Retreat to Amasra

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Amasra at a glance

Traditional Turkish music blasting, people clapping and dancing, spectacular view outside, I was on a bus heading to the city of Amasra, a small town up north by the Black Sea. The best thing about Ankara: you can just jump on a bus – more of a coach really – to anywhere whenever you want if you want to escape the city. Amasra is about four hours and a half away from Ankara – and about six from Istanbul – which is actually considered quite close (but still far for this islander). Unfortunately intercity buses do not operate till Amasra so the usual way would be to go till Bartın, a bigger town about half an hour away, from wherever you’re coming and get a minibus to Amasra. I got lucky as in I got to join a student-organised tour and we had our private bus which went straight from Ankara to Amasra without stopping at Bartın.

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View from the top

As we approached the town, we stopped by a view point which overlooked the city and the breathtaking view was just a taster of what was to come. One of the prettiest, if not number one already on the list, it sits on a peninsula with an offshore island – Tavşan Adası (Rabbit Island). After a quick stop at the stands selling mostly homemade jams, including quite interesting ones such tomato or aubergine – I went with the safe option and got myself some pomegranate jam – and pickles, we headed straight to one of the many restaurants looking over the Küçük Liman (Little Harbour) to have some balık (fish) and salad – stuffed myself until I couldn’t eat anymore.

We then headed to the Amasra Kalesi (citadel) which dates back to about 3,000 years ago from the Roman period and has recently made in on UNESCO’s temporary world heritage list. Renovation work is currently in progress so that the whole district can make it on the World Heritage List. Don’t be surprised if you see modern machinery in the midst of the ruins of the castle built during the Roman period and the castle walls built by the Byzantines (the front walls and gates were built much later by the Genoese).

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Front Gate of Amasra Kale

The citadel is now a residential area but as you walk through its gates, you cannot help but admire the historical walls and relics such as Fatih Mosque, a Byzantine church built in the 9th century converted into a mosque when the town was conquered in 1450. As it says on the sign post next to it “the tradition of sermon delivered at the noon prayer on Fridays by drawing the sword is still being sustained.” Definitely something I would have liked to see although I don’t think it would be opened to women. I could be wrong!

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As you walk up the steep slope to the highest point of the citadel, you can appreciate the beauty of the Black Sea and offshore island. Further down, there is the Little Church, also built in the 9th century, which is now used as the Cultural Centre of Amasra museum. The museum is probably the first thing you’d come across when you get off the bus and which showcases the changing history of the Amasra from Roman to Byzantine to Ottoman. Amasra used to be an important commercial centre during the Byzantine era but of less significance under the Ottoman rule.

Now it’s just a spot you can go relax by the coast, with good food and some history, without having to bother with the crowd which you would without any doubt encounter in Mediterranean and Aegean regions. I didn’t see many foreigners although it is not yet peak tourist season so it was bound to be quieter. There are however many pensions you could stay at if you’re thinking of spending more than a day in the area.

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Rabbit Island

While the citadel offers a spectacular view of both the city and the island, the beauty of Amasra is much more appreciated from the sea. My 45-minute boat trip which costed me as much as 7 TL was definitely my favourite. During the summer season, you can also have a six-hour boat tour which includes lunch on the island as well as swimming stops. There are several boats from the Büyük Liman (Big Harbour) which do such tour. For the shorter tours, you can simply get on one of the many boats by the harbour but for the longer one, you should book at the tourist office located next to the museum.

As much I wanted to stay and watch the sunset before taking the road again, we unfortunately had to leave early so as to make it to Ankara at a reasonable time. But not before enjoying some more yummy food.

Some pictures taken by a friend of mine:

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