Touring Turkey’s Black Sea region by mini bus
A rickety bridge hanging over the Black Sea connects an island off the coast of Amasra to the lush Karadeniz mountain range. Follow the 2km- to 3km-trail up the steep mountain face until you find a vantage point to experience what might be the most magnificent sunset you ever see; on a clear day, the red and pink hues of the sky reflect on the blue waters, while on overcast days, the sun peeks from behind dark altocumulus clouds to create an eerie, painting-like sky.
About 74km east, Amasra’s lesser-known and rarely visited cousin Cide sits on a breathtaking stretch of coastline, set against a dramatic backdrop of jagged sandstone mountains. Unlike the beaches of the Mediterranean coast down south, Cide’s postcard shores are devoid of the customary seaside paraphernalia – no beach shacks, no seashell peddlers, no fancy resorts. Even the best hotel in town, Yali Otel, is an unassuming off-white building without a prominent signboard or even a reception desk.
But the sleepy coastal hamlet by day transforms into something of a mini carnival by night. A flea market appears by the sea after sunset, with colourful traditional Turkish gowns, dresses and scarves on sale; and the beach transforms into a bohemian hangout, complete with shisha and Turkish music.
Villages like Cide are scattered all across the coastline, and since dolmuses connect nearly every small village and town in Turkey’s north, the toughest part of the trip is choosing which ones to visit. On the road from Amasra, 12km before Cide, a small winding road leads to Gideros Bay, where the Kure mountains part to reveal pristine turquoise blue waters, clear enough to see the sea bed from the shore. It seems like a personal swimming pool, surrounded by lush greenery and the tiny village of Kalafat, which has a handful of charming Ottoman houses.
A cooler, wetter alternative to southern Turkey’s scorching summer, the Black Sea region is also home some of the country’s most colourful countryside. During the long, 540km bus trip east along the coast from Cide to the small seaside city of Ordu, the landscape transitions from dense green forestland to rolling plains with gorgeous yellow sunflower fields to meadows dotted with wild purple grass. Arrival in Ordu is marked by the appearance of chic cafes on one side of the road and – if you arrive after dark – a shimmering stretch of the moonlit coastline on the other.
Ordu is the focal point of northern Turkey’s hazelnut belt. The Sagra chocolate factory (Selimiye Mh) on the outskirts of town produces some of the country’s – and the world’s – finest hazelnut chocolates and spreads, and its in-house cafe invites you to indulge. At night, Ordu’s trendy beach cafes buzz with the city’s younger crowd, where live bands take the stage and the vibe compels you to try the gulnane (rosemint)-flavoured hookah. Teleferik Café (Ordu-Giresun yolu), next to the town’s cable car station, is one such café; and Fergana Café (Atatürk Bulvarı) is ideal for delicious Turkish coffee and conversation.
End the night with a cable car ride to the top of 450m-high Boztepe hill, where you can witness the magnificence of the region’s lights against the striking contrast of the Black Sea, while sipping a cup of hot çay.