Turkey Black Sea coast travel guide and destinations


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Black Sea Region TOUR GUIDE




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PART 12: Gümüşhane


Gümüşhane (which means "Silver-town", as does Argyropolis, its former name) has prospered since the 3rd millenium BC on account of its silver mines. The modern town is nondescript but the abandoned old a city, seven km away, presents a striking sight with its half-collapsed turn of-the-century mansions, gutted churches and solitary minarets.
Just past Gümüshane a partly paved 39 km road on the left leads to one of the most remote gems of all Turkey. Yagmurdere is an idyllic Black Sea yayla town, a cross between Hamsikoy and Hemşin, on the northern face of the mountains but only accessible via an imposing mountain pass from the south, because it is located on a natural ledge that allows no passage down¬ward-unless one attempts to raft one's way down to Arakh on the Karadere stream. The delightfully hospitable inhabitants recall few foreigners ever having made the detour to their out-of-the-way paradise.
The scenery changes once again at the Vavuk Pass (1910 m), which announces the definitive transition to the eastern Anatolian high plateau and its grandiose landscape of immense, treeless, rolling mountains. The boundary is also a historical one:

The Greek linguistic and cultural influence never really penetrated beyond this point in Hellenistic and Byzantine times. Inversely, the first wave of Turkish conquest easily swept this land in 1071 while Trabzon, including the buffer region of Khaldia, kept resisting for another 400 years.
The change is apparent in the details of local culture. Villages now consist of tight, well-defined clusters, unlike the scattershot farmsteads of the Black Sea region. Men wear more substantial moustaches. The dancing and drinking of the Black Sea mountains is frowned upon as undignified behavior. Women walk around in earth-colored body sacks that cover them from head to toe. They scramble away in panic when a stranger is seen to approach. Spending some time in Bayburt allows one to adjust to this different historical and cultural milieu and to reflect on the Black Sea experience by comparison and contrast.


Bayburt is a lively market town dominated by a stupendous hilltop fortress. The latter was built by Justinian in the course of his efforts to fortify his eastern borders against the Iranians. It was occupied by local Armenian and Turkish lords in turn. The armies of General Paskiewicz demolished it in part during the Russian War of 1828.
As should be expected, the town has Turkish monuments of far greater interest than anything to be found on the Black Sea coast. Of special note are the Ulucami, built circa 1225 by a lord of the local Saltuk dynasty, and the Yakutiye Mosque, endowed in 1315 by a governor of the Mongolian empire of Genghis Khan. The market is a colorful one with cobblestoned streets dense with shops selling everything from wooden hoes to antique pocket-watches.
After a few hours, the visitor may begin to warm up to the peculiar charm of Bayburt. The funky Sevil Hotel has large rooms with balconies jutting directly over the Çoruh River. Under the moonlight it begins to look like an ersatz Seine. The Kartal Restaurant, the only place in town where one can get a beer (this is conservative land!), has an ancient stone balcony big enough for one table where one can dine under the stars with an enchanting view of the castle. This is time to shift mental gears for a voyage into the very different world of Eastern Turkey.
Nor is it too late to go back to the friendlier climate of the Black Sea. An unpaved but reasonable road crosses directly from Bayburt to Çaykara and Of via the dizzying heights of the Soğanlı Pass, which is some 550 meters higher than the Zigana. Another road, a veritable car-killer in this case, leads east through the spectacular landscapes of the Çoruh Valley to Ispir and eventually Artvin. The sensation of crossing the magic line back into the now familiar riot of greens makes either journey entirely worthwhile.



PART 1: Imagined Empire
The Main Square
A Long Walk
Atatürk House
Bazaar District
Hagia Sophia
Rising Above
Lady of the Mountains
PART 10:
Obscure Monasteries
PART 11:
The Way to the Pass
PART 12:


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