EASTWARD, ALONG THE BLACK SEA IN TURKEY

This is a collection of reports we emailed to friends and relatives during our trip to Turkey, and that text is in black. Text added later, as explanations, corrections, etc. is in red. Sharon's comments, added during the trip, are in {green curly brackets}.


Turkey 2004. Report 4. "I Ate My Head."

Note: Daughter Tara, Sharon and I have planned an 8-day driving vacation up to the Black Sea, along the coast, then down and back, and this report begins that trip.

Further Note: Sharon has added comments, and they are in {angle brackets}.

 

Tuesday August 31. Driving from Cihan and Tara's Home in Golcuk to Safronbolu, then Amasra on the Black Sea Coast.

We picked up our Mitsubishi 4-door mid-luxury rental car last evening, with Cihan doing the tracking, cajoling, following up and threatening to keep the Hertz guy moving. Thanks Gee.

815am and we're on the road. Our trip will take us east a few hours, then we'll turn north, pointing towards the Black Sea "Karadiniz" in Turkish, where "Kara" means black and "diniz" means sea. Their term for the Mediterranean is White Sea, or Akdeniz.

About 930am or so we change drivers, with Sharon taking the wheel while I nap. I'm exhausted all the time from the effects of drinking bad water likely in some ice cubes cooling off my coke, but the prescription Cipro we brought for such an event should make me as good as new, although not for about a day and a half.

I wake up from my shotgun seat in the front, and notice that the GPS says we're headed southeast. We should be going northeast. Somehow we've gotten off course, so we pull off at the first opportunity to re-evalute. {Oops!} We decide to exit the motorway, reverse directions and get back on the motorway to recover. Our exit was complicated, I didn't know which of the several town names to have Sharon watch for, and I had picked the closest large one. We figure that it wasn't on the exit sign, so she never knew she was supposed to get off.

We get a nice Long-legged Buzzard (In Turkey, hawks are called buzzards and buzzards are called vultures) at the turnaround.

By 1230 noon, we have recovered and arrived in Safranbolu.

This famous town has two attractions we are interested in shopping and famous old, old houses, some built in the 1600s. Sharon does nicely shopping in the fascinating stores and booths along the narrow cobblestone streets and alleyways. {I got some great bargains, and it is fun talking with the vendors. We got some candy that has saffron, hence the name of the town, "Safron"bolu, in it. The region is known for this candy} I get a photo of a man with a fantastic mustache, who I like to call Mustasha rather than Mustapha, a more likely name.

We visit one of the old houses, which is now a museum, and learn about life in the 1600s and 1700s in this home, which would have belonged to a wealthy merchant.

Finishing up in Safranbolu, which also grows saffron, an expensive spice, we head further north, arriving at Amasra, one of the most beautiful towns on the Black Sea coast. It is in a gorgeous little bay, supplemented by a long breakwater, and fishing boats abound, as do fish restaurants down by the harbor.

Our hotel is only a block from the water, and we are on the fifth floor. Incredibly, there are no elevators and we walk up and down, me gasping for breath because I'm still weak from the water ingestion problem and the Cipro not quite taking hold yet. But I do ok.

We go back to the room and rest, then head out for dinner. Puff puff. After checking our appetites and several waterfront restaurants, we pick one recommended by our Lonely Planet book, whose name contains the word Cihan, who is Tara's husband. The food is delicious, what there is of it (about three times as much as we could possibly eat). {We try to get a plate from this restaurant with Cihan's name on it, but they will only give us one of their paper tablecloths, but it does have Cihan's name on it so we will surprise him with it.}

We shop some more, looking for a nonslip piece of rubber or something to put under the GPS on the car dash, which has been sliding all over the place during our drive today. We buy a couple of items, and the best one turns out to be a pair of dishwashing gloves, cut off to remove the area from the start of the thumb to the end of the fingers. What's left is the wrist, you might say.

We also shop some more and buy a few more items, including one which is engraved by an old man by woodburning. Sharon gives him the two names to write, and he gets the short one right, but omits a letter from the longer one. When we point it out, he tells his equally old wife, who slaps herself on the top of the forehead in what must be a universal sign of I-can't-believe-you-did-that. It cracked us up.

Major Towns Today: Izmit, Duzce, Bolu, Gerede, Karabuk, Safronbolu, Bartin, Amasra.

