskin producing a very Scottish-sounding drone. West of Giresun the customary Turkish zurna (a type of clarinette) and davul (kettledrum) take over the musical scene.
On the 68 kilometer drive between Hopa and Artvin, the traveler passes through four linguistic zones: Laz in Hopa. Hemhsinese in the mountains. Georgian in Borçka, and Turkish in Artvin-town. The Georgian-speakers of the Borçka-Camili and Meydancik valleys in Artvin province, located on opposite sides of the same mountain, employ mutually unintelligible dialects of the same language.
The Giresun highlands host a large number of (Çepni comnuinities who are descendants of the Türkmen tribes who settled here in the 13th century. They are said to adhere to the Alevi faith, a " heretical" variety of Shiite Islam. When pressed for clarifications, though, they seem unable to explain the differences between their sect and mainstream Sunni Islam. Fatsa, Bolaman and their hinterland, by contrast, are more self-consciously Alevi and consequently embrace the left-wing political sympathies usually associated with that sect.
Giresun and Ordu also have large elements of immigrants from various parts of Turkey who moved in three generations ago to replace the departing
Greeks. Trabzon city has a substantial community of Bosnian Muslims, immigrants from Yugoslavia. In the districts of Onye and Ordu many villages are populated by descendants of the Georgian and Abkhazian refugees of 1877, some of whom retain their old Ianguage.

Trabzon Traditional clothes in Ottoman empire era, man from Trabzon city, woman from Trabzon, man from rural area - Laz People

Trabzon Traditional clothes in Ottoman empire era, man from Trabzon city, woman from Trabzon, man from rural area - Laz People

Trabzon Traditional clothes in Ottoman empire era, man from Trabzon city, woman from Trabzon, woman from city

Trabzon Traditional clothes in Ottoman empire era, man from Trabzon city, woman from Trabzon, woman from city

Pontic Fashions

As in many other parts of Turkey, the most immediate manifestation of communal distinctions along the Black Sea coast is the traditional wear of women. Men are uniformly boring in their "western" garb.
Learning to recognize the telltale nuances of the colorful costumes of village women, on the other hand, can develop into one of the major joys of a Black Sea voyage. The beautiful hand-made fabrics that are used for these costumes make some of the most interesting souvenirs that one could bring back from a trip.
Traditional clothing is most commonly worn by women in the
Trabzon-Rize area. The distinctive attire of this region consists of the pestemal, a boldly striped piece of linen wrapped around the waist, and the keşan, a finely patterned red-black-cream shawl that covers the head and torsosometimes the face as well when a stranger is seen to approach. The combination is worn in a precisely delimited region between Tirebolu in the west and Çayeli in the east. The keşan is more or less uniform within this region. Peştemal fashions, on the other hand, vary from district to district: burgundy/cream stripes are worn by all women in Akçaabat, brown/black dominates in Tonya, while most fashionconscious ladies prefer crimson/black in Sürmene. Rize has its own unique orange and prussian blue aprons. It is also interesting to note that in some highland districts the keşan-and-peştemal "look" was only adopted within the last generation. In Tonya and Maçka, for example, one can still see older women wearing a very dif¬ferent costume made of black silk brocade complemented with a bright orange waistcloth while younger women copy the "fashions" of the coast.
Both the Ordu-Giresun region in the west and the Laz districts east of Rize have mostly dropped traditional attires in favor of either the generalized Turkish peasant dress of loose print skirts or a modern appearance.
Hemşinli women, by contrast, wear a wholly unique apparel which consists of patterned mountaineers' socks, knee-length skirts made of black wool and bright orange silk scarves. These
scarves, interestingly enough, are not made locally but imported or smuggled in from the Middle East. They are wrapped in a special manner around the top of the head, over a black chiffon kerchief that is usually adorned with ornamental trinkets. The overall effect cannot fail to remind one of 13th century European fashions.
The transmontane interior is where one begins to encounter serious feminine cover-up. A black silk "chador" is in fashion in Gümüşhane and Torul. A white cotton towel often covers the mouth. In Bayburt, the visitor is treated to the striking sight of women clad from tip to toe in a
brown silk or wool "body bag" that completely covers their face as well.
The symbolic meaning that these traditional outfits carry for the wearer can he divined from the example of a lady seen at the Trabzon airport. Apparently the wife of a local politician and impeccably dressed in modern clothes, the young woman wore a spiffy European designer scarf with a plaid pattern in red, cream and black-the colors of a traditional keşan!

