Giresun and Trabzon: Day 2 of Our Black Sea/Eastern Turkey Road Trip with Kids

Looking out at Giresun on the Black Sea

On the second day of our epic road trip around the Black Sea region and Eastern Anatolian region of Turkey, we departed Samsun right after breakfast for Trabzon. (For background info on our trip and Day 1, go here). Breakfast was delicious and the start of many Turkish breakfasts. We had eggs made to order, plus a platter of butter, honey, Nutella, jam, olives, dried apricots, dried figs, walnuts, raisons, chocolate, grapes, nectarines, oranges, potato wedges, lasagna noodles with cheese, and sausage. It was 90 tl/adult (about $12 at the time). DS is not into Turkish breakfast or eggs, so I brought him plenty of Lara Bars for breakfast (which he often eats at home anyway). That plus a bit of fruit from breakfast and an applesauce pouch from home rounded him out.

Our view at breakfast in Samsun
The drive from Samsun to Giresun

Black Sea Region Facts:

*Strongly influenced by Greek culture until the 1920s

*Wettest region in Turkey

*Has lots of tea and hazelnut plantations and virgin forests

*Genoese and Venetians were active on this coast and traded.

*A Black Sea sardine called the hamsi is the symbol of the region

*Includes the Pontic mountain chain and the Kaçkar Mountains in the northeast (very high)

*Earliest evidence of civilization in Trabzon is from 7000 BC

*Trabzon, Sinop, and Amasra were all busy ports for the Greeks

*Trabzon was the capital of the Byzantine state led by the Comnene Dynasty. It was deemed a beautiful, sophisticated, cultural center.

Looking out at Giresun from the castle

This drive was along the Black Sea for the most part. Giresun is a 3 hour drive from Samsun, which made it a great stopping spot for lunch. We drove up a hill to where the castle was marked on Google Maps. Found some parking, but didn’t find any castle! Upon a closer investigation of the map, we realized that the large treed area at the top was probably the castle. Why it was marked as on the side of a road near a cliff, when it was really a further 15 min walk up hill is beyond me! Not knowing what parking was available, we decided to walk up. This was met with great dismay by the kids as it was rather steep.

Heading up to the castle

Turns out, there actually was a parking lot at the top. Oops! We explored the castle ruins (not too much left) and had some great views of the Black Sea and Giresun. Did you know this region was known for the Amazon Warrior Women? There is an island right off Giresun that is said to have been one of their islands. Read more here.

The presumed Amazonian island

About Giresun (from Wikipedia🙂

“The surrounding region has a rich agriculture, growing most of Turkey’s hazelnuts as well as walnuts, cherries, leather and timber, and the port of Giresun has long handled these products. The harbour was enlarged in the 1960s and the town is still a port and commercial centre for the surrounding districts, but Giresun is not large, basically one avenue of shops leading away from the port.

Like everywhere else on the Black Sea coast it rains (and often snows in winter) and is very humid throughout the year, with a lack of extreme temperatures both in summer and winter. As a result, Giresun and the surrounding countryside is covered by luxuriant flora. As soon as you get beyond the city buildings you get into the hazelnut growing area and the high pastures (yayla) further in the mountains are gorgeous….

Looking out over Giresun

…Giresun’s history goes back to the late 6th century BC, when it was founded by Greek colonists from Sinope, 110  km east of the homonymous city founded by Pharnaces I of Pontus, using citizens transferred from Kotyora (modern Ordu), circa 180 BCE. The name of the city is first cited in the book Anabasis by Xenophon as Kerasus. Historic records reveal that the city was dominated by the Miletians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines and Empire of Trebizond. The older parts of the city lie on a peninsula crowned by a ruined Byzantine fortress, sheltering the small natural harbour. Nearby is Giresun Island, in ancient times called Aretias, the only major Black Sea island in Turkish territory. According to legend, the island was sacred to the Amazons, who had dedicated a temple to the war god Ares here. Even today, fertility rites are performed there every May, usually involving the famed boulder named the Hamza Stone on the east side of the island, now shrouded as a popular practice but in reality a 4,000-year-old celebration.”

Pide for lunch! yum!

We ate lunch at Kale Kafe Restoran (Kale is castle in Turkish). Near the parking lot and had great views. There was covered outside seating and a range of Turkish food options. We got 3 pide (1 cheese, 2 meat), 1 gozleme, 4 waters, 1 soup, and 1 tea for the grand total of $19 (including tip!). They also had Western toilets, which was great as the castle toilets were all squat potties and rather wet. I’m fine with squat potties after our time in India, but DD has a hard time with them.

Playground by the castle and lunch restaurant

Tip: All the restaurants we visited on our trip had Western toilets (assuming they were large enough to have a bathroom). Historic sites were mixed between just squat and a combo of squat and Western.

If we weren’t driving along the Black Sea, we did a lot of driving through tunnels to get through mountains. Some were quite long. DS4 started a trend of always saying, “TIME TUNNEL! TIME TUNNEL APPROACHING!” every time we came near one. This comes from the TV Show Dinosaur Train.

Departing Giresun, we drove 2 hours to Trabzon. We stayed at the Radisson Blu, which was way up on a hill and GoogleMaps had some interesting routes it wanted us to use to get there. Just because the mileage is shorter, doesn’t mean the road is the best route! We had to do some backtracking to find roads big enough as many were two way roads with barely one way spacing. Best route involves Iran Cd and Taksim Cd.

We got 2 connecting rooms with a nice view of the city and the Black Sea in the distance. This was also the only hotel on our trip that required the HES code. For those outside of Turkey, the HES code is a new creation (well, new as of June) that was originally required for booking train and domestic flight tickets, then included hotels, and now is also required for entry into shopping malls. You provide your local ID number and date of birth and it gives you a code. I believe this then allows places to check and see if you or someone in your family has recently had coronavirus and are supposed to be in quarantine. It’s not required for foreigners at hotels, so most hotels didn’t bother with us though we are residents.

After dropping off our stuff, we headed downhill towards the downtown area. We stopped at Fatih Park, which had a great playground. Kids really enjoyed burning off all their energy. There were benches and cafes nearby. A nice spot to hang out.

Fatih Park in Trabzon

We ended at Trabzon Meydan Park. This was a bit underwhelming. I had thought it was going to have more to do with a playground, cute shops for souvenir shopping, some restaurants, etc. It was smaller than anticipated and was almost 100% food. It was also packed. No shops and nothing for the kids. It did have benches, but all were packed. If you are looking for a meal specifically and it’s not Covid times, it would be a good spot to eat. But instead, we stopped at Üstad Börek & Baklava just off the main square for some delicious baklava and took a taxi back to the hotel. The shop had lots of delicious treats and a sitting area as well.

We ate dinner at the restaurant in the hotel, which had a good selection of Turkish food. The Tavuk Şiş was very good, as was the eggplant dip, salads, and mixed grill. We ate often in the hotel restaurants on our trip-more often than we normally would-because of wanting to keep some social distancing. They were often empty or near empty at the times we were eating, while local restaurants were often more crowded.

Trabzon street view

We were thrilled to discover that the A/C worked in the hotel. Little did we know at the time it would be the only one that did! We do like to sleep with cooler temperatures, while the Turks prefer heat!

View of the city at night from our hotel room

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