Oct 12, 2013

The Turkish Scotland: Plateaus of the Blacksea

Proudly Turkish in the plateau, Pokut.
Photo: Neslihan Güven

Pokut plateau, at the terasse of Plato'da Mola.

If you are one of those who cannot sit idly on a beach for extended periods of time or have low tolerance for sun, or simply love the nature and hiking, you need to head to the Blacksea region of Turkey. The region is famous for its plateaus, greenery and lately for hiking. In fact, it remains one of the most natural places in the country. In the highlands there are hardly any roads. The plateaus are inaccessible at least 6 months of the year given the constant rain and snow in higher altitudes. In the summer months, it is simply a depot of oxygen.

Plato'da Mola, a chalet at Pokut plateau.

To get there, all you have to do is to fly to Trabzon and take a bus to Ardesen, 20 km. east of Rize. This is also the entry to the Kackarlar Mountain Natural Park. A lot of people drive to Ayder plateau from Ardesen and hike up. We instead were driven through Camlihemsin straight up to the plateau called Pokut, at 2100 metres. We stayed at Plato'da Mola, basically a renovated chalet with five rooms in the middle of the nature. Food is cooked and served inside the 150 years old chalet by the super friendly owners. There is nothing around except the mountains and one is inclined to feel like Heidi and the surroundings in fact feel like the Swiss Alps, if not better. The plateau of Sal is 20 minutes walk away from Pokut and is also an option to stay.

Photo: Neslihan Güven

The road and views to Hazindag from Pokut
with Ares showing the way.

When we wanted to hike, the owners' dog Ares accompanied us to the plateau called Hazindag (the Sad Mountain) two hours away. The 5 km walk was very easy with amazing views. It is possible to continue from here to another plateau called Samistal but spending the night there would be a must. On the way back to Pokut, the fog set in and Ares decided to take us from a longer road (7km). Due to the decreased visiblity, Ares constantly watched us by turning back and making sure we were not lost. The word dog does not do justice to his intellect. 

Photo: Neslihan Güven

Steepy is the byword of the Blacksea region,
at Hazindag plateau.
Photo: Neslihan Güven

The people of the region of Camlihemsin are very proud of their heritage and love the nature. Not surprisingly, they are staunchly against the dam building projects of the government. Their culture is eclectic with Greek, Laz and Armenian tones while their forefathers have gone to Russia for work before the  1917 Revolution. The region seems to have been at the crossroads of many cultures but the names of plateaus remain Armenian: Palovit, Elevit, Tirovit. The last syllabus vit meaning a flat place. Similarly, there are names such as Avusor, Kermukerec, Apevanak or Hacevanak. The plateaus of Ceymakcur or Kotencur give in their last syllabus the Armenian word for water. The owners of the place tell me that they still call cattle for water in Armenian.

Ortan village houses in Blacksea.

The Turkish fondue called muhlama of Blacksea region.

The typical Firtina valley houses of the region,
as viewed from Ortan village.
Photo: Neslihan Güven

The next day we go down to the village of Ortan and stay in another chalet, typical of the region. The road from Ortan to the valley is dotted with street signs bought by somebody from the Roads Authority. Characteristic of the sense of humor of the region, he wrote messages under the signs. No wonder I call the region the Turkish Scotland: rainy and witty:-)

Bridge in Firtina valley.

The Road Authority sign in Ortan says: off you go.