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GİRESUN

Heart of hazelnut country                  Population: 101,000

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Old name: Kerasos

Festival: 20 May

The most easterly of a trio of small towns strung out along the Black Sea between Samsun and Trabzon, Giresun is unlike Ünye and Ordu in that it glories in its hillside location with a high street that strides straight upwards instead of shadowing the coast line.

The result is to give it a narrower, more closed-in feeling which some might find oppressive. On the other hand, it means blessed relief from the noise and pollution of the Black Sea Highway which most will think a definite plus.

The town makes a good base for exploring the middle section of the Black Sea.

Around town

The best place from which to get your bearings is from on high. Giresun Kalesi (Castle) sits on a promontory roughly in the middle of town and offers the perfect perch from which to gaze down on both sides.

The actual castle is almost incidental to what is really just a very pleasant wooded park whose highest point is crowned with a memorial to a local military hero, Osman Ağa. To read his epitaph is to remember what a turbulent start to the 20th century Turkey had. The Balkans War, the First World War, the Turkish War of Independence, this poor man fought in all of them  before finally succumbing to his injuries.

The path up to the castle is extremely steep so catch the Kale Mahallesi dolmuş up and then walk back down again to admire the views.

Coming back down, you will arrive in a part of town which was much renovated in the late 19th century. The Kapu Kahve Cami in particular is a fine and very un-Turkish-looking building, completely rebuilt in 1896 and just across the road from the Millet Bahçesi tea garden which offers fine views out to sea.

Like most of the towns along this part of the coast, Giresun retains a fine 18th-century Greek Orthodox church topped with a dome that once stood right on the seafront. Following the population exchange of 1924 when the local “Greeks” were forced to relocate to Greece, the old Gogora Church stood empty for some years before becoming a prison.

Today it has been carefully restored (the dome still boasts a fine painting of the Pantocrator) to serve as the town’s museum (closed Mondays) with a representative collection of archaeological and ethnographical items. The single most striking exhibit is, however, a Heath Robinson contraption that turns out to be a stove, proof that with a bit of imagination even the most prosaic of household fittings can be turned into a feature.

After visiting the museum it’s well worth wandering inland and uphill a bit to discover some of Giresun’s few remaining old Ottoman houses, one of them turned into the Konak Restaurant.  Here, too, you will find a children’s library housed inside what was once a small church that looks as if it has strayed from a Parisian suburb.

Giresun is well stocked with enticing restaurants and cafes, with many of those along the high street catering to local students on tight budgets.

There are lots of shops stocking hazelnut, hazelnut butter, chocolate-covered hazelnuts, hazelnuts, indeed, in just about any form you can imagine. 150 DSC08208

Giresun Adası and festival

Every year on 20 May a flotilla of boats heads across to Giresun Adası, a small off-shore island where fertility rites dating back some 4,000 years are still reenacted every spring.

The only sizeable island in the Black Sea, Giresun Adası used to be called Aretias after a temple to Ares, the Greek god of war, that had been erected on it by that fearsome band of female warriors, the Amazons.

Later Jason and the Argonauts attempted to land on the island while en route to Colchis in search of the Golden Fleece but were prevented from doing so by a flock of ferocious birds.

Eventually a belief developed that passing infertile women through a tripod set up on the island was likely to help them get pregnant. Today, however, the trip across to the island is little more than an excuse for locals and visitors to get together for a party.

Sleeping

The hotels here are functional rather than exciting (no Ottoman house conversions as yet, for example). 

Hotel Kit-Tur

Despite its old-fashioned and rather offputting external appearance this high-rise hotel off the high street is very comfortable and well-run, the sort of place where you find yourself booking an unplanned second or third night.

Tel: 0454-212 0255

Damcılar Hotel

Otel Başar

Tel: 0454-212 9920

Otel Ormancılar

Tel: 0454-216 6795

Otel Çakırç

Tel: 0454-216 1026

Travel info

There are regular minibuses along the Black Sea Highway from Ordu and Trabzon to Giresun. Dolmuşes to Tirebolu leave from the small bus park just east of the town centre on the coast road; those to Bulancak leave from beside the small park right in the centre.

Day trip destinations

Bulancak

Ordu

Şebinkarahisar

Tirebolu

Read more: www.todayszaman.com/news-225871-117-giresun-gateway-to-the-eastern-black-sea.html 

 

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