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Chris Sayer’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Location: Safranbolu, Turkey

MapIn these final few days of our time away (nearly seven weeks now), we are making our way west back to Istanbul by following the Black Sea coast from Sinop. This sea is no different to the Med and Aegean, certainly not black at all, but we discovered that itís not as warm after diving into it from our Sinop hotelís private landing. It was cold, but at least we added another sea to the list of worldly swims. The Black Sea gets its name from its murky depths where the water has become anoxic, but at the surface itís a bright blue and very clear. It was from Sinop that we left the tour seven years ago, when Barish and Yussuf drove us at 3am to Samsun airport, three hours to the east. So we had not seen any of these final few daysí scenery.

Driving along the coast, to our right was a vast sea, and to our left were high rolling mountains covered in thick, dense forests. The lush green foliage would usually extend right down to the waterís edge, but some of the steep slopes have succumbed to gravity and collapsed, creating precipitous cliffs of bare rock. Either way, the coastline was spectacular at every turn. The road had countless twists and turns, and Mike says that this is one of the most popular motorcycling roads of all of his tours. The downside was that the bus took three times as long as the motorbikes to travel the same distance. The coastline is so mountainous that vehicles must use all of their gears going up and down while negotiating tight hairpin bends, one after the other. Poor Yussuf, but the scenery was fantastic for the passengers.

The night after Sinop was at a delightful port town called Amasra, nestled snugly into a natural harbour, and understandably popular with tourists for its beautiful scenery and water views and activities. As with so many other Turkish cities and towns, Amasra has a Roman-built wall and castle, and we have almost become blasé about walking through two-thousand year old gates and arches.

Our next night was spent at Safranbolu, about a hundred kilometres inland from the Black Sea. Again like so many Turkish places, it has an Old City with the new city built around it, and has a UNESCO World Heritage listing. Whatís unique about this place are the well-preserved Ottoman houses and architecture, and we even stayed in a 400-year-old hotel converted from one of these Ottoman houses. Quite a privilege, I must say.

Safranbolu really had a special charm about it, with so many interesting little streets and laneways. Itís famous for Turkish Delight, and several vendors walked about offering free samples of their wares. As the name implies, this town is also known for saffron, but there were no free samples of that, being so expensive. It was an important trading town over a thousand years ago on the Silk Road between China and Europe that lead to the interaction of cultures and people from the East and West. With only an afternoon to explore, Safranbolu begs for another visit.