Nice Birds of the Day: Long-legged Buzzard.

 

Wednesday, September 1, 2004. Amasra to Sinop Along the Black Sea Coast.

An incredibly loud noise blasts through our fifth floor window about 5 or 5:30am, and it's morning prayers from the mosque's minaret, the loud speaker, it seems, designed to point directly at our open window. We each lay there thinking, "It'll end pretty soon and we'll go back to sleep," something pretty hard to do with somebody yelling directly into your room. But it finally does, ending with a "beep beep beep," like you hear on the telephone when you hold it to your ear and press three buttons at random.

We have our free breakfast in the hotel, then load up and take off. I get some wonderful photos, looking back down at Amasra from the bluffs of the highway.

Today Tara will give us some Turkish phrases.

One I like is said when you do something maybe you know isn't right, and you get caught, or you take a shortcut and it winds up costing you. Like maybe you speed and get caught by radar. Then you say, "Ayva yedim," or "I ate the quince," a sour tasting fruit.

Another one is my favorite. You might say for example, if your kids are being naughty, and you keep telling them to be quiet and they don't, so you blow up in anger, yelling at them. Then you say, "Kafa Yedim," which means "I ate my head," a very Turkish way of saying, "I lost it."

I stop for gas a little after 9am and calculate that we get 13.0 kilometers per liter, or 31.2 miles per gallon. Turks refer to the number of liters it takes to drive 100 kilometers, and that is 7.7, if my calculations and logic are correct.

We get our first Isabelline Wheatear (a bird, if you didn't suspect as much) of the trip, the first of many. A little after 11am, we stop in Kurucasile, a noted wooden shipbuilding center. Indeed, we stop to observe a small yacht under construction, and the workers motion for us to come aboard. A little boy sits alone under the boat, sanding a piece of wooden strip.

Some of them are working on installing beautiful rosewood paneling. I have Tara ask the cost of such a boat, and the answer is $250 to $400,000. I offer to trade our car for the boat, and that produces some laughter and a resounding, "I guess not." We decline an offer of tea, since they won't trade, but we do accept the pears they offer us in the Turkish manner of offering your guests some food, and take off.

We stop at the top of a bluff, and look back down at the city of Cide. Sharon spots a falcon, which we identify as Peregrine. There are lots of Ravens around the area also.

1230 noon and we stop at a little mountain store to buy some things for lunch. We get cokes, grapes, ekmek (bread), and a couple of candy bars. I have discovered one called Coco Star, which is similar to a Mounds, but smaller. The letter 'c' in Turkish is pronounced like the letter 'j', so the candy bar name sounds like Jojo Star.

We find a roadside place by the sea, pull over and enjoy our lunch, checking out a turtle on the road. Its shell is what you would expect, but with two flanges in the back, at the corners. {We think of you, Sieren. How are Racer and Tank?}

We drive on, getting some great coast photos, and Sharon relieves me with driving a little before 4pm. Half an hour later, and the weather has changed to be much cooler. I like to say it feels delicious.

We have scheduled a short stop at a lake that may be the home to some life birds for us. It is Sarikum Golu. Sarikum is the small village and Golu means lake. We reach the turnoff from the highway at about 530pm. We get Coots, Intermediate Egrets and some faraway ducks, which we will check out closer on the way back out

The drive takes us through the village, along the coast, then into a forest. The village has what must be drying sheds, but they are in the shape of an outhouse, and are very tall.

We don't get the rare birds we're after in the forest, but on the way back out we ID the ducks as the as-advertised FERRUGINOUS DUCKS, life birds for us.

A flock of sheep are driven past us from the direction of the highway, toward the village, and the family doing the driving stops and talk with us, Tara doing the talking of course.

They send their older son to the village, and he returns with six ears of fresh corn. The man explains that we are to give these to the people where we stay tonight, and they will prepare the corn for us to eat. I set up the scope lower than usual, so their kids can look through them. It is set up on a white egret, and the kids are impressed.

We say goodbye and head out, getting back to the road about 630 pm. We drive into town, and check into our hotel. This hotel is in town and I can park just across the road, which is very handy. They tell us it has an elevator, but to our surprise, you have to walk up about a floor and a half to get to it, then it takes you further up, to your room.

