The coastal towns of Rize, Trabzon and Samsun respectively are ideal starting points for three wonderful day trips.
On the slopes of the Zigano mountains just south of Trabzon rises one of Turkey’s most famous sites: the Sümela Monastery.
Legend has it, that two hermits by the names of Barnabus and Sophranius found an icon of the Virigin Mary on a rock and the monastery was built on this location in honor of her.
It is not quite clear when this happened, some scientists put the date as early as the 3rd or 6th century, other closer to the 13th.
In any event the monastery prospered, was protected ans sponsored by the many different rulers who happened to occupy the country and over the centuries was enlarged.
Approaching on the road from Trabzon on a winding mountain road along a river and dense forests, the first sight of the monument takes your breath away.
Perched on a ledge over a 300m nearly vertical drop hewn into the mountain the monastery is a wonder of architecture, shrouded in mystery especially when it emerges from mist.
You get dropped at the parking and then have to make your way to the entrance along a steep and rather slippery path through the woods.
Then a further climb over stone steps and connecting bridges await to take you to the courtyard and the church where the icon is kept.
The monastery consists of many different buildings, the monks quarters, kitchen and library among them.
To make the steep climb a little easier, a musician playing a traditional Turkish instrument entertains the visitors and some break into song and dance.
The return trip starts from a restaurant at the foot of the drop, which means an equally dangerous path downhill, over tree roots, rocks and the occasional tiny waterfall.
Believe me, when you reach the restaurant you will be only too happy to rest and enjoy a drink or kebab.
Many day tours to Sümela are arranged from Trabzon and are preferable to venturing there on your own in a hired car.
Rize, the center of tea making in Turkey, is the starting point for this trip.
If you are not interested in tea making you can also reach Lake Uzun from Trabzon.
Located in a valley between high mountains the lake was formed by a landslide which converted the streambed of the river Haldizen into a natural dam.
The attraction of this lake is its beauty and serenity, the scent of the thousands of pine trees which climb up the mountains, the green pastures along the way and the Switzerland style chalets which are everywhere.
Some have been converted into cozy hotels if you wish to stay over night.
You can walk around the lake on a comfortable footpath in about 1 hour, you can hire a bike or a peedle boat and float on the water.
At one end a mosque stands which is reflected in the water. An ideal trip to recharge batteries after all the other activities the Black Sea coast has to offer.
Venture about 100km inland from Samsun and visit Amasaya located on the Yesil of Green River in a fertile valley and surrounded by mountains as impressive and steep as they are along the Black Sea coast.
Amasya is a settlement which is thousands of years old and civilizations from the Hittities to the Lyians, Persians, Romans, Selcuks and Ottomans have all made the city their own and left an incredible amount of monuments in a relatively small space.
The most impressive sight is on the mountain facing the river which flows through the city.
Starting at the top you see the tombs of the Pontus kings, dramatically illuminated at night, just below stretch the walls and towers of a massive Selcuk castle and at the bottom you can admire an array of traditional Ottoman wooden houses, well preserved and restored.
Many of them are museums, restaurants or boutique hotels.
Two bridges span the river, a promenade with thousands of roses and statues of Amasya´s most prominent citizens, the geographer Strabo among makes for a pleasant walk.
The heart breaking love story of Ferhab and Shirin is documented in statues and descriptions along the promenade as well.
For lovers of ancient history, Amasya´s archaeological museum is a haven. Gold coins and other treasures as well as the statue of a Hittitie ruler and rather disturbing mummies are housed in the museum.
Lastly, don´t forget to sample a specialty: “gözleme” (thin pancake) filled with poppy seeds. You need a lot of tea to wash it down because it´s very filling.
Places to stay in Amasya
There are some hotels to choose from if you want to stay a night or two