Samsun, Turkey: A modern city, ancient Amisos and gateway to the Kisilirmak Delta

Photo: Water buffalo enjoying the marshes of the Kisilirmak Delta near Samsun, Turkey. Credit: Lisa Borre.
Water buffalo enjoying the marshes of the Kisilirmak Delta near Samsun. Photo by Lisa Borre.

Black Sea Logbook Entry

Dates: 6/21-6/25/2010
Distance: 61 nm
Sailed from: Yakakent
Lat: 41° 19.2’N
Long: 36° 20.1’E

Samsun is home to one of the few harbors built primarily for yachts on the Turkish Black Sea coast. We steered through of a small fleet of Optimist dinghies practicing outside the harbor and tied alongside the quay at the Samsun Yelken Kulubu (Sailing Club). David went ashore to the office to register and to reserve a rental car for inland exploration. After three weeks on the Black Sea, it is a complete novelty to find a “real” marina with staff, water and electricity at the dock, and a nice bar and restaurant on the premises! He also met the president of the club along with some of the members who were gathered in his office on the premises, one of whom produced an electrical adaptor so we could plug-in to the two-prong 220V system.

The following day, we set-out by rental car to visit the Kisilirmak Delta, an area we passed by boat when rounding the Bafra peninsula. The delta is designated as a “Wetland of International Importance” by the Ramsar Convention and is a key part of an Ecoregion identified by the World Wildlife Fund on its Global 200 list. We spent an enjoyable day meandering along the small roads through farmlands, rice paddies, marshes and dunes to the mouth of the river and then back through the town of Bafra. The list of animal and wildlife sightings was long, including water buffalo, wild horses, storks, eagles, herons, terns and numerous water birds. In our second day with the car, we drove up into the mountains for a visit to the famous city of Amasya, tucked into a steep gorge of the Yesilirmak River — we will be rounding the cape formed by the delta of this major river by boat after we leave Samsun.

Back in Samsun, we managed to locate a newly opened site with archeological finds from the ancient Greek city of Amisos. The local officials seem to have discovered that ancient ruins attract tourists and built a fancy new tram to shuttle people from the waterfront park to the site atop the hill. It turns out that the modern yacht harbor is also very close to the site of the ancient harbor.

We were the only foreign yacht at the club during our stay, so we were surprised one evening when Robert and Susanne, German and Swiss friends of Cherokee, appeared on the quay alongside Gyatso. They had left their yacht in Yakakent and were exploring the eastern Black Sea region by land. We had last seen them in Sinop, so they came aboard for a glass of wine and to catch-up.

Samsun itself is a large, modern city situated around a commercial harbor. Its claim to fame in Turkish history is that it is the place that Atatürk started to organize the military campaign for independence on 19 May 1919. Streets, parks and even the local university are named after this historic date On the road leading west from the city, we found a modern shopping mall with a big Migros supermarket which was packed with shoppers. We stocked up on needed provisions and got our inland travel and big city fix in Samsun before moving on again to the east.