After visiting Sümela Manastırı, we drove through Rize towards Çamlıhemşin and the Fırtına Valley. This Black Sea region is filled with winding roads, lush mountains, and fresh air. Everywhere we looked – even behind buildings in the city – we saw çay field after çay field. (Turkey produces over 6% of the world’s tea!)
Our goal was to see Ottoman bridges. We weren’t sure how to find them, but it ended up being super easy! We just followed the road along the Fırtına River. The bridges were built in the 18th and 19th centuries, but some may be older. The 1700’s are nothing in comparison to other historical sites in Turkey, but we still got a thrill out of finding the bridges and walking across them. There are around 20 bridges still standing. We stopped at three on our first day and three more on Sunday.
Every bridge felt like a scene out of Narnia or Lord of the Rings. The bridges had high arches and most of the them didn’t seem to lead to anywhere in particular. It was evident herders still used some of the bridges to take their animals over the river.
This was the Kadiköy (Özenkit) Köprüsü. The sign said it was built near the end of the 19th century by Ahmet and was repaired in 1999:
I missed the sign for this bridge… or maybe it didn’t have one:
Several of the bridges had mini cemeteries near their bases. We wondered if perhaps the builders were buried close to their bridge?
The third bridge we stopped at was called the Şenyuva Köprüsü and was built in 1696:
The people in the area made their living from rafting tourism, forestry, farming, beekeeping, and herding animals. There were a few roadblocks along the way:
Just before dark, we drove to Ayder, a small tourism village within a national park. It was a strange little town set in the middle of the countryside. We did not see any other Westerners – most visitors seemed to be Turks or people from countries east of Turkey. We stayed at Dolunay Guesthouse, which was way overpriced for what it was. However, it had a wood burning stove and an amazing view. (Bring your own towels; they do not have any even for rent.) We ate dinner at Zümrüt Restaurant, which included the most amazing Black Sea cheese fondue