They say the Black Sea got its name from old navigation coloring. Red signified ‘south’ and black signified ‘north’ which could explain the Red Sea’s name as well. But after asking people here, they are convinced the sea got its name from it’s unusually dark (almost black) color during the winter months. Either way, we decided to go check it out for ourselves!
A couple enjoying twilight on the Black Sea in Agva, Turkey
There is an amazing Turkish hiking club based in Istanbul. Alper invited us on a Black Sea hiking trip one Saturday that the group was putting on.
We started by meeting on a private shuttle bus at 7:30 in the morning FILLED with Turkish cheer and exclamations of “Güneyden!” (Good morning!) People of all ages were hugging and kissing and singing and ready for the hike ahead. We then drove across to the Asian side and then northward to the Sea. Once we were in the forests, we stopped in a rural village for lunch before the hike. Everyone brought homemade treats and a wonderful lady shared “Börek” (the Turkish form of Spanikopita.) We had tea from the local restaurant and met our fellow hikers. Most were very interested in the foreigners who were trying to learn Turkish… We had just inherited 30 new Turkish language teachers!
Enjoying tea and börek before the hike
These grape vines covered the entire entry and drive of this village home!
Another village home...ready for winter!
After lunch, most of the group sipped their tea, told stories and laughed, but a few of us went walking around the village. I saw rustic homes and many farms and gardens. Then, as we were walking back to meet the group, an older woman walked down the road herding her two cattle to graze. She greeted us; pointed her stick with a welcoming smile on her face; and said something I could not understand. She was pointing to her pasture and her apple trees. She then opened her gate and ushered us in to pick apples for our hike! It was such a wonderfully human moment.
The kind woman with her cows
The apples from her garden
Before we knew it, we were all on the road again and hiking around this massive lake reservoir which kept a reserve for Istanbul’s water supply. We continued into the forest and all it’s assortment of berries. Most of our Turkish companions would stop along the trail and grab a hand full of berries along the way. They would pick leaves and nuts and fruits and herbs...basically anything they saw. I met so many people and they would teach us new phrases and words and point at things and say it in Turkish.
After the long hike, we got back on the bus and drove to a seaside resort town Agva (pronounced ‘Agua’ with a soft ‘g’….like water in Spanish). There I saw the Black Sea for the first time. It was a gorgeous blue this time of year. People were enjoying the sun, the beach and the water on what would be one of the last warm Sundays of the year. Everyone was having fun. There was a vast array swimsuit styles all the way from men in tiny-weeny speedos to ladies in modest Muslim swimsuits.
Black Sea beach
Ladies sporting colorful swimsuits
After several hours enjoying Agva, we packed back on the bus and headed back to the city. We wound up and down and all around the hilly terrain near the sea and the sunset would peak in and out of sight as we drove. We then took a short break at a fortress on the sea for a glass of hot tea. The view was magnificent and the night sky was a deep blue against the, yes, very BLACK Sea.
Night view of the rough Black Sea