During antiquity the Black Sea was named Pontus Exinus or "the inhospitable sea". Being navigated and its coastline colonized by the Greeks as far back as the eighth century BC and later by the Romans in the third to first centuries BC. Much of the colonial and commercial persuits of ancient Greece and Rome, as well as those of the Byzantine Empire centered on this turbulent body of water. After the year 1453, when Ottoman Turks occupied Constantinople and renamed it to Istanbul, the Black Sea was mostly closed to foreign trade, but almost 400 years later the Treaty of Paris re-opened the sea to the commerce of all nations in 1856. Counted among its historical claims, the Black Sea region is the place where the legend of Jason and the Argonauts and their search for the Golden Fleece was supposed to have occurred - not to mention the Biblical account of Noah's Ark which to this day is rumored to host its remains on Mt. Ararat in eastern Turkey. The famed cities of Troy, Constantinople, Istanbul, Sevastopol, Odessa, and Yalta are just a few of the names that this coastal area has possessed in world history.
Julius Caesar proclaimed his celebrated words, "Veni, Vidi, Vici" (I came, I saw, I conquered) in Turkey when he defeated the Pontus, a formidable kingdom in the Black Sea region of Turkey. Part of the Turkish southwestern shore was a wedding gift that Mark Anthony bestowed upon Cleopatra. The Trojan Wars took place in western Turkey at a site that now has a wooden statue of the Trojan Horse for the sake of the thousands of tourists that flock there every year. The dramatic role that Turkey and its Black Sea shores have played in world history is evident. One of the oldest known human settlements on earth is in Catalhoyuk (circa 7500 BC) in present-day Turkey, which was created in 1923 from the Turkish remnants of the Ottoman Empire. Istanbul, the spectacular port city situated on the Bosporus, a narrow strait connecting the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea, is the only city in the world that lies on two continents — Europe and Asia. Over a period extending over more than 2,000 years, it has been the capital of three great empires: the Roman, the Byzantine and the Ottoman. Starting out as Byzantium, it transformed into Constantinople before finally being called by the name of Istanbul. The city of Istanbul is rich in historical landmarks, including the palace of Suleyman the Magnificent, the famous Ottoman sultan, and the Grand Bazaar, the 540-year-old covered stables of the sultan which now contains 64 streets with 4,000 shops and 25,000 workers. crusade-ship
From the bloody Crusades to the more contemporary collapse of the former Soviet Union, the Black Sea has seen violent religious and political changes. In the face of these struggles through the ages, the peoples of the Black Sea region have always carried on, and today represent a remarkable mixture of cultures and religions. Today, this timeless sea means a diversity of things to the people who live along its shores. It remains quite important as a regional trading center, with major ports dotting its coast, the Black Sea continues to provide the residents of its shoreline with valued resources — major commercial fisheries, a diversity of marine life, world-class beaches, and perhaps a more tangible record of our past than previously imagined. The recent discovery of ancient wooden ships in the Black Sea, well-protected from shipworm erosion in the oxygen-deprived waters, points to the new wonders these ancient waters may yet yield. The Black Sea and the six countries that border it — Bulgaria and Romania on the west, Ukraine on the north, Russia and Georgia on the east, and Turkey on the south — all have rich histories and diverse cultures.
The main land area of Turkey, known as Anatolia, is in Asia while Turkish Thrace, representing about 3 percent of the nation's total area, is situated in Europe. At nearly 780,000 square kilometers, Turkey is a little larger than Texas. The national capital is Ankara, and Istanbul is the largest city. Turkey is one of the few countries of the world that is self-sufficient in providing basic foods. Nearly half the work force is engaged in farming. The chief crops include wheat, sugar beets, barley, tobacco, olives, cotton, citrus, tomatoes, melons, grapes, maize, livestock, and apples. Fishing also is important, with most of the catch coming from the Mediterranean and Black seas. In addition to rich agricultural resources, Turkey has significant deposits of lignite, coal, iron ore, and chromium. Its most important industry and largest export is textiles and clothing. Other major industries include food processing, automobiles, mining, steel, petroleum, construction, lumber, and paper. And of course, in the past decade the tourist industry has accounted for tremendous numbers of visitors coming to the country and providing untold millions in revenue for the now massive Turkish tourist industry.
"Black Sea area residents are descendants of the wild mountain tribes that Xenophon described 2400 years ago. To be sure, they are neither wild nor at all primitive today. But one can still sense how their independent and assertive spirit made generations of imperial chroniclers and would-be dominators so wary of their manners. They are an idiosyncratic lot. The 'Black Sea personality' reflects a distinct culture that is far removed from either the dour fatalism of the Anatolian interior or the easygoing style of the Mediterranean seacoast. Two aspects of the land may have shaped its traits.
First: The topography of inaccessible valleys among trackless mountains constitutes the setting that has traditionally defined the Black Sea lifestyles. Like mountain people all over the world (one thinks specifically of the Scotsmen, the Basques or even the Swiss), their inhabitants have a highly developed sense of clan and community loyalties. They are intense and proud people, quick to respond to any perceived attack on their territory, honor or freedom - if necessary, by taking the law into their own hands. The manufacture and use of guns is a passion. The delimitation of highland meadows among villages and clans has traditionally given rise to serious hostilities that sometimes last for generations. But the same feeling of territory and honor also gives rise to an equally strong sense of hospitality. Any outsider who takes the trouble to visit these far-away valleys is automatically a guest and will be treated to the most cordial welcome. The open and friendly hospitality of the Turkish people is often cited as one of the main pleasures of traveling in Turkey. But the Black Sea region surpasses the rest of the country in this respect.
