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.