Zilkale — a beautiful ruined Byzantine-era castle, lost in the dense woods of a mountain valley, up the road past Şenyuva, up the road from Çamlıhemşin, just east of Ayder.
A humid and verdant region as a consequence of the high precipitation levels distributed evenly throughout the year, the biodiversity of Eastern Karadeniz reaches the levels of tropical rainforests in some areas. Most of the higher parts of the mountains which dominate the region and usually ascending right from the coastline and giving way for little land for development are covered with lush forests, while yet highest parts are covered with alpine meadows and glacier lakes with the lower foothills are mostly tea plantations—a subtropical plant which can grow abundantly in the region thanks to the shielding effect of Caucasus Mountains from the cold northern winds in addition to the generous rainfall. Other important crops include hazelnuts and citrus.
Eastern Karadeniz is the part of the region which Turks mostly think of when they hear Karadeniz, i.e. Black Sea.
Although all locals are colloquially, incorrectly, and somewhat derogatorily called "Laz" collectively by the Turks from elsewhere, Eastern Karadeniz, though overwhelmingly ethnically Turkish, has indeed a rich blend of ethnic make-up despite its relatively small size, like a microcosm of much larger multi-national former Ottoman Empire. In addition to the majority Turks, a number of towns east, west, and south of Trabzon are inhabited by Muslim Turks with a Pontic Greek background (very few of them who are almost exclusively elderly, still retain their ancestral language, though calling them and their language outright "Greek" may heavily offend some of them). The Hemşin people, Muslimized brethren of Armenians, are present in the region, too, living in inland valleys south of Rize (most of the Hemshin people do not regard themselves as "Armenians" and, as with the Pontic Greek descendants, calling them and their language outright "Armenian" may heavily offend some of them). Then there are the actual Laz people, distant cousins of Georgians, living in coastal towns east of Rize up to the Georgian border. A number of inland villages in the east corner of the region, just south of Turkish-Georgian border (mainly in Macahel valley) are inhabited by Muslim Georgians, who chose to stay within borders of predominantly-Muslim Turkey rather than then-Soviet Georgia in a referandum in early 1920s.
As aforementioned, there are very few pockets of people speaking Pontic Greek (locally known as Romeika, and which is not completely mutually intelligible with modern Greek as Pontic variant retains more of medieval/Byzantine Greek characteristics), Hemşin dialect of Armenian, Laz which is distantly related to Georgian spoken in the neighbouring country, and Georgian proper, although Turkish is sufficient to communicate whomever you are speaking to in the region. Locals speak Turkish in an accent that non-local Turks usually find "funny" and like to chaff at—indeed Eastern Karadeniz Turkish is a major theme in Turkish jokes folklore, but the local Turks dislike this stereotyping and find it offensive.
Trabzon is the main hub of transportation into the region.
Trabzon is the site of the sole airport in the region, with links to the big cities in the rest of the country and a few Western European cities.
Trabzon, and Rize to a lesser degree, are served by frequent buses from rest of the country, especially big cities such as Istanbul and Ankara. However, as the region lies on the far northeastern corner of the country, distances are huge and bus ride from, for example, Istanbul can easily take a full day and night.
Multiple busses a day head for Trabzon from Georgian cities Batumi (3 hours) and Tbilisi. Usualy there are also daily connections from Baku (Azerbaijan) and Yerevan (Armenia) that can take well over a day.
Outside of the rough winter months there is a daily ferry from the Russian Black Sea Coast to Trabzon, and a weekly ferry from Istanbul. During the winter there is a weekly ferry to Sochi, if the weather conditions allow for it.
Typical road scene from interior Eastern Karadeniz. Pictured here is the road leading to Lake Uzungöl.
The highway D010, which was recently upgraded to motorway standards, closely follows the coastline—sometimes too closely that it replaces the coastline as the motorway was built at cost of almost all of region's beaches, and forms the main backbone of transportation in the region from one end to another.
The hills and valleys of the eastern section of the region, around the valley of Çoruh, is dotted with ruins of Georgian churches and citadels, as the region was southern part of the medieval Georgian kingdom. Some of these churches and citadels are mostly intact while some others are almost totally ruined, and most lie on sites that are fairly off the beaten path.
Trekking between the hamlets and summer meadows (yayla) of the misty and lush Kaçkar Mountains is a popular activity.
The local people are known to be great lovers of local anchovy, hamsi, and experiment with incorporating it into just about anything, including delicious hamsi böreği, in which rice surrounded by anchovies all over is baked in the oven, and fairly unique hamsi tatlısı, which is a cake filled with anchovies, and topped by a concoction of fruits and sweet syrup.
Unlike the rest of the country, the main grain of local cuisine is corn, as wheat cannot stand to grow in the damp climate and rugged territory of the region. Corn flour is cooked into great breads, and muhlama, another local taste which basically consists of corn flour, butter, cheese, and salt.
Central Karadeniz to west is the extension of the Black Sea coast, yet with less mountains and much more plains.
Eastern Anatolia to the south, just over the Pontic Mountains, is high territory with cold weather—even in summer—and is almost a world apart from the coast.