Second: The land may be wild but it is also prodigiously fertile. Unlike the interior highlands where culture has been shaped by centuries of grinding poverty, the Black Sea man tends to be merry, extroverted and colorful. People enjoy having fun to a degree that the more conservative parts of the country would consider scandalous. Their music is fast and boisterous, its lyrics often risque, its rhythms utterly unlike the melancholy strains of most Turkish music. Alcohol is consumed with gusto. Wit and a certain panache are appreciated, and eccentricity tolerated as a character trait. Telling tall tales is a regional specialty. These characteristics grow more accentuated as one moves eastward. At the eastern end one encounters an extraordinary quota of idiosyncratic individuals, with the unmistakable glint in the eyes and self-deprecating wit that are the Laz hallmarks.
an excerpt from www.karalahana.com - an excellent resource with extensive information and imagery.
"Fish is the standard Black Sea fare, and hamsi the proverbial 'Laz Bread'. For those unfamiliar with Hamsi, it is a small fish like a sardine. It is available from October through May. In restaurants it is usually served as simple fritters. What an outsider will thereby miss is, for example, hamsili ekmek- a sort of pan-fried corn bread made of leavened cornmeal, minced hamsi, parsley and a dab of peppermint. Hamsi boregi is a real masterpiece which involves crusty layers of hamsi-and-corn mixture, filled with a core made of rice, onions, pignolis, black currants and parsley. Hamsi jam is probably mythical. Ekşili is a sour vegetable and fish stew that yields the best results with fatter fish like kirlangiç and Iskorpit, although grey mullet (Turkish: Kefal) will do in a pinch. The Kale Restaurant in Trabzon serves a good ekşili. Located within the medieval city walls, it also qualifies as the region's only semi 'fancy' eatery."
"Trout (Turkish: Alabalik) is abundant in the fresh waters of the Black Sea region. But for some mysterious reason restaurants always seem to serve the farm-hatched variety which differs from its cascade-jumping wild cousin like flab from throbbing muscle. Ask about provenance, and don't settle for less than the real thing. Meat is not a Black Sea forte. The closest one finds to an original idea may be the roadside "self-serve" meat restaurants which proudly display full carcasses of cattle hanging on meathooks. Patrons indicate the cut and receive a brazier to grill it as they desire."
"Characteristics of climate and geography top the list of important factors that have shaped cuisines throughout the world. Different nutritional systems emerged in different parts of the world in ages when people lived with no knowledge of each other. Today these cuisines, developed over thousands of years, are in a constant relationship of mutual influence, and the world is newly making the transition to a composite or 'fusion' cuisine. The cooking of the Black Sea is one of the rare cuisines that still preserve their unique character. For, influenced by practically no other way of cooking, it has developed a nutritional style unique unto itself in which the traditional desserts are never absent from the table."
an excerpt from www.karalahana.com - an excellent resource for Black Sea cuisine with extensive information and imagery.
The cities in the Turkish Black Sea region are Amasya, Artvin, Bolu, Çorum, Düzce, Giresun, Gümüşhane, İnebolu, Kastamonu, Ordu, Rize, Samsun, Sinop, Tokat, Trabzon, Zonguldak, Bartın and Karabük. Akçakoca is situated on the far western side of the Black Sea coast with its endless hazelnut orchards. Inland to the east is Safranbolu containing an awesome collection of old Ottoman-style houses, and Devek which is famous for its intricately carved walking canes. Further along the coast are Inkum, Amasra and Çakraz, and then Sinop which has been a working port for 1000 years and remains one of the largest on the Black Sea.
The town derived its name from the Amazon queen Sinope and the local mythology suggests that female warriors known as the Amazons, lived in this region. Queen Sinope was an Amazon queen and 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 and Zeus, being the eternal gentleman - granted her request. Unfortunately, these female warriors have long since departed and Sinop is now an important industrial and commercial center.
Ünye and Fatsa, to the east of Samsun, are popular holiday resorts with beautiful natural scenery, beaches, hotels, pensions, campsites and restaurants. The Turkish Black Sea region is famous for its beautiful coastline with rugged seaside and hilltop towns, UNESCO World Heritage sites, mountain lakes, national parks and some of the wildest natural landscapes in the country for trekkers, climbers and mountaineers. The history of the Black Sea was shaped by empires that ruled the seas. Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Genoese, the Venetians and up to the early 20th century and after, the Ottoman Empire. They all left their cultural stamp on the region by leaving behind grand castles overlooking the sea, churches, monasteries and mosques and other distinctive architecture. Visitors will find comfortable and friendly accommodations that are plentiful except in some of the more remote mountain villages, and although the coastal areas enjoy moderate temperatures all year long, the weather in the mountainous interior can be colder.
A good Turkish Black Sea region travel itinerary can be found at www.europeantraveler.net
Leçons de Choses
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