Samsun has a population of about 1,400,000 people and is the 14th largest city of Turkey and the most important city in the Black Sea Region. Samsun is a busy port and a centre for the processing of local agricultural products, such as tobacco for which it once was famous. The city houses two universities Samsun Üniversitesi and Ondokuz Mayız Üniversitesi (19 May, Atatürk Youth and Sports day). Among the many sports facilities, the indoor ice skating rink, the Samsun Buz Sporları, deserves a special mention.
The city was founded as Amisos in the 7th century BCE by Ionian Greeks coming from Miletus. It was taken by the Persians in 550 BCE, but by the 5th century BCE, it managed to become as a free state, part of the Delian league. In the 3rd century BCE, it became part of the Kingdom of Pontus under Mithridates I, which in 71 BCE was conquered by the Romans. The Seljuk Turks took Amisos from the Byzantines in the second half of the 12th century and renamed it Samsun. Between 1316 and 1333, the Genoese established a colony in Simisso as they called it.
At the end of the 14th century, the city was conquered by the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I, but after the defeat of the Ottomans at the Battle of Ankara in 1402, it was returned to the Turkmen principality of Isfendiyar. Eventually, in 1425 it was recaptured by the Ottomans, but before that, the Genoese had burned the city down.
A pivotal moment in the history of the Turkish Republic was the landing of Atatürk with the SS Bandırma at Samsun on May 19, 1919, which marked the beginning of the Turkish War of Independence. In 1922, during the War of Independence, the bombardment of Samsun took place, a combined operation of the Greek and the US navy.
Unfortunately, despite its long history, Samsun has little to offer for tourism. Several monuments in the city commemorate the landing of Atatürk in 1919. The archaeological museum exhibits some beautiful Roman mosaics that date back to the 3rd century CE, and the Amisos Treasure with some exquisite jewellery, such as a golden myrtle crown, all dating back to the 4th century BCE.
At Batıpark (West Park), about 15 km from the city centre, Amazon Köyü and Amazon Adası are reminders of the legendary women warriors who, according to Greek mythology ruled this part of Asia Minor. The park and complex is a kitschy Turkish version of Disneyland.
For the tourist travelling east to Trabzon, or turning inland to Amasya, it is a convenient stop with some respectable hotels at a very affordable price. Coming from Sinop, we spent two nights at the Samsun Sahin Hotel 2, highly recommended.
Sinop is one of the most beautiful natural harbours of the Black Sea Region and is renowned for being not only one of the prettiest towns along the coast but also the happiest of Turkey.
Sinop's origins go back to the Hittites who mention the use of a port known as Sittuwas. Later, in the 7th century BCE, it was re-founded as a Greek colony from the city of Miletus and was named after Sinope, the mythical Amazon queen. In about 413 BCE, the Greek philosopher Diogenes of Sinope, also known as Diogenes the Cynic, was born here. Two statues in town depict the philosopher standing with his dog on his dwelling barrel and searching, with a lamp in his hand, in broad daylight, for an honest man. Sinop flourished under Roman rule but declined under the Byzantines. From 1265 onwards, it has been under Turkish control.
On November 30, 1853, a Russian armada raided the town without warning and destroyed the Ottoman fleet that was anchored here, thereby triggering the Crimean War. Until the 1923 Turkish-Greek population exchange, Sinop was mainly inhabited by Greeks. His Eminence Athenagoras, Metropolitan of Belgium, still carries the (honorary) title Bishop of Sinope.
Present-day Sinop has about 38,000 inhabitants and, according to a survey conducted by the Turkish Statistical Institute, 77.7% of them consider themselves as "happy", which makes Sinop the happiest region of Turkey.
The town is still surrounded by its historical city walls, which are very prominent. Just outside the walls, near Lonca Kapı, the main entrance gate, stands the statue of the philosopher Diogenes. The nearby Tarihi Sinop Cezaevi (Historical Sinop Prison) was founded in 1887 and served as a prison inside the fortress until 1997. Many notable Turkish intellectuals were sentenced to stay here, among them the famous writers-poets Nazim Hikmet and Sabahattin Ali. Living conditions were extremely harsh in the prison, mainly because of the moisture caused by its location near the sea.
Sinop's archaeological museum and museum garden are also well worth a visit. In the garden, there's another older statue of Diogenes and a monument with the remains of the soldiers that were killed during the Russian raid of 1853. Martyr's Fountain (Şehitler Çeşmesi) near the harbour also commemorates this event. It was built with the money found in the soldiers' pockets.
Sinop is a holiday town with a great selection of hotels located in the town centre and some excellent floating restaurants in the marina. We experienced a pleasant and very friendly stay at Sinopark Otel, Tersane Mevkii Merkez, Sinop. As for the local gastronomy, the floating restaurants in the marina certaınly deserve a mention. We enjoyed two delicious dinners with fish and rakı at the Saray Restaurant.
Safranbolu, in the Black Sea Region, is Turkey's most and best-preserved Ottoman town. The town derives its name from saffron that was grown here and polis, the Greek word for city. A few years ago, production of saffron fell almost to zero, but recently there has been a revival in the cultivation of the precious herb.
From the 13th century until the advent of the railroad at the beginning of the 20th century, Safranbolu was an important stopping place for the caravan trade between East and West. The town prospered and during the 18th and 19th century its wealthy inhabitants built mansions of sun-dried mud bricks, wood, and stucco, of which most are still standing today. Of course, the less fortunate inhabitants built less impressive homes. In this period, Safranbolu's architecture influenced urban development throughout much of the Ottoman Empire.
Present Safranbolu owes its fame to a large number of its still intact Ottoman mansions. Not only its architecture but also the old way of life seems to have stayed largely intact. In 1994, the town centre Çarşı was placed by UNESCO on the World Heritage List. Notable buildings in Safranbolu are the Cinci Han Kervan Saray, which now serves as a hotel annexe museum, and the 18th century Izzet Paşa Camii.
We experienced an excellent and very friendly stay at Hotel Selvili Köşk, Çeşme Mahallesi., Mescit Sokak No:15, 78600 Safranbolu.
Amasra is a small port and one of the most beautiful towns of the Black Sea Region with splendid scenery. The town consists of a headland, sheltering two bays, and an island Boztepe, which is connected to the mainland by a stone bridge.
Amasra was already mentioned by Homer as an important centre for trade. It was founded by Greek colonists from Miletus in the 6th century BCE. The name Amasra derives from Amastris, the niece of the Persian king Darius III.
The ramparts of Amasra's castle rise on a rocky promontory. The castle goes back to Roman times and was extended by the Byzantines. Inside, there is an old church which now serves as a mosque, the Fatih Camii.
Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror captured Amasra in 1460 CE from the Genovese. Legend says that, when he looked upon Amasra's setting from a height, he asked his tutor Akşemseddin Oh tutor, is this not the eye of the world? (Lala Lala Çeşm-i Cihan bu mu ola?). This event is memorialized in the names of restaurants (Çeşm-i Cihan or Eye of the World) and in one of the several monuments that decorate the town.
Of the other statues in town, one is devoted to Bariş Akarsu, a Turkish rock musician, and actor who was born and raised in Amasra. Another monument commemorates the coal miners of nearby Zonguldak, and a third statue is devoted to Congar Mehmet, a local fisherman who was still active when had reached the age of 80.
Going by bus from İstanbul's Esener Otogar to Amasra is a 450-km long drive that takes more than six hours.
We stayed for 2 nights in Hotel Timur, which was very basic considering its price but had an excellent location in the city centre, close to the beach.