This beautiful coastal city (pop. 105,000) proudly emphasizes its independence and differences from its grittier neighbor, Trabzon. Giresun is large enough to have a good range of hotels, nearby nightlife, and beaches, but small enough to allow visitors to explore on foot and enjoy a relaxed holiday environment. Giresun can also serve as an excellent, base for exploring many nearby yaylas: mountain communities which offer clean air, a cooler climate, and stunningly lush landscapes.
Giresun has an ancient, history’. Thought to have been founded in the 8th century BC, its original name was Kerasus, meaning “cherry.” It is from here that cherries were introduced to Europe. There is a public circumcision (sunnet) festival here in July, but more interesting (depending on your taste) is the Aksu Festival, held on May 20. This elaborate pagan fertility ritual, said to have originated in Hittite days, heralds spring and the sowing of new’ seeds. Participants pass under several iron rivets and circumnavigate the nearby island, throwing 15 stones overboard to symbolically cast away the sorrows of the past.
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The world’s oldest profession is legal in Turkey, and trafficking in prostitutes from the former Soviet Union (hence their Turkish name: the Nataşas) has increased dramatically since the Union’s breakup in 1991. Turkish brothels are supposed to be officially licensed and regulated by health and social service authorities. A 1990 law was passed that set the penalty for abducting or raping a prostitute to be equal to that for crimes against any other woman.
Unofficial estimates suggest there may be as many as 100,000 prostitutes in Turkey, Many women have been abandoned to the brothels after having incurred the scorn of their families. However, a large number have also slipped in unannounced from the former Soviet states. These women may often be the victims of what has grown into a billion-dollar traffick in women’s bodies. Pimps lure desperate former Soviet bloc women under the pretense of offers of employment, marriage, or modeling. These women are frequently abused, threatened, drugged, and raped by pimps who hold their passports and demand that they work to repay the “debt” they have accrued for being taken abroad. As illegal immigrants, they are often left with no political recourse, and their life expectancy averages a grim 35 years.
Ulusoy, 3 Alparslan Cad. (216 44 44), behind the Belediye Binası; Metro, Alparslan Cad. No. 5 ( 216 63 63); and Fmdıkkale, Gazi Cad. No. 5 (216 28 28), offer bus service to: Alanya (20hr.; 12:30, 1pm; $29, students $27); Ankara (11hr.; 5 per day 8am-8:30pm; $15, students $13); Antalya (18hr.; 6:30pm; $26, students $24); Bodrum (21hr.; 1:30pm; $29, students $24); Bursa (15hr.; 4 per day 5pm-2am; $24, students $22.50); Diyarbakır (20hr.; 2:30pm; $24, students $22.50); Erzurum (10hr.; 2pm; $16, students $14.50); Istanbul (15hr.; 9 per day 4- 7:30pm; $24, students $21); İzmir (18hr.; 5 per day 3pm-3:30am; $25, students $23); Marmaris (20hr.; 4:30pm; $24, students $22); Samsun (4hr.; every hr. 8am-11:30pm; $5.50, students $5); and Trabzon (2hr.; frequent; $2.50, students $2). Dolmuş near the square run east to Tirebolu and Trabzon and west to Ordu, usually departing from east of the Atapark, just under the bridge.
ORIENTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION
Giresun slopes upward from the coast, covering the hills behind it. The otogar is on the coast 3km west of the city center on Atatürk Bul. It can be reached by free servis shuttles provided by the bus companies or by frequent dolmuş, but many bus companies, passing on to farther locations, and intercity minibuses will drop you off just outside. The town center is a large pedestrian square, Atapark, one block up from the waterfront. Running uphill from here is Gazi Cad., the town’s main street, with most of the hotels, restaurants, and banks. The kale is signposted along Gazi Cad. Cheaper hotels are uphill toward the castle; more expensive ones are near the Atapark. The tourist kiosk, with helpful maps and brochures, is in the Atapark. (216 30 70 Open M-Sa 8:30am-6pm.) Also try the Director of Tourism (Turizm Müdürlüğü) at Gazi Cad. No. 72, who speaks English, (212 31 90. Open M-F 8am-noon and 1- 5pm.) There are several banks on Gazi Cad., including a TC Ziraat Bank and a Türkiye jş Bankası with ATMs on the square. (Open daily 8:30am-5:30pm.) İnanç Internet Cafe, Suat. Akgün Sok., 2nd fl., can be reached by walking 200m up Gazi Cad., on a small side street on the left. (s214 03 69. Open daily 9:30am-midnight. $.75 per hr.) Others line Gazi Cad., all charging approximately the same price. The Devlet Hastanesi (hospital; 216 10 30) and the PTT lie about 1km uphill on Gazi Cad. (Open 8:30am-12:30pm and l:30-5:30pm. 24hr. telephones.) Postal code: 28100.
