“Do you believe in coincidances?” Kutlu asked me… I said “Yes!” without thinking much because I was curious. He told me to turn around and read the name of the boat. It was “ERDEM-2”. My name is not a very common one. I’ve been a student for 20 years and never had a classmate with the same name. But that’s not the surprising part.

We arrived in Trabzon quite late in the evening. The road was in very good condition and the scenery made it even better. This is the Black Sea coast of Turkey, a very steep mountainous shoreline full of greenery and rain.

Dilan, an old friend, had been living in Trabzon for about a year, and neither of us had seen her since. We were all looking forward to it. After a very loud and animated welcome, we started walking instinctively towards the seaside to enjoy the sunset. Black Sea is known for its temper. But it’s extremely quiet at this time of the year, end of June. It almost feels like a lake.

As a matter of fact, this used to be a lake before the sea levels rose at the end of the last ice age. The waters of the Mediterrenean flooded over the land that’s now known as the Marmara Sea and Bosphorus channel. Europe and Asia were seperated as the salty sea water poured over the sweet waters of the Black Sea. It’s said that the two do not really mix together and the waters at the bottom layer are completely still, seperated from the currents above. Without the necessary circulation and sun light, vegetation and marine life cannot survive at the bottom. Local fishermen often claim to retrieve their nets covered in a black silth devoid of life. In 2001, marine biologist and explorer James Ballard discovered ancient ship wrecks off the shores of Sinop. Without the decaying effects of warms and parasites normally found at these depths, the remains were preserved in pristine condition, making them very valuable sources of archeological study.

Being on the road for some time now, I feel more relaxed about where to stay at the end of the day. Somehow, something happens and you meet someone. You spend a few hours to get to know each other. Either that person, or someone he/she knows gives you a place to stay. In the worst case, you can always stay in a hotel or find a quiet place away from the eyes.

Kutlu and Dilan were walking a few hundred meters behind me. I had arrived at the fishermens dock, parked the bike near the cafe and was immediately invited by a local. This man was one of the founders of the Trabzon Motorcycling Association. Apparently, he was informed of a long distance traveller approaching the dock by one of those young boys riding 250cc’s along the shore. Kutlu and Dilan arrived shortly. Within a few hours, we were surrounded by various motorcyclers riding all sorts of bikes.  Choppers, scooters, racers, motocross, dual sport… We spent all night drinking tea and talking bikes. The dock is their usual meeting location and some of them are actually fishermen. Noone seemed to worry about where we would be staying for the night because there were too many options. Sleeping on one of the boats was the most attractive onefor both Kutlu and I.

Late at night, I dropped Dilan back to her home with the bike. She was enjoying this short trip a lot. I could see her shadow cast by the street lights, both arms wide open, gliding on the asphalt. She was laughing out loud. That’s how I will remember her for the years to come…

Back in the wharf, I was looking for the shack our boat was docked in. There were about a hundred of these, and I didn’t want to knock on the wrong one. Number 35 was the one. Kutlu opened the door. I lit a cigarette. He asked me if I believed in coincidances…

 

A trip to Black Sea is not complete without visiting the plateaus on the mountains. Back in the old times, long before the invention of AC’s, locals used to move up to these mountains every year to spend the summer. Now they mostly serve as tourist destinations. We visited two. Uzungöl and Ayder. Both are quite famous and touristic locations with good roads.

Uzungöl, as the name suggests, is a long lake that feels more like a wide river between the mountains. Due to the unpredictable nature of this body of water, the original village was built on the slopes of a hill, within a safe distance from it. When you look at the old photographs, you can see how culture and nature have a respectful space. Soon enough some clever guy decided to build a restaurant near the water to attract the tourists. Others followed. Within a few years, there were numerous establishments dangerously close to the river. To avoid foreseeable problems, the municipality decided to take things under control. They came up with a bright idea and built a huge wall all around the lake!  But of course, this “ingeniuos” development had a few side effects. It blocked all sorts of relation to the water. As if the construction process was not damaging enough, it now effectively stops any biological being approacing the water. For some unknown reason, tourism was also effected badly. Some think that it may be related to the fact that you can’t even see the water standing next to it. As we were riding around the lake construction machines were working heavily to shorten the wall. We wanted to leave all of this stupidity behind and find a campground away from it all.

There was a nice storm at night. I wish it could wash it all away… One day, it will.

Next morning, we descended to the sea, moved east for a about 30 kms and started to climb again to the next plateau. After the Uzungöl disappointment, we needed to see something good. Ayder felt a little better. I don’t think the story here is too different. It’s just harder to see such direct effects. One thing that was immediately noticable is the sound mechanism they built on the mountains surrounding the village. Every ten minutes or so, you can hear a big bang to scare the bears. I wonder how it effects the birds and other animals living here. During the two days we spent here, we didn’t see many. Despite all humanity fighting against it, nature is still very powerful and impressive. On the road descending Ayder, we saw a deserted construction machine reclaimed by the forest. It was a beautiful object to admire.

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