Samsun: An Anatolian city with cosmopolitan features

ŞEYMA NAZLI GÜRBÜZ @SeymNazli
ISTANBUL
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Samsun: An Anatolian city with cosmopolitan features

The jewel of the Black Sea region, Samsun astonishes visitors with its natural beauty and its historical importance as the city where the fire of Turkish independence was ignited after World War I

When I think of Samsun, I think of long seaside walks, peaceful streets and endless, delicious foods. It is one of the most cosmopolitan cities, strategically positioned in the very middle of northern Turkey. Its harbor is one of the largest and oldest in the country, and its modern city center offers many options from shopping centers to coffee shops. However, it does not yet have the deficits of a cosmopolitan city; for instance, you can take a cruise in your car around the city anytime you want and do not have to deal with traffic. Thus, despite its cosmopolitan nature, it still bears the Anatolian small city spirit, which makes Samsun a unique jewel of the Black Sea region.

In Turkey, the Black Sea region has its own characteristic features that reflect on the people that live there. For instance, just like the peevish waves of the Black Sea, the people of Samsun are a bit short-tempered, but also warm-blooded and witty like the climate of the region, which is usually warm but also full of surprises throughout the year.

Yet, the changeable nature of the climate makes the city convenient for all types of activities that are specific to any period of the year. You can swim at the longest beach of the region in the summer, while in winter you can go to Ladik county in Samsun and enjoy several winter sports, especially skiing. Similarly, you can observe hundreds of birds in one place in the Bird Paradise in summer when nature presents is at its best with lots of green foliage and sunshine. In winter, however, you can go to the Çakallı Inn and eat "menemen" (Turkish styled scrambled eggs with chopped tomatoes and sliced green peppers) for breakfast in a warm, friendly environment, followed by trekking in the Canik Mountains to breathe fresh air. Another quite unique place to visit is the canyon of Şahinkaya, which is just like the Grand Canyon in the U.S., but with more trees and a beautiful long river in the mountains.

Samsun is the largest city in northern Turkey. However, the city's most importance to Turkish society comes mainly from its historical significance: The founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, came to Samsun in 1919 and started the Turkish Independence War to save the country from invading powers that entered the country after World War I. Thus, Samsun is acknowledged as the starting point of the chain of events that paved the way for the foundation of the Republic of Turkey. Thus, the very first roots of Turkey lie in this place, and several museums and statues tell the story. To know Turkey better, Samsun is a good place to start.

However, the city's history dates back to 5000 B.C.: One of the most well-known figures of the city's history are the Amazons, the women warriors of ancient times who lived in a women-only state. Even though the Amazons are no more than a myth, Samsun grasps their heritage wholeheartedly and presents it proudly in several parts of the city. The most famous figure is the Amazon statute on a small river near the seaside like a bridge, on which one can sale with a boat and pass under the statute. After this short but enjoyable sailing experience, eat at the restaurant in a huge lion statue's mouth that stands side by side with the Amazon statute. Another good option is to take the lift that brings you to Amisos Hill to visit the graves of the ancient kings of the Samsun region.

It would not be proper to finish this article without mentioning famous tastes of Samsun. In the city, some dishes are more of a culture than a simple food for the city folk, such as the Samsun bagel, which is an irreplaceable, crispy element of every breakfast, probably one of the best partners for the world famous Turkish tea. Similarly, the atom, a desert that is made from an egg white, has a stable place on every dinner table, especially during Ramadan, the period when Muslims feast for a month. From the perspective of city folk, there is no better thing than eating an atom after a long dinner that satisfies your hunger after a long day of sightseeing.

Although when it comes to holidays, the southern and western parts of Turkey are first places to come into mind, Turkey has many hidden gems that wait to be explored by visitors. Samsun is among those places with a lot to offer. Not only are there historical and natural beauties, but also its foods a total must see for every traveler's soul out there.

Bafra Nokul: The pastry you've been craving for

If you are in Samsun, you have to try some of the local delicacies, and the Bafra nokul is certainly one of them. It is a type of pastry that originates from the Bafra region of Samsun and dates back centuries.

The Bafra nokul is a very filling pastry. Hence, if you eat it in the morning, it will keep you feeling full long in to the day.

All the ingredients used in this delicious pastry are organic and natural and once it is baked, it will remain fresh for up to 10 days.

To prepare this pastry at home, the ingredients you will need are half a glass of yogurt, three glasses of flour, a quarter glass of oil, six tablespoons of sugar, a teaspoon of salt, half a glass of warm water, a tablespoon of instant yeast, a handful of crushed walnut, half a glass of dried grapes and one egg yolk.

Put the yeast into warm water and add a tablespoon of sugar and wait until the yeast rises. Once the yeast is ready, add it into a bowl along with the oil, yogurt and salt and mix them together. Then add the flour in small amounts to prepare a batter from the ingredients. Knead the dough until it is ready and let it rest it for no less than 30 minutes.

