Straddling a beach-studded isthmus, and blessed with the finest natural harbour on the Black Sea, sleepy SİNOP is renowned as one of the prettiest towns along the coast. A fine clutch of monuments bestows a real authority on the place, even if most visitors are content to relax along the café-lined harbour-front, where bobbing boats supply the day’s catch to the line of restaurants behind.
As the northernmost point of Anatolia, less than two hundred nautical miles from the Crimea, Sinop played a front-line role during the Cold War, when it was the location of a US-run listening post. These days fishing and tourism provide most of the income for its 35,000 inhabitants, who are currently fighting proposals to build a nuclear power station nearby.
Although time has inevitably taken its toll, Sinop’s prominent city walls remain by far its most compelling feature. Opposite the old fortress and prison, the bulky Kumkapı juts out bastion-like into the sea on the northern shore, while down near the harbour a hefty square tower offers good views out to sea, and strolls along the nearby sections of wall.
Sinop takes its name from the mythical Amazon queen Sinope. The daughter of a minor river-god, she attracted the attention of Zeus, who promised her anything she desired in return for her favours. Her request was for eternal virginity; Zeus played the gentleman and complied.
After a wealthy period of Roman rule, Sinop declined during the Byzantine era, while Persian and Arab raids thwarted sixth- and seventh-century attempts to revive its fortunes. The Selçuks took the town in 1214, converting churches into mosques and erecting a medrese, but after the Mongols smashed their short-lived state, Sinop passed into the hands of the İsfendiyaroğlu emirs of Kastamonu until Ottoman annexation in 1458. Thereafter the town was rarely heard of, except on November 30, 1853, when the Russians destroyed both Sinop and an Ottoman fleet anchored here, thus triggering the Crimean War, and again on May 18, 1919, when Atatürk passed through en route to Samsun.