ARM­CHAIR TRAV­ELLER

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

Be­hind the scenes at Syd­ney’s Kings­ford Smith air­port, com­plete with emer­gency land­ings and drunk pas­sen­gers. To­day, 7.30pm, Bio.

In this mad­cap 2001 road movie, six teams race from Las Ve­gas to New Mex­ico to claim $2 mil­lion from a locker. Stars John Cleese and Rowan Atkin­son. To­day, 8.30pm, Show­time Greats. Su­san Kuro­sawa about Dumb Things Black Sea Peo­ple Have Done are sta­ples of the Turk­ish press. (My favourite: the guy who died while try­ing to catch a re­frig­er­a­tor dropped by his brother from a sec­ond-floor bal­cony.)

Per­haps there is some sub­con­scious jeal­ousy at the root of th­ese un­kind gen­er­al­i­sa­tions be­cause the Black Sea is host to one of the liveli­est and rich­est cul­tures in the coun­try. Black Sea food is fa­mous for its com­plex­ity — the pick­les are prob­a­bly the best in the world — and the mu­sic of the re­gion is ju­bi­lant and melodic (a wel­come re­lief from the usual Turk­ish dirges). The folk danc­ing is a fran­tic, bot­tom-twist­ing proto hip-hop that has had a re­cent pop­u­lar re­vival among the young.

If Black Sea peo­ple ap­pear dif­fer­ent from the for­eign vis­i­tor, then it is not in their unique stu­pid­ity but their in­tense friend­li­ness and ap­par­ent cheer­ful­ness in a coun­try where sullen in­tro­ver­sion can of­ten seem like a na­tional pre­rog­a­tive.

North­east of Zongul­dak, out­side the shabby Ot­toman town of Bartin, the Black Sea coast ar­guably reaches the peak of its pret­ti­ness. At the cen­tre of this re­gion lies the town of Amasra, surely one of the most un­der­rated des­ti­na­tions in Turkey. Com­pris­ing a curv­ing penin­sula, form­ing a nat­u­ral dou­ble har­bour, and an is­land con­nected to the main­land by an arched stone bridge of Ro­man construction, Amasra has the feel of Italy’s Amalfi coast, mi­nus the over­priced cof­fees and sneer­ing Euro­trash in Ver­sace sun­glasses.

Saved from overde­vel­op­ment by its rel­a­tive iso­la­tion and, per­versely, its lack of a good swim­ming beach, Amasra dis­plays an un­usual level of ar­chi­tec­tural sym­pa­thy in a coun­try not noted for its tal­ents in the field. Strolling along the water­front, new vis­tas con­stantly open up: glassy la­goons re­flect the sheer rocky cliffs; the Ro­man and Ge­noese ru­ins play peek­a­boo from be­hind red-roofed houses with rolling moun­tains be­yond.

The seren­ity of Amasra is se­duc­tive, but for those with the ec­cen­tric an­tipodean yearn­ing to swim in the ocean there are a string of equally lovely spots within a short drive or minibus ride.

About 15km from town is the beach of Bozkoy, an en­dear­ingly shabby string of tented tea houses and ke­bab stalls on the sand ringed by high, densely forested moun­tains. A lit­tle far­ther on is the hid­den-away hol­i­day town of Cakraz that, al­though lit­tle more than a strip of mod­est ho­tels along the white sand, has an at­mos­phere so gen­tle and be­guil­ing you could eas­ily find your­self stay­ing here if the sum­mer crowds at Amasra prove too much. Al­most next door is Akkonak, an even smaller hill set­tle­ment with a key­hole bay where fish­ing boats rest and swim­mers can glide in clear wa­ters, book­ended by dra­matic head­lands of red dirt and green pines.

From Amasra to­wards the city of Sinop, the land­scape en­ters its most spec­tac­u­lar stretch. Span­ning a lit­tle more than 300km, but tak­ing at least three times longer to travel than you’d ex­pect, the moun­tains in this sec­tion of the coast are al­most Nordic in their vivid­ness and im­men­sity. Along al­most the en­tire length of the coast soar­ing peaks come right down to the wa­ter’s edge, some sprout­ing wa­ter­falls af­ter rain, oth­ers lost in cas­cades of mist rolling down their face.

The jour­ney is one of the most breath­tak­ing in Turkey and not just for its beauty; I have ex­pe­ri­enced some hair­rais­ing bus rides in some highly un­reg­u­lated parts of the world but trav­el­ling in a minibus at 80km/h on a pre­car­i­ous clifftop road, which reg­u­larly curves at 90 de­grees and is of­ten noth­ing more than a sin­gle lane, stays with me as an ex­pe­ri­ence of al­most tran­scen­dent ter­ror.

Af­ter the nau­sea-in­duc­ing hor­rors of the moun­tain road, to ar­rive un­harmed in the port city of Sinop comes as a re­lief. Es­tab­lished in the 7th cen­tury BC, Sinop seems to have a spe­cial place in the heart of Turks. To men­tion it is to be im­me­di­ately in­formed of how lovely it is, how friendly, how civilised, even by those who have never been.

Hap­pily, most of th­ese re­ports ap­pear to be ac­cu­rate. A fish­ing town on a rocky promon­tory ringed by for­ti­fi­ca­tions, Sinop has a mel­low, al­most Span­ish, at­mos­phere. In the noon sun, the an­cient for­ti­fi­ca­tions make dou­bles in the sil­ver sea. At night peo­ple stroll the har­bour by the seafood restau­rants while the fish­er­men, who have been drink­ing all day obliv­i­ous to, or un­car­ing of, the cheer­less re­straints of Ra­madan, start to sing in the dis­tance.

There’s noth­ing es­pe­cially spec­tac­u­lar about Sinop: the beach is nowhere near the best in the re­gion and by the har­bour walls a mat­tress and sty­ro­foam pack­ing is wash­ing up against the rocks. The sense of seren­ity, how­ever, is pal­pa­ble.

Star­ing out at the chilly wa­ter, pro­tected by moun­tains, one can’t help but won­der whether the stu­pid­est thing the lo­cals could do would be to tell any­one about their piece of the world.

www.tourism­turkey.org Su­san Kuro­sawa’s on hol­i­day.

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