The world never ceases to surprise.

We get recommendations for a dinner place and go there. It is an excellent restaurant, and the owner, it turns out, speaks excellent English. He comes to sit with us a couple of times, practicing. He says he will show us something later, and we will say, "I don't believe it."

The dinner is very good, and he comes over later with a pack of photographs, showing a centuries old mosaic. He says he discovered it on his property in town, and the government immediately made him stop construction. He finally negotiated with them, and he paid for its removal and installation in a new museum, so he could get on with his construction. He says he got absolutely nothing for his discovery, except they will put some words near the mosaic saying he discovered it.

We get his son's email address, take some photos, and promise to email them to him. Then we take off for more shopping. I am feeling much stronger now that the Cipro is taking effect.

My fantasy football league is having its draft in California at 730 in the evening, which is 530am tomorrow morning here. The host of the draft (last year's winner) will call Tara's cell phone, so that will be our wakeup call tomorrow morning.

Major Towns Today: Kurucasile, Cide, Doganyurt, Inebolu, Abana, Catalzeytin, Turkeli, Ayancik, Sinop.

Nice Birds of the Day: Isabelline Wheatear, Peregrine Falcon, Intermediate Egrets, FERRUGINOUS DUCKS.

 

Thursday, September 2, 2004. Sinop to Ordu, Driving Along the Black Sea Coast.

Some sound happens, lifting me out of my deep sleep, and it's Dick Walker, calling Tara's cell phone, using 10-10-987 as a prefix to her phone number. I wake up, and am able to participate in the football draft.

For you footballers, I drafted Tennesse RB Brown, Green Bay's K Longwell, Carolina's WR Muhammad and New York Giant's RB Dayne.

Then I went back to sleep. {How he slept through the dogs barking, I don't know I had to put on my MP3 headphones and listen to music to drown them out.}

We get up, get ready for the day, and have breakfast. Then I say "Gidellum," which means "Let's Go!" It's about 9am.

We take off and refuel at 930am. The unleaded fuel costs 2.108 million Turkish lira per liter, is about $5.25 per gallon. We get 37.96 liters, at a cost of $80 million, which is about $53.

Tara continues teaching us Turkish idioms. She teaches English to Turkish students, and one time they asked her what donkeys say in America. She said the standard, "Hee Haw," and they laughed and said that in Turkey, donkeys say, "Haw Hee."

Baby chickens say, "Cheeve, cheeve, cheeve," rather than "cheep, cheep, cheep." Dogs say, "Hahv, hahv, hahv." That's pretty funny, though of course no dog ever said that, the same way no dog has ever said, "Bow wow."

We come to a wonderful overlook a little before 11am. We see a man way down in a rowboat and can hear chugga chugga chugga from a fishing boat working its nets. There is a blackberry patch here, but the berries are all red, indicating the popularity of this as a stopping spot by drivers.

We leave the redberry patch, and continue our drive, which is similar to driving Highway 1 along the California coast. My GPS says we are at 1200 feet above sea level. I think the Black Sea is at about 100 feet or so. {Hey! What happened to "sea level"}

Do you know the game kids play in a swimming pool? One kid is "It." He closes his eyes and yells, "Marco," and the other kids, who must stay in the pool at all times, must yell back, "Polo." Here, the game is called "Apple Pear," and you can figure out the parts.

We are in tobacco territory, and there are racks of tobacco leaves drying in the sun. We stop and get photos of women hanging the leaves. We continue on, noting a fully-loaded donkey, lying down, having a donkey break.

We try to get his attention, and yell, "Haw Hee," but maybe he's American because he doesn't respond.

A motorbike comes at us with a young man driving. A little boy sits in front of him, and an old man behind.

About noon, we realize we need a knife to slice tomatoes, cheese and bread, so we stop in a little town, where Tara buys us one. We pick up things for lunch and break for that down the road.

My digital voice recorder's batteries give out, and since I've lost my battery charger somewhere, I have none recharged to use. I purchase a couple of AAA batteries to use. We stop about an hour later at an Algida, which is the name on the side of the ice cream freezers.

