Just east of Samsun, the Black Sea coastal plain, watered by the Yeşılırmak delta, widens to its broadest extent. The area was once thought to be the land of the Amazons, a mythical tribe of men-hating women who cauterized their right breasts to facilitate spear-throwing and arrow-shooting, and who only coupled with men – their neighbours the Gagarians – during two months of the year, sending male babies to the Gagarians to rear. Nowadays the delta is home to rather more conventional Black Sea Muslims, who are welcoming enough to members of either sex.
The main highway, slightly elevated to avoid flooding, heads well inland thanks to a new series of tunnels, thereby avoiding the deathly slow coastal road. This section of Turkey’s interior is one of the region’s most fertile stretches.Read More
Ünye and around
Ünye and around
ÜNYE, the ancient Oinaion, is a small, friendly place just over 100km east of Samsun that makes for a thoroughly pleasant overnight stay. The town has a few grand buildings dating from Byzantine times and its eighteenth-century heyday as a regional port, including a former Byzantine church that now serves as a hamam, on the main square, Cumhuriyet Meydanı. On the seafront is a leafy park, a pedalo hire station and a pier which was built with leisure in mind rather than commerce or fishing, a rarity in these climes. It’s worth timing your visit for the burgeoning Wednesday market, where you’ll see gold-toothed farm women selling hazelnuts (harvested in August) and unusual edible plants (described under the catch-all term of salata), alongside churns full of milk and cheese.
Ünye also profits from its status as a beach resort. You see the best strands approaching from the west, where the highway is lined by ranks of motels and pansiyons reminiscent of the Aegean or the Marmara regions. The best of these give onto aptly named Uzunkum (Long Sand) beach, though signs warn you not to bathe when the sea is rough, and there’s no consistent lifeguard presence.
The only specific local sight is the medieval fortress of Çaleoğlu, just off the minor 850 road to Niksar and Tokat. Inland 5km from the coast, these hulking ruins are signposted as “Ünye Kalesi” to the left and lead another 2km all the way up to the base of a natural pinnacle crowned by the fortifications. Those arriving on a Niksar- or Tokat-bound minibus will probably have to hike this last stretch themselves, as only infrequent dolmuşes run all the way to the ruins. The Byzantine ramparts around the south-facing gateway have been restored, but the adjacent rock-cut tomb, of Roman or Pontic-kingdom vintage, suggests that one or the other originally fortified the site. Beyond the gate little remains intact, though you can follow a slippery, usually damp path almost to the summit. The final approach to the very top of the fort is for competent climbers only. Your reward close to the summit is the view south over an exceptionally lush valley, and north to the Ünye coast.
The town of GIRESUN, founded in the second century BC by the Pontic king Pharnaces, is one of the most pleasant stops between Samsun and Trabzon. About 2km offshore lies Giresun Adası, the only major island in the Black Sea. In pre-Christian times it was called Aretias, and was sacred to the Amazons who dedicated a temple to the war god Ares on it. Jason and his Argonauts supposedly stopped here to offer sacrifice, but were attacked by vicious birds. The island is also associated with ancient fertility rites and still attracts women who wish to concieve during a festival each May. Travel agents in Giresun offer trips to the island.