My first glimpse of the Black Sea, I was reminded of something that I’d always wondered…why is the Black Sea called that when it clearly is blue? And of course, there is no one simple answer to that question:
- Black equals death as in the Ancients thought there was no life in the sea. This is actually partially true as the further down you go, the less oxygen there is in the water until you reach a point where there is actually none at all. As such, life is minimal in the Black Sea.
- Black Sea equals death as many ancient sailors died when caught in storms, especially because there is a lack of islands within the Sea where one could seek shelter. And by the way, because of the lack of oxygen which means the rate of decomposition is extremely slow, the seabed is littered with ship and human remains…
- Black is equal to North in cardinal directions and of the four seas with colour names, it actually isn’t the most northern. Did you think I was going to say it was? No way – that would be logical and in my experience, most things in life are annoyingly not logical!
- Even though it is blue, when it is stormy, the sea apparently looks black and very inhospitable.
Visiting the Black Sea from Istanbul can be done as a day trip, and it is a lovely one at that. Because my sister doesn’t drive and I didn’t want to drive, we booked a daytrip with a local company. Due to the dearth of tourists scared off by the 2013 unrest, it ended up being a private tour for us – score! After we were picked up at our hotel, we were driven over to the Asian side. Once out of the Istanbullu outskirts, it was a pleasant drive through greenery. It was a breath of fresh air to be out of the city for a bit. The first stop was a village called Sile. Normally, it is a fishing village but during the summer months, it is packed with tourists and Turkish people who have holiday homes out here to escape the city heat. Our stop was near the coast, above the sea. The vantage point showed the Sile Lighthouse which was built in 1859. There was also a trail that allowed us to get closer to the water as well as a café to get drinks or ice cream treats. However, there was no time/possibility to see the village…yet, I wasn’t too torn up about it because it sounded like it wasn’t village-y anymore.
The second stop, our driver threw us and our guide out at the side of the road. No, he wasn’t abandoning us but instead, we walked down a short trail to an Ottoman village called Kabakoz. I quite liked its air of isolation and history – it just felt like it had been there forever. It definitely wasn’t Disney-fied and the quietness reminded me of the Camino Frances villages I had walked through only a few weeks prior. There were a mix of homes that look lived in and others that looked abandoned for decades. We saw a few houses with shoes hanging from their laces on the outside of the homes – it’s an old tradition of letting visitors know that strangers are welcome in this particular abode. The village also has an ancient hollow tree in which one can do the obligatory cheesy photo (stand in it!).
Next stop – lunch! And what a lunch it was! More so the view of Kilimli Bay than the food, though the food was decent enough (the usual chicken and fish options, fries, salad, fruit). But there is nothing like looking out at the deep blue sea, breeze through your hair, and the warmth of the air around you. And again, the lack of tourists made for a delightfully people-free atmosphere! Though, I felt sorry for the owner and servers – they obviously didn’t have a whole lot to do which also meant money making opportunities were lower than usual. It was a reminder that political situations do not happen in vacuum and they definitely have a trickle-down effect. After lunch, we wandered down the bluffs to check out the views before we were on our way to our swimming option.
Kilimli Beach isn’t a place where one finds many tourists on a usual day, so when we went, I think my sister and I were the foreign contingent for the day. We didn’t swim but we did spend some time wandering up and down a quiet section of the beach. The water was lovely and I amused myself by looking for some shells. And because there was no way we could have had our fill of water, we were also taken to Goksu River, not far from the Sea. In fact, the boat trip along the river took us back to the beach on which we had just walked! The river was lovely and we saw a bit of wildlife including birds and turtles. Along the river bank, it seemed to be like one of those summer camp commune type places. The area is called Agva and supposedly, the population swells to 15,000 in the summer. While we saw lots of chalets and restaurants, we certainly didn’t see 15,000 people. It was all again fairly empty. At this point, I was thinking that those MISSING posters would suit the situation!
The long drive back to Istanbul was broken up by a stop at a café. The place was pretty with its mountain forest setting. We chatted with our guide and driver while we sipped cup after cup of Turkish black tea. Then they, along with the café’s owner, found a tree with black berries and shook out a few of them for us. Like every other part of this day trip, while the café wasn’t the most exciting or relaxing time I’ve had, it was still lovely. The whole day, in fact, was good and quiet; it was a breather from the hustle and bustle of the city, and it was a chance to breathe some fresh forest and sea air.