Giresun, Turkey: Cherries, hazelnuts, sunsets, sailing and new friends

Photo: Giresun Adasi, Turkey. Credit: Lisa Borre.
The island of Giresun Adasi lies off the coast of the historic provincial capital city of Giresun. Photo by Lisa Borre.

Black Sea Logbook Entry

Date: 6/29/2010
Distance: 29 nm
Sailed from: Ordu (Eferli)
Lat: 40° 55.1’N
Long: 38° 22.7’E

We had light winds and uncomfortable swell on the Black Sea today for our passage to Giresun. The swell was running so much that we actually bumped the sandy bottom at the silted entrance of one of the harbors we surveyed along the way. It made us all the more relieved to find the large and well protected harbor of Giresun waiting for us at the end of the day along with welcoming waves and helping hands of local sailors.

Photo: Family dinner on the Black Sea coast.
Dinner with Ozer’s family on their garden terrace.

During our stay in Giresun, we were hosted by Özer Akbasli, the head of the local sailing club and also president of the hazelnut grower’s union, and by his friend, VolkanTürkyilmaz, the owner of the Çarikçi Hotels in Giresun and Marmaris who speaks English and has a passion for travel and adventure to rival David’s, except his vehicle of choice is a Toyota Land Cruiser. Teoman Arsay, a mutual friend in Istanbul, arranged for us to meet these two fine men while we were sailing along the Turkish coast of the Black Sea.

Photo: Giresun, Turkey harbor, Black Sea. Credit: Lisa Borre.
Gyatso moored at the “yacht club” in Giresun. Photo by Lisa Borre.

We moored Gyatso the Giresun “yacht club” which is still more of a dream than reality but was very comfortable for us. They have a small dock attached to the inner breakwater of the commercial harbor to which two local sailing yachts are moored. We had called ahead about our arrival and were met at the dock. They offered water and electricity at the slip which is a lot more than we could find in most harbors.

We used Özer’s boat to gain access to shore, and members of the club, including Osman, the sailing coach, kept a close eye on Gyatso while we were there. The neighboring harbor was built for yachts and fishing boats but is now a busy fishing harbor with no place for yachts that doesn’t interfere with the off-season work of the fishing trawler crews. Özer showed us plans for improving the area with a proper marina and yacht club along the inside breakwater of the lightly used commercial harbor. We hope they realize their plans because Giresun is a wonderful city for hosting foreign yachts.

The name for Giresun is derived from the Greek word for cherry. It is believed that that the first cherries were taken from here to Rome in ancient times. Today, the delicious, plump cherries we found in the markets are grown elsewhere in Turkey — the ones of Giresun’s fame are the wild cherry variety. Turkey produces 85% of the world’s supply of hazelnuts (think Nutella, etc.), and today Giresun is the main center of hazelnut production in Turkey. A million Turkish farm families make their living from hazelnuts which are sprinkled liberally on many local dishes or ground into a paste and used in baking and sweet desserts.

The city was founded by the Greeks, and as with so many places we have visited, what appealed to them was a steep promontory which extended to the sea and offered shelter to ships and a defensible position upon which to build an acropolis. Although subsequent fortification by the Romans, Byzantines, Genoese and Ottomans have obliterated nearly all traces of the original Greek settlement, the setting is completely consistent with all of the other important Greek ports we have visited.

Photo: Dining on the shores of the Black Sea. Credit: Lisa Borre.
We watched the sunset and sampled local specialties and fish at Eskina, a waterfront restaurant.

On our first evening, we were treated to dinner at Eskina, a local waterfront restaurant where the view and food are equally exceptional. The mayor dined at a nearby table with other local leaders. Özer ordered up a selection of local specialties, including misir unu ekmegi, the dense cornbread which is sprinkled with a mild, crumbly white cheese, taflan tuzlusu kavurmasi, a savory dish in which salted taflan (a type of cherry) is sauteed with butter and onions in an unusually tasty preparation, and mantar kavurmasi, sauteed local mushrooms — these were just some of the starters which were followed by scorpion fish poached with herbs and fresh cherries tossed with ice cubes for dessert.

Our second day began with breakfast at Volkan’s hotel which provided us with ample energy for a day of sightseeing around the city. We started at the kale (castle) at the top of the hill and worked our way down from there through a historic neighborhood to the archeology museum. It was a hot and sunny day, so we found a lokantasi with air conditioning for lunch before stopping at the Migros supermarket for provisions on our way back to the boat.

Photo: Onboard Gyatso in Giresun, Turkey. Credit: Lisa Borre.
We spent the second evening sailing with Özer and Volkan aboard Gyatso. Photo by Lisa Borre.

That evening we had Özer and Volkan onboard for a sail which was followed by dinner in Özer’s family garden terrace which they had recently built in the traditional Eastern Black Sea style. We feasted on delicious Turkish dishes (a fresh salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and herbs and a roasted summer squash salad), freshly baked bread and grilled kofte accompanied with homemade wine and raki. All of this was followed by platters of melon and cherries — a memorable evening to top-off our truly enjoyable stay in Giresun.