Town, Village,

The valley is the basic unit that defines a community in the Black Sea region. A major valley is one that carries a river that discharges into the sea. It usually coincides with the administrative division of an ilçe which is usually translated as a "district", but might be better rendered as a "canton" in the Black Sea context. Rather than a village or a province (as in most other parts of the country), people seem to identify most strongly with their valley/canton. As with everything else in the Black Sea, this tendency gets more accentuated as one moves further east. The extreme case is the five Laz-speaking cantons which tend to regard each other pretty much as alien lands. The five villages of a side valley that was transferred ages ago from Of to Sürmene are accused of still pursuing "Of nationalism" by disgusted people in downstream Siürmene. When there is no linguistic or sectarian difference between two cantons, then people at least make sure that they vote for different parties and support different football teams.
Each canton has a main town that serves as administrative center and market. It is usually on the seashore, although the more interesting ones like amlıhemşin Maçka or Tonya are inland. The town is referred to as "the market". Regarded as a merely functional public place, little attention is paid to its esthetic upkeep. In the pre-1923 order of things towns used to be primarily the domain of the Greeks. The prettiest ones today are where their legacy is most apparent, like Akçaabat and Tireholu. Since the departure of the Greeks, towns have been characterized by the unfortunate decay of architecturally valuable old neighborhoods and a property boom that has turned them into extended
construction sites. The boom is financed mostly by the remittances and savings of emigrants who have made good in the big city. Much of the money that they bring in is invested in real estate for long or very long term dividends-hence the endless rows of half finished apartment buildings that line the coast, and the countless brand new mosques that dot the landscape.
People may keep property and maintain ties in the town but the valley is where they usually have their ancestral home. Farmlands extend over the sharply rising terrain to an altitude of 1200 to 1500 meters. The most noticeable aspect of the landscape is that villages in the
Anatolian sense do not exist here. What is called a village is often a mosque, several cafes and sometimes a few shops, with bunches of farmhouses scattered all over the mountain and set apart by forest patches and fields.
Several reasons have been offered for this settlement pattern. One is that the danger of flooding compels people to build their
houses on high and sloping ground (sometimes very high and very sloping indeed!). Another is that the abundance of water removes the need to huddle around a spring as in inner Anatolia. But perhaps the basic reason is the simplest one: these people like having a good view and detest it when their next-door neighbor looks down into their backyard. The cramped existence of the Anatolian peasant is something incomprehensible to the people of the Black Sea. Most folks cherish the idea of being the lord of one's own valley, with the sense of freedom and self-respect that it engenders. It is in this setting that they feel safest, most confident and most hospitable.
It is also here that the best specimens of traditional Black Sea wood and woodland-stone architecture are to he found although they are fast giving way to apartment buildings that look utterly surreal standing in the middle of the wilderness. The building style of traditional
houses varies between regions. The most gorgeous arc arguably in the district of Çamlıhemşin or in Artvin's Meydancik valley. The Of and Sürmene uplands also offer fine examples, while the Torul-Kürtün area has its own unique style. Common features include being enormously panoramic, and often spacious enough to
accomodate an old-fashioned family of a dozen or two. A large family was once considered essential, as were a few well-drilled pistols, to deter a hostile approach-and old traditions die hard.
Situated above the village belt is the yayla country. Around 1200 meters, the landscape begins to change. Giant conifers replace deciduous trees while tea and hazelnut plantations disappear.
Rhododendron ponticum, the yellow azalea and alpine lilies become ubiquitous. Vast rolling pastures, rising at every possible angle and curvature of the plane. extend to an altitude of 3000 meters. The sun shines more often here than in the cloudy low lands. Few people live in the yayla \ear round: in winter the re- ion is deserted sav -e for the solitary village fool, a few lost cows and a rare wilderness skier. Summer is a different story.

Above the Clouds

Since time immemorial, Black Sea people have migrated each summer to the yayla, to escape the humid heat of the low¬lands and to let cows take advantage of the rich pastures. The tradition continues in full force: some go for the sake of the cows, some because father did so before them, others just to enjoy the intoxicating effects of high mountain air. Some move up for the whole season, taking the ani¬mals and grandfather's armchair and pots and pans with them while others make the sortie for a few days at a time.
"Going up to the yayla" is the most exciting event of the year. Many people who have left the land of their birth to live elsewhere come back each year merely for the sake of the yayla. Many regard the yayla as a cleansing experience, attributing it an almost mystical aura. Some argue that one has not seen anything of the Black Sea if one hasn't seen the yayla.
The yayla is dotted with summer settlements which tend to be older and more compact places than the villages lower down. Each is the property of a village or valley, with ancient imperial writs to back up the claim. The yayla season formally begins on the first day of summer, which ancient tradition places on the "Sixth of May" (May 20 on the modern calendar). The strangest millenial folk rituals are revived on this day. Everywhere people feast and make merry in the fields. Virgins bury a ring under a rose bush, evoking mysterious pre-Islamic (and pre-Christian) saints. Coarse grains are thrown into the wind to feed "the birds and the wolves". At Giresun Island large crowds gather as they did in earliest Greek times, to throw 15 ("seven pairs and one") peb¬bles into the water and to circle the island thrice in rowboats. Then, for three days they make music, dance the boron and soak themselves in alcohol.
horon is usually performed by men. Dancers stand in a circle, holding hands. At first their steps are tentative, slow, even awkward. They gather speed as the music becomes wilder. The dance turns by degrees into the expression of an intense machismo, then increasingly into an explosive, boiling frenzy. The name of the dance is a legacy of the Greek choron and indicates a direct line of descent from the ancient Bacchic rites where celebrants went into a wild frenzy to honor the god of wine.
Merrymaking continues in the yayla, in fits and starts, throughout the season. The veneer of city culture gets stripped off. Oxcarts replace taxis while people who normally wear suit and tie put on their tra¬ditional dress. On appointed days, and often in between, they organize festivities. Guests from other valleys arrive on these days, along with the traveling bards, professional wrestlers, trinket sellers and the best dancers of the province. For three days and three nights, they drink, dance, wrestle, fight and gamble. Eternal friends and mortal enemies are made. Handguns and bagpipes come out of winter storage. Cows and bulls are decked out in festival frills. At Hidırnebi near Trabzon, participants form a 1000-person horon ring. At Kafkasor above Artvin, they hold bull¬fights. At Kadirga, at the intersection of the cantons of Maçka, Torul and Tonya, the three communities get together to reen¬act long-forgotten hostilities. Everyone is welcome at the festivities. Every visitor becomes part of the ongoing show.
And it is here in the breathtaking scenery of the mountains that the casual outsider first begins to penetrate the ,Wade, and catches a fleeting glimpse of the real spirit of the Black Sea.'

Usefull linksTravel to Black Sea’s blue and the mountains’ green and Turkish wedding

Greek Penetration of the Black Sea

Colchis, Armenia, Iberia, Albania

 The cost of language, Pontiaka trebizond Greek

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