Kıyıköy: The Black Sea
15 November 2009
Dear Family and Friends,
The Black Sea. I have never been here before. I’ve been to Romania three times but I never went to Constanţa, the popular beach resort. I’ve been to Bulgaria but I avoided Varna. I guess I avoid the noisy, popular beach resorts now. Too much...I don’t know…too much of the stuff I don’t do anymore.
Anyway, here I am in tiny Kıyıköy (pop 2500). From my hotel balcony, the view is the wonderfully blue waters of the Black Sea.*
Kıyıköy is also a resort for folks from Istanbul, but now the weather is cool and the beaches are empty.
I am here for a long weekend to relax and enjoy the scenery. I found the remains of a castle and the Monastery of St Nicholas (6th Century) - a cave hewn from solid rock. At dawn, I took a stroll through the town and to the cliffs overlooking the sea. On my way back to the hotel, I stopped at a bakery and filled a bag full of fresh, warm, sesame-encrusted soft aromatic rolls that look like giant bagels.
I feel like a member of the family here at the Kiyikoy Hotel Endorfina. Mehmet Nurel, the owner of the hotel, picked me up at the bus station, an hour away. One morning Mehmet and I drove down to the harbor where his chef selected fish that were just unloaded from the trawlers at the dock. Mehmet treats me like his brother and has invited me join him and his family and friends for meals and spirited conversation. **
After five weeks on the road, what a perfect ending to my travels in Turkey! A quiet weekend (not too quiet – the families have young, but well-behaved children), delicious meals (the fresh fish at the dock in the morning are on my dinner plate at night), new friends (Mehmet wants to host my birthday party next fall).
(My quiet, seascape weekend also gives me pause. Here’s the plan – a trip around the Black Sea. Maybe starting in the Caucuses - Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia - and then across northern Turkey ending in the Ukraine. I wonder if there’s a ferry from Istanbul to Odessa.)
Here’s the immediate plan: Mehmet will drive me to Istanbul where I will board a Turkish Airlines flight to Tel Aviv. My cousins, the Lauers, are waiting for me – with a brisket…and fresh strudel!
* The reason for this color term may be an ancient assignment of colors to the cardinal directions - black referring to the north, red referring to the south, and yellow to the east. A somewhat similar view shows the Turkish name 'Kara (Black)' and 'Ak (White)' are respectively used to denote 'North' and 'South' in Medieval Turkish.
Another possible explanation comes from the color of the Black Sea's deep waters. Being further north than the Mediterranean Sea and much less saline, the micro-algae concentration is much richer, causing the dark color. The Black Sea is one of four seas named in English after common color terms - the others being the Red Sea, the White Sea and the Yellow Sea.