Giresun can be best summed up as a low-profile Trabzon, a city whose destiny has
historically been to play second fiddle to its sister in the east. Almost every
feature of Trabzon is replicated, but on a smaller, sleepier and, one might say,
pleasanter scale. The only major difference is the noticeable absence of the
conservative Muslim element which so visibly char¬acterizes the larger city.
Like Trabzon, the city was originally founded as a colony of Sinope. It bore the
name of Cerasus, probably in reference to the horn-shaped peak to the east of
the town. During the Mithridatic Wars, in 69 BC, legions of the Roman general
Lucullus camped here, and brought back to Rome an exotic local fruit which they
named after the town. It is still called cherries in English, cerise in French,
and so on in other European languages.
The acropolis of the original Greek colony was located on the steep hill
overlooking the city center. It later got replaced by a Byzantine fortress which
has now been converted into the prettiest city park in Turkey. It offers a
splendid bird's eye panorama of the whole city and the surrounding mountains.
Located within the park is the monumental tomb of Topal Osman Ağa (Sir Limping
Osman), the heroor villain-of the bloody war of attrition against local Greek
irregulars during and after the First World War.
The only significant historical building in the city is the Greek Church which
seems to be a 19th century reconstruction of a Byzantine original. Recently
restored, it is now a museum. The 15th century Tomb of Seyyid Vakkas is a fine
Ottoman monument, commemorating a Turkish knight martyred during the during the
conquest of Giresun in 1461.
Three kilometers east of Giresun harbor and off the estuary of the Aksu River is
Giresun Adası, the only island of the Black Sea coast. Once known as the Island
of Aretias, this is where the Amazon queens Antiope and Otrera built a temple to
Ares, the very masculine god of war. The Argonauts anchored here during their
quest for the Golden Fleece and were forced to retreat when, according to
Apollonius of Rhodes, "a flock of birds rose in thousands and discharged a heavy
shower of feathery darts at the ship."
Today, the cormorants and gulls remain, though in a more peaceful state of mind.
The "black rock" where Jason offered sacrifice still stands at the eastern end
of the island. At the feast of Hıdrellez on May 20th, the rock becomes the venue
of one of the most unusual traditional festivals of all Turkey. After picking up
"seven pairs and one" pebbles at the estuary of the Aksu, hundreds of
participants row out to the island and form a circle around the rock by holding
hands. Then everyone puts a pebble into cracks in the rock with a private wish
in mind: a solution to family problems, the healing of an illness or success in
a business venture.
The island is uninhabited except for a small teahouse. One can hire a
fishing boat to get there to see the old walls and lone surviving tower of a
Byzantine monastery. The place offers good opportunities for swimming in
Texas in Turkey
Birds, Castles, Lost Churches
Ordu to Unye
A Historic Metropolis
The Tail End