The Tur Hotel , Osmanağa Cad., Çapulacılar Sok. No. 8, is an absolute bargain. With your back to the sea, turn left from the main square and bear right onto a small street. The 25 clean, comfortable rooms all have bath and TV. (216 17 57; fax 216 77 62. Singles $9; doubles $17; triples $25.) Many cheaper options lie near the top of the hill, including Kılıç Otel , 12 Çınarlar Sok., which has 21 quiet, clean rooms and friendly English-speaking management. Although there’s no hot water, a sauna is right next door. Each floor shares a toilet and shower. (216 19 52. Singles $3, students $2; doubles $6, students $5; triples $9.50, students $7.) Otel Bozbag , 8 Eski Yağcılar Sok., is a solid budget option. To get there, with your back to the sea, turn left from the main square and then turn right. You should see a large sign at, the top of the road. Bozbağ offers 33 adequate rooms, most with phone and TV, half with bath, a terrace, and a quiet location. (fax 216 12 49 or 216 24 68. Breakfast $1.25. Singles $6, with bath $7; doubles $10, with bath $13; triples with bath $19.)
FOOD AND ENTERTAINMENT
The Etibol Restaurant , 4/4 İncedayı Sok., is a large table clothed restaurant offering good views and good food, with a bar to boot. From the Atapark, wralk up Gazi Cad., take the first right, and then the first left; Tibor is on the roof of the building on your right. All dishes come with delicious mısır ekmeği (combread). Go for the barbun buğlama ve tavası, or steamed striped mullet with cornflour, for $4. (a-212 28 78. Open llam-3pm and 6- 11pm.) Deniz Lokanta , Hacı Miktat Mah., Aplarslan Cad. No. 1, is one block east of the main square, and next to the bus offices. Often very crowded, it offers a good range of dishes in an unpretentious, efficient atmosphere, (a 21(5 11 58. Tavuk şiş $1.50; ayran $.30. Open daily 6:30am-11pm.) For dessert, head to the Balkaya Pastanesi (a216 13 15), Gazi Cad., No. 67. F’ounded in 1932, this land¬mark serves fındıklı (hazelnut) biscuits ($.30) and the hindistan cevizli ($.30).
Aretias Disco-Bar, Teyyaredüzü Mah., Atatürk Bul., No. 1., 5km west of Giresun. Take a dolmuş from the town center to “Aretias.” A fun, lively bar with a ÜJ and dance floor, Aretias is a big draw for many nearby and some not-so-near towns and villages. There is a good range of cocktails and lively, welcoming manage¬ment, (215 56 48. Cover $2, Sa $1. Beer $1.50; rakı $2. Open daily 8:30pm-2am.) To reach Yaman Beach, to the west of the city, take a dolmuş to “Yaman plaj.” Enjoy live music nightly in a mellow’, low-key atmosphere. (Tuborg beer on tap $1.50.) Up the hill on Gazi Cad., the Adi-Yok Cafe (“No-Name Cafe”), 32/B Gazi Cad., functions as a pleasant coffee place during the day and a lively bar at night, featuring student bands. (216 69 51. Çay $.40; coffee $.90; cappuccino $1.20. No alcohol. Open daily 8am-lam.) A few minutes farther up the hill is Seranad Bar, 57 Gazi Cad., which has a good young atmosphere with loud Turkish and Western music every night. (212 45 44. Beer $1.50; rakı $1.80. Open daily noon-3am.) Most of the clubs are about 5km outside town. Take a dolmuş west along the coastal road to Tayba Turistik Tesisleri, Atatürk Bulvarı Teyyere Giresun a bar/disco inside with more seating outside, looking over an excellent view’ of the coast and sea. Hang out on the small beach. (215 12 62. Open daily 8am-2am.)
The city museum is worth a visit. From the Atapark, turn right along the coastal road until you see a lot U/akm down. Turn right up a steep hill and the church should be visible. Housed under the castle in a restored Byzantine Church, it culs a historical reminder of Giresun’s long-departed population in the local architecture. Inside are interesting items of clothing and pottery found in the region as well as some antique photographs. ( 21213 22. Open M-F 8am-5pm; Sa-Su 8am-noon and l-3pm. $1.50, students $1.) Another reminder of Giresun’s cosmopolitan past is the Catholic Church. The 19th-century’ building lacks the charm of the museum, but gives off a peaceful, out-of-place aura. This area is also home to many typical old Giresun houses, (216 2516. Open Tu-Sa 8am-noon and l-5pm.)
Follow’ the signs halfway up the Gazi Cad. to the kale. The area around the kale is one of the liveliest and most attractive parts of Giresun. There are some medi¬eval ruins with good explanations of the history of Giresun in several languages, an impressive mausoleum for Osman Ağa, Atatürk’s military commander, several food outlets, a large picnic area, çay gardens with stunning views, and a “Panorama walkway” with a clear view of the coast and harbor. The steep climb takes about 15 minutes from Gazi Cad.