Once the dough is well-rested, divide it in to small pieces and roll out each piece of dough until it becomes thin. Then, spread some egg yolk on each piece of rolled out dough.

Meanwhile, mix the walnuts or nuts with the dried grapes and sugar. Pour this mixture on to the rolled out dough. Next, roll the dough that you have filled and then, cut them in to small pieces.

When you are done doing this process for each piece of dough that you have prepared, place the small pieces of dough on the baking tray and spread egg yolk on them too. Place the tray in the oven and cook at 190 degrees. And when they are done, voila, your Bafra nokul is ready to devour.

Top 10 things to do in Samsun

Acquaint yourself with the Black Sea

Famous for its unique waves, Samsun's Black Sea coast is the perfect place to soak up the relaxing ebb and flow of the sea. In fact, the Atakum coast located in Atakum district provides the perfect seaside setting with its sandy beaches and fresh atmosphere. Whether you prefer relaxing walks near the shore or a nice cup of Joe in a quaint seaside coffeehouse, this popular summertime coastline has it all.

Try the pita bread

Samsun's unique cuisine tops off a long relaxing day at the beach perfectly. The city's famous fresh pita bread is sought out for its matchless flavor and can be found on nearly every street corner. Celebrated by locals and visitors alike, the pita can be eaten with every meal of the day or as a snack. Locals even joke that if you are from Samsun, a wedding - or even a funeral - is not complete without pita. However, the bread is not the only foodie-loved treasure Samsun has to offer. The unique and crispy Samsun bagel and "the atom," a dessert made with egg whites, are a few of the other hidden gems in the city.

Take a stroll down Çiftlik Street

As one of the biggest cities in Turkey, Samsun has a lot to offer shopping enthusiasts. In addition to several malls scattered around the city, Çiftlik (officially İstiklal) Street features quaint shops and is one of the oldest and most popular local streets in Samsun. Beautifully designed, its aesthetics both wow and relax those who journey on it. Locals love to wander Çiftlik with their families on hot summer nights while indulging in something sweet from the local shops along the way.

Explore the foundations of the Republic

Known as the place that sparked and inspired the Turkish War of Independence, Samsun is famous for its historical significance that originated with a visit from Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, in 1919. The memory of this visit is still alive and honored in Samsun, with a museum replica of the Bandirma Steamer, the ship used by Ataturk at the time, anchored nearby. In addition to the ship, an iconic statue of Atatürk, which has now become a symbol of the city, is located in the town's center and is a definite must-see.

Delve into ancient times

As we delve further into the city's history, lost civilizations, a kingdom and warriors await. Today, the remnants of this glorious past can be visited at the Hill of Amisos, the previous name of Samsun. In addition to the skeletal remains of an ancient king and dioramas, the hill also has a restaurant that offers delicious food and a breathtaking view of the Black Sea. After your meal, a stroll down the hill towards the shore will lead you to gigantic sculptures of lions, Amisos warriors and ancient female fighters. Here, you can catch a boat on the small river that runs between the sculptures or have the amazing experience of eating dinner in a restaurant located in the lion's mouth.

13th century wooden mosques

The wooden mosques of Samsun are among of the most unique examples of their kind. Both the Gokgol Mosque in Asarcik district and the Gogceli Mosque in Carsamba district, built only from wood in the 13th century, have lasted to the present. Though little is known about their architects, the two structures are truly marvelous pieces of art and masterfully produced with great skill.

A canyon blessed by nature

Apart from its food and rich history, Samsun has also been blessed with natural beauty. One of its hidden gems is Sahinkaya Canyon in Vezirkopru, which is not only treasured locally but is well-known throughout the country. The canyon contains the perfect combination of green and blue hues. Hop on a boat, sit back and lose yourself in the native birds' melodies while you sail among the mountains' fresh crisp air and amazing landscape.

Observe 321 different birds in one place

The bird haven located on the Kızılırmak Delta is the only place for many birds to get rest, eat and find protection during their migrations. In addition to the 321 different types of birds here, the delta also hosts Yılki horses, as well as the country's largest population of water buffalo. With its variety of biological creatures and green landscape, the delta definitely deserves a visit during a trip to Samsun.

Ladik Akdağ Ski Resort: Relax while skiing

In terms of winter tourism, Samsun has one of the biggest ski resorts in Turkey: The Ladik Akdağ Ski Resort. This mountaintop ski resort features a variety of winter sports, as well as a comfortable facility for resting. For winter and snow lovers, it is the one place that should not be overlooked when it comes to the Samsun region.

Rejuvenation in the baths of Hamamayağı

When it comes to traveling, it would be unfair to skip over thermal tourism. The Hamamayağı Thermal Spring is one of the most important baths not only in Turkey but the entire world. Proven to be beneficial in fighting a wide range of diseases, the bath is also rich in minerals. With many facilities and picnic sites, in addition to the hot spring, Hamamayağı is another blessing in Samsun's Ladik district.

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