We come to a place where a huge, thick wall is being constructed by about a dozen men, plus some heavy equipment. The concrete however, is being mixed by hand in a mixer. A man shovels in some gravel, then opens a bag of cement, and dumps it in. White cement powder puffs out all over the place, and the fellow is almost white with dust. To my delight, he spits on the palm of one of his hands, and claps them together in the manner you do when you're done with a task. He holds them palms facing each other, then brushes one hand up while the other one goes downward, and the palms rub against each other. Like a black-jack dealer will do in Las Vegas or Lake Tahoe when shift change comes, and he signals that he's finished.

Sharon says, "Like he's finished!"

We notice different kinds of gulls, and are delighted to discover YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS, a life bird for us. Also present are wonderful upgrades of Little Gull, in full breeding plumage. They show beautiful black and white, as they roller coaster just above the water. There are also Black-headed Gulls, mostly in winter plumage, but some still in breeding plumage. The other gulls are difficult to identify, so we let them go.

Before our trip to the Black Sea, Cihan told many stories of the Black Sea people, especially in the northeast. Here is one of his better ones.

It was during the four years he served on a ship following naval academy graduation, and their ship was docked at one of the ports on the Black Sea in northeast Turkey. Cihan SWEARS that all the young men in the area carry guns, usually pistols, with them. Tara chimes in, "The women too." He says it is because of their fierce independence, I think.

The navy had the ship open for the locals to come aboard and visit, and Cihan was working at the entry point. He said the the first guy, "Do you have any weapons?" The fellow pulled out his gun, and Cihan said, "You'll have to check it here," and he did. This went on for a few people, when Cihan decided he didn't have to ask everybody had a gun. He just would say, "You'll have to check your weapon," and they all did. Finally a young man came up, and Cihan said, "You'll have to check your weapon," and the man "ate his head." He was extremely angry with himself, but the reason was because he had left his revolver at home, not because he had to check it. He was mad the same way I am when I have driven to the store and find I forgot my wallet. You know dangit! Now I have to go back home and get it.

We check into a wonderful hotel, the Belde, a little before 6pm, just west of Ordu, after we can't find a good one in town. This is a three-star hotel, and is very nice.

I plug in the voltage converter to the same outlet as the TV and the refrigerator, and sparks fly, then all the lights go off. Looks like I ate the quince. Tara calls the front desk, and a man comes immediately, after resetting the circuit breaker or whatever. I unplug the lamp above one of the beds, and this outlet works ok.

We have dinner outside by the olympic-size pool, beside the sea, and the weather is perfect. It is buffet style, and Tara carefully explains each of the fifteen salads or so, and I don't like the sound of ANY of them, and I tickle Tara by being such a baby. I finally try one with potatoes, and it's the best salad I've had in my life. There is another one with potatoes, so I also try it, and it's better than the first one.

Cranes spend all night unloading a barge, across the water.

A DJ is playing a tape which surely must be Celine Dion, and it is entirely in French. At my request, Tara asks the DJ, and he says that one time he was playing a gig in Izmir I think, and a Frenchman gave him the tape.

Towns of the Day: Gerze, Alacam, Bafra, Samsun, Unye, Fatsa, Ordu. Birds of the Day: YELLOW-LEGGED GULL, Little Gull, Black-headed Gull.

NOTE: I don't have a high-speed line for transmittal, and so there are no new photos on our website.

End of Report 4.


 

Turkey 2004. Report 5. "Hail the Hoopoe!"

Note: Daughter Tara, Sharon and I planned an 8-day driving vacation up to the Black Sea, along the coast, then down and back, and this is the second report from that trip. Report 4 described the first three days.

Further Note: Sharon has added comments, and they are in {angle brackets}.

 

Friday September 3, 2004. Ordu to Trabzon, Driving East on the Black Sea Coast of Turkey.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO BROTHER GEORGE!

We take off from the wonderful Hotel Belde about 915am. A worker has washed our car and it is sparkling and shiny, like new. I tip him 35 cents and he is appreciative. Did I tell you that tips in Turkey are less than elsewhere?

Our goal today is a city called Giresun (a world cherry center), and ultimately Trabzon, featuring a famous high mountain former monastery.

Tara resumes her stories of Turkish and English.

