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Eastern Karadeniz

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Turkey : Black Sea Turkey : Eastern Karadeniz
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Eastern Karadeniz (Turkish: Doğu Karadeniz) is a region in Black Sea Turkey, including the Artvin, Giresun, Gümüşhane, Rize, and Trabzon provinces.

A hamlet with traditional local architecture up on lush and misty Kaçkar Mountains/Pontic Alps

Regions

Cities

  • Ayder — village up in the lush Kaçkar Mountains/Pontic Alps
  • Rize — centre of the country's tea-growing region
  • Sürmene
  • Torul — a town inland
  • Trabzon — biggest city and hub of the region

Other destinations

  • 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.

Understand

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.

People

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.

Talk

As aforementioned, there are pockets of people speaking Pontic Greek (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.

Get in

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.
  • 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.
  • There are also some ferries from Russian Black Sea Coast to Trabzon.

Get around

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.

See

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.

Itineraries

Do

  • Trekking between the hamlets and summer meadows (yayla) of the misty and lush Kaçkar Mountains is a popular activity.

Eat

Drink

Stay safe

Get out

  • 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.
  • Travellers heading further east enters Georgia's Black Sea coast via Sarpi border gate.
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