Pontus, Anatolia’s Ancient Treasure

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Pontus too many people holds abundant different meanings depending on how savvy you are with history and your ethnicity. However to me, Pontus is yet another one of those places where I had no idea how beautifully unspoiled the scenery was when I first found out about it and just how many hidden treasures there are on offer to the unknowing traveler!

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Located in northern Turkey, lining the Black Sea, Pontus is one of the earliest inhabited parts of Anatolia with a history dating back over 5000 years and being home to long staying ethnicities such as the Greeks, Armenians, Anatolians, Turks and most interestingly, the Amazons (These people were in Ancient Greek mythology an all female tribe of warriors whose queens come descend from the gods!). Besides that the history of the ancient province has left marks across the area with ancient fortresses, monasteries, tombs and Ottoman mansions.

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The natural beauty is just staggering and it’s amazing to think that it is hardly visited by tourists. The option of what to do and see is broad and stretches from the beaches of the Black Sea to the highest peaks of the thick forested mountains.. Personally the thought of hiking or riding through the green mountain forests and the villages shrouded by mist is one of those experiences that I cannot wait to embark upon.

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The regions main centers are scattered along the coast line, these include Sinop, Ordu, Trabzon and Samsun which will cater for the average tourist (not that there’s anything wrong with that); however for the adventure seeker it seems that the more inland of Pontus that you venture, the more fulfilling each province is! Take the town of Amasya, a picturesque wooded ottoman style town that has huge rock carved tombs on the side of a cliff face above the town; many of the tombs date back to about 2000 years ago.

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A big thing for me is the food of the region, and honestly I love Turkish foods and meze’s, so the cuisine is like an added bonus to this fantastic location! And not to forget the locally grown tea of Pontus.

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This part of Black Sea Turkey is mostly unvisited by westerners over the better known and easier to access parts of the country, however though there is few international visitors staying each year, tourism is largely on the rise, and its not hard to see why! I hope you enjoyed these pictures which have bewildered my imagination for a long time and perhaps one day will inspire you to add Pontus to your bucket list! 

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-Daniel Berakov

 

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Baku, Paris of the Caucasus

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There are a handful of places on earth where you can find the charming architecture of Paris, magnificently designed modern skyscrapers, a history shared with great empires of the world and most importantly it is almost unheard of to the knowledge of Western travelers. I wish to introduce you to Baku, Azerbaijan, the ‘land of fire’.

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Baku has long since been on my mind and imagination, I would drift off imagining what it would be like to walk the streets and avenues that I see in these photos I’ve collected from various websites; I would always leave myself in a world of ‘if’, where I just go ahead and plan exactly what I would do and see when I arrive there! I would firstly absorb the history of the city.

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Located between Iran and Russia, it is amazing to think that great empires have trod through the Caucasus such as the Mongols, Persians and Russians would have little idea that Baku would be the birthplace of the Oil industry that would eventually provide half the worlds oil by the turn of the 20th century. It was only until then that Baku would become a boom-town from the sleepy settlement that was. Investment poured into the city, much like a turn of the century version of Dubai, majestic mansions were built along side other grand structures, culture changed with the city, schools, universities, theatres and academies were erected to ensure the new residents could enjoy life as it were in the major capitals of the world.

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Needless to say, it is thanks to oil then and today that Baku is by far the most charming city of the Caucasus.

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The people are overwhelmingly Azeri and Shiite Muslim, yet they are very tolerant to other religions. English is not widely spoken as of yet, however since Baku hosted Eurovision in 2012 and numerous international sporting events, the next generation of Azeris are preferring to learn English over the predominant Russian as a choice of second language.

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(This photo is of a hidden cafe in Baku, it has been circulating facebook recently!)

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In terms of sights, the streets of Baku are magnificent; there are numerous bazaars, hidden cafes, picturesque squares and parks, and best of all the architecture of the place! Here’s a blog I found which covers majority of the sights and it is so interesting to see exactly what this city has on offer! http://www.thoroughlymodernmilly.com/2013/07/things-to-do-in-baku/

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Apparently flights to Baku can be arranged from major European cities or if you are like me and live in the end of the world, then getting there involves flying to Dubai or Abu Dhabi and then taking a flight to Baku. The catch is finding a cheap flight and then organizing Visa upon arrival, if you were to go!

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There’s a treasure trove of options available to you for travel outside Baku into other towns and I will cover those soon as possible! I hope you enjoyed seeing these pictures which have inspired me to work towards going to Azerbaijan one day, and I hope that one day you will too! It seems the more time you give Baku the better it gets! Click the following link for a great traveler video about Baku! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj9W084k0RQ

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