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Turkey with Kids: Safranbolu to Cakraz (Amasra). Black Sea Heaven.

We left Safranbolu the next morning.  Our immediate destination was Amasra, described in the guidebooks as one of the prettiest coastal towns in Turkey. But we would not be staying – we’d be carrying on immediately to Cakraz, a nearby seaside resort.

Cakraz sunset

Cakraz sunset

I had been at the Black Sea once before – back in Trabzon in 1992 – it had been cloudy and rainy and the sea had really looked black. I told the kids to keep their eyes open to see what color the sea would be today.

Our bus this time was a small minibus – not quite a minivan but not much bigger.  Our route was short -about 2 hours up and down across the small range of hills separating the hinterland from the coast. The journey was full of twists and turns – luckily, we stopped for about 10 minutes in the mountains and this probably stopped the kids from being sick. The stopping place was beautiful – a small teahouse surrounded by green rolling hills, with ponds full of fish and a stall selling local fruit. We never tasted apricots as good as these.

Pretty soon we were descending and the sea opened up in front of us – a huge expanse of brilliant blue – the Black Sea wasn’t black!! – with a small and very pretty town at the foot of the mountain – Amasra!

We stopped in a large parking lot which was evidently the bus terminal. Then, with our packs on our backs, we walked the 200 meters or so into the middle of town. We now had to find our way to Cakraz.

I asked around and quickly learned that we needed to go to a minibus stop nearby. We were only staying a couple of nights and so I also looked into buses leaving Amasra for Sinope, our next destination. I couldn’t find anything, except I was told we would have to go back to Safranbolu and take it from there. Ideally, I had hoped for us to be able to travel along the Black Sea coast, but no buses make the trip on what is supposed to be an incredible coastal road. The only way currently is to rent a car in say Istanbul, and drive the whole way oneself, or try to do it in about two days using whatever local transport there happens to be.

We found our minibus to Cakraz, got on board and were surprised to see foreigners – our first for a few days. They were three South American backpackers, taking a day trip to the beach.

The bus followed a windy narrow road along the coast. After about 20 minutes we arrived. It felt like paradise – an incredible seafront, with a beautiful beach and  a handful of simple hotels and restaurants. If we were looking for the quintessential Turkish beach experience from 1970, we’d found it. Apart from the South American daytrippers, not a single foreigner was in sight. This was a real Turkish beach resort for Turks – almost totally undiscovered by outsiders. The only way that I had found out about Cakraz was in an obscure blog entry I found from about 2002 where someone had stayed in Cakraz instead of in Amasra. When I tried to book at one of the few hotels via email, I couldn’t find anyone who could speak any English. Eventually, a Turkish travel agent made the booking for us.

We were staying at the Sahil Motel – just a simple hotel on the beachfront. We had a small “suite” – brightly colored in green and blue, we had a bedroom, and a separate lounge with a pullout bed and a balcony. Spotlessly clean. No air conditioning or tv, though we did have wi-fi. We never needed the tv, and the breeze off the sea was wonderful – no a/c was necessary.

Seaside simplicity

Seaside simplicity

We spent the afternoon in the sea – loving every minute of it. While I was playing soccer on the beach with the kids, a father and son asked if they could join us -he was a businessman from Istanbul who had foreclosed on an apartment in Cakraz, and so had acquired, inadvertently, a wonderful vacation home. We had a great time and this was yet another experience of how friendly the Turkish people are.

That evening we walked back and forth along the small beachfront, as did everyone else. We ate fish (we learned that  this was something all Turkish families do when at the Black Sea) and we ate “gozleme” – little pancakes filled with potatoes or cheese or a variety of other savouries.

There were two weddings being celebrated in the village that night – so it was quite raucous for a while – not unruly at all, but there were a few police on duty just in case.

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