Her friend Taner (say TAH-ne'er, the last part to rhyme with 'where'), one of her students, was talking with Tara about this girl in his class. Tara asked if she was his girlfriend, or perhaps he wanted to make her his girlfriend. Now to formulate an answer, Aytac has to review all the 'do' and 'be' and 'make' words to answer her, so he came up with ,"I'm gonna do 'er." Tara said, no, no, you can't say that, and explained its new meaning in English. To which he said the word that means the same in both languages: "oops."

In America, we use the expression, "Son of a bitch," but in Turkey they say with a little more humor and grace, "Son of a donkey," where the donkey is your father, not your mother. One time Tara was a little miffed at Cihan in the kitchen while Cihan's parents were visiting. She called Cihan a son of a donkey just as Cihan's dad Kemal walked in, and he said, "Meet the donkey!"

Shortly after Tara was married and at Cihan's parents house, she was deciding whether to make lemonade, and she went into the living room, where aunts and uncles and cousins were visiting. She asked if they thought she should squeeze the lemon, but in Turkish, squeeze is pronounced something like s'k, as if you said sick, but left out the 'i'. However, if you pronounce it "seek," it is one form of the f-word.{So she actually said, "Should I f--- the lemon?"}

Everybody laughed, and after they slowed down a little, one of the women said, "Welllll, you COULD," and everybody laughed harder.

1000am and Sharon and Tara see about a dozen Spoonbills fly over.

{As we have been driving along now, we see hazelnut "bushes" (they are more like a shrub than a tree) growing in every available space. The Black Sea region is famous for this nut and it seems like everybody is growing them. Occasionally we see them laid out on the ground drying. It's fun to go through the tobacco country, then pass into the hazelnut country and soon we will be in tea country.}

We come to the town of Giresun shortly after that, which we understand is one of the earliest places in the world where cherries were harvested as a fruit. But what we learn is that these cherries are not the ones that you and I know. {They are sort of like cranberries, so I don't buy any cherry jam from here, but we do buy hazelnuts.} We move on about 11 am.

We continue on, fueling up about 1pm, a few minutes short of Trabzon.

We pick up some things for lunch and enjoy it by the water. We see many more Little Gulls, almost all in full breeding plumage. They are incredibly beautiful, with white on tops of their wings and black on the undersides. From our books, we understand that they are migrating south, and are stopping here only for a few days or so. Lucky us.

We make Trabzone about 230pm and head up the road to the monastery. At 330pm, we enter the national park, and I get some fabulous pictures looking almost straight up at the monastery, built into the side of the mountain. A little before 4pm we are in the high parking lot.

The Sumela Monastery was a Greek Orthodox (Christian) monastery for hundreds of years, but when it became obvious that the country was becoming Muslim, it was abandoned several hundred years ago. It is now under the care of the national park system.

It is lightly raining as we do the fifteen minute walk up the steps to the base of the monastery itself. We buy tickets and walk up the long stairway to the main area. It is overcast and cool, and a wonderful place. {It is a beautiful Byzatine monastery built into the mountain side that reminds me of Mesa Verde in New Mexico. Inside the chapel are Byzatine paintings, many of which were defaced when the Muslims came. But the ones on the ceilings are intact and beautiful. It is such a feeling of ancient calm inside the rooms. They even had barns for their livestock high on the mountain. Quite a feat of building.}

We walk all over it, and I click off lots of photos. Sharon spots some Crag Martins, as we identify them by their body markings and behavior. Tara talks with some people who have seen our license plate, and they are from the same area we are from.

We see a Jay during the walk back to the car park, a bird that seems to be made up of parts from three or four different birds.

A little after 5pm, we are in almost total mist, but I can see the road just fine. There is very much of a rainforest feel about this place, as we make our way down to the gift shop and hotel, near the park entrance. Sharon goes in to buy post cards and comes out with an armload of "Christmas gifts," though I always wonder how many of them will somehow not make their way out of our house. Actually I like it when Sharon finds cool things to buy, whether they are fror her or others.

A little before 630pm, on our way back down, we see a European Dipper, and I get a fair photo of the bird on a big rock in the middle of a rushing mountain stream. This great bird feeds under water. I mean submerged! As it stands on the rock, it sort of bends its legs at the knee, doing a sort of "dip." I still don't know if it got its name from dipping under the water or dong its characteristic dip while standing. Maybe I don't wanna know. Maybe I like the puzzle.