A couple of kilometers off the coast is a now-deserted Island with a ruined castle and monastery. The island still plays a part in local mythology: some believe Jason visited this island during his voyage for the golden fleece. Many visit the island during the AKSU festival (May 20) to make wishes for the future. Opposite the museum, private boats will take you there for $5-10 (30min. each way).
Dolmuş leave from Giresun’s square for Kümbet Yayla, a cool highland paradise (24hr., 7:30am-4pm, $2). The hotels and restaurants in Kümbet are basic but functional. Staying in a highland village allows for a close-up look at rural life. Travel agencies in Atapark can arrange 4-6 day trekking trips. The best time to visit is the second Sunday in July, when Kümbet hosts its High Plateau Festival.
Tirebolu is one of many small seaside towns along the main coastal highway. The remains of its 14th-century Genoese Castle of St. John are now used as an informal çay garden. Tirebolu’s real attraction, however, lies simply in its relaxed pace: visitors can sit for hours gazing along the coastlines and looking out at the ocean. Tirebolu has enough touristic infrastructure to make it navigable, but is small and undeveloped enough to keep the feel special and intimate.
TRANSPORTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION
Tirebolu has only two main streets: the coastal highway and Gazipaşa Cad., the commercial street. Gazipaşa Cad. winds from the castle up the hill and about 1hr. Han around and down to the western bridge and dolmuş lot. The two bridges, one opposite the castle, and the other at the bus drop-off, arc excellent navigation marks. Facing the town, with your back to the sea, you’ll see set of steep steps 100m from the west bridge. Climb them for the quickest and most scenic route to Gazipaşa Cad.
Buses stop next to the western bridge at the bus and dolmuş lot opposite the two bus offices. Ulusoy (44140 62 or 441 29 57) and Metro (41149 52) sell tickets to: Ankara (11hr.; 4 per day 9am-11pm; $15, students $13.50); Antalya (20hr.; noon; $25, students $23); Erzurum (8hr.; 3:30pm; $9, students $8.50); Giresun (45min., frequent, $1.50) İstanbul (16hr; 10 per day ll:30am-lam; $20, students $18); Samsun (5hr.; every hr.; $8, students $6); and Trabzon (1hr.; frequent; $3, students $2). The slightly cheaper dolmuş to Giresun and Trabzon departs from the same lot or from various points on Gazipaşa Cad. Minibuses to Giresun also stop by the bridge.
Türkiye İş Bankası, halfway up Gazipaşa Cad., can exchange traveler’s checks and cash. (411 41 04. Open M-F 8:30am-12:30 and1:30-6pm.) There’s also a TC Ziraat Bank with an ATM on Gazipaşa Cad., near the PTT. (411 20 35. Open M-F 8:30am- 6pm.) The police station (411 30 00) is in the dirt lot across from the castle. The hospital, Tirebolu Devlet Hastanesi, is near the castle end of Gazipaşa Cad., just after it starts sloping downhill. (411 42 78. Open daily 8am-4pm; 24hr. for emergencies.) The hospital houses Tirebolu’s best pharmacy. (411 48 66. Open daily 8am-9pm.) For fast internet access, ESO NET Internet Cafe on Amiral Şükrü Okan Cad. No. 98, on the main coastal highway. ($1.25 per hr. Open daily 9am-midnight.) The PTT is on Gazipaşa Cad. Take the stairs up the western bridge and follow the road onto Gazipaşa Cad.
ACCOMMODATIONS, FOOD, AND ENTERTAINMENT
Since Tirebolu has only one functioning hotel, you’d be better off staying in Trabzon or Giresun. Otel Huzur O, Gazipaşa Cad. No. 15 Çintaşı Mah. next to the large mosque, is a 10min. walk uphill from the town center. The hotel is basic and rooms are small, but are clean and comfortable. Most have stunning views. The six rooms share a shower and a Turkish toilet. Request hot water for your shower. (411 40 93. Singles $4.50, students $4; doubles $9.50, students $8; triples $14.50, students $12.) Some campers set up tents on the beach east of town.
The standard kebap and pide joints on Gazipaşa Cad. often have limited menus. There are some mobile fish restaurants just underneath the castle which offer a more scenic setting and better atmosphere. You can also stock your room with fresh fruit, breads, cheese, and other inexpensive goodies from Tirebolu’s many markets. Cherries and hazelnuts, both regional specialties, ripen in the summer. Locals love picnics, which go perfectly with the relaxed small town atmosphere. The beach just east of the castle is a good place to while away a few hours. It’s unremarkable but un-crowded and less dirty than those around the main towns.
Tirebolu’s best nighttime attraction is the view of the sea, coastline, and town from the çay house on top of the castle. The Turkish pop music and limited selection of drinks on offer make for a surreal moment. There are also always large groups walking up and down the coastline, especially during university season.