We find our way to the Hotel Usta, in the middle of Trabzon. It's advertised as three stars, but I rate it about 2.2. We have dinner at a kebob place, then come back to the hotel and turn in. I think I'm totally over my intestinal bout now. I feel strong and sassy.

Towns of the Day: Giresun, Eynesil, Vakfikebir, Trabzon.

Birds of the Day: Spoonbill, Little Gull, Crag Martin, Jay, European Dipper

 

Saturday, September 4, 2004. Trabzon to Rize, then High Mountain Sivrikaya. An Unbelievably Adventurous Day.

We intended to wake up at 630am, but I don't do the final act of actually turning the alarm ON, and we wake up naturally at 8am.

We have breakfast, have the staff bring our car around, and load up. I wait while the women go silver and gold shopping. I mean they aren't even PRETENDING to be buying post cards now.

They get back a little before 10am, displaying all the goodies they bought. I have a cool story to tell here, but the person who will get this one particular gift reads this, and I can say no more

We hit the road and at the turnoff to Uzongol, our intermediate destination today, we decide not to go there, but to continue on to the city of Rize (say REE-zeh), a tea center of Turkey, and home of the Tea Institute and Botanical Gardens. Uzungol is a high mountain lake, and I picture it to be like Lake Louise in Canada, but we're limited in time and we vote to swap Uzungol for Rize. I mean they each have the letter 'z' in them, so how different can they be?

Sharon spots a flight of Gray Herons, and I'm not sure whether they migrate, but they look really big and powerful in their flight squadron.

We drive further east, along the coast, bypassing the turnoff we'll take later, up to Sivrikaya and a shot at the Caucasian Black Grouse. We pass a huge shipbuilding place, and rusty hulks of metal are components for building ships. Salt air rusts the metal.

We have been driving for some time now in tea territory. The sea is on our left, mountainside is on our right, and tea is grown on the steep sides of the hills. Rows run across the slopes, so pickers can walk along between the rows without crashing down the hill. {It looks like we are in India or Tibet with tea on all the steep hills. I can't even begin to describe how beautiful it is.}

About 11am we are in Rize, and we find the turnoff to the tea place. By 1130am, we are seated at one of the outdoor tables at the Tea Institute, and are being served tea. In Turkish, the word for tea is pronounced "CHAI," to rhyme with "eye." There are wonderful hills all around us, with tea being grown on them, and we can see pickers at work far across the valleys. I get some colorful pictures of the area.

We finish our tea, and are surprised to learn that it's free! We go down to one of the small tea retail shops, and Sharon and Tara buy some tea "for gifts."

At 1230pm, I am surprised and moved to hear the loudspeakers begin prayers. One is very near and loud, but I can hear prayers coming from at least six or seven different locations all over the city. It's wonderful. It finally occurs to me that I can get it with the video camera, but by the time I get it out and ready, the cacophany is over. The what? {It is Friday which Tara tells us is a special prayer day and we see many men going to the mosques here.}

We start downhill about 1pm, and I get some good pictures and video of two young girls picking tea leaves. Actually they are using a remarkable tool. Picture a huge scissors, maybe a foot long, with a bag fastened to one of the blades. With some skill, you clip the leaves, and they drop straight into the bag. It's something I've never seen before, and it's great fun to watch.

Sharon and Tara wave to them, and one waves back. They see the video camera, so they go back to work for the camera's benefit, I think. {Actually, because they are young girls, perhaps 13 or 14, I think they are hesitant to wave to Bob or look at him while he is filming but they would wave to Tara and me}.

We bought a Turkish pop music audio tape today, and we play it as we backtrack on the coastal road to the turnoff up into the mountains. We decide at the last minute to stop, have lunch by the coast, then go up.

We will be leaving the Black Sea, which has been our companion for the last few days, and it's a little like leaving a friend. {Tara and I collect rocks and shells from the rocky shore and get wet in the Black Sea, It seemed a shame not to get wet but we didn't want to swim. We have seen many people swimming as we go along. The orthodox muslem women go into the sea with all their clothes on for modesty.}

We see several colorful Yellow Wagtails, who then take off seaward, after which we take off, anti-seaward.

This is the end of the Black Sea portion of our vacation. From here, we drive south over mountains, then west, to Ankara. The next section is about the drive over the mountains, and is one of our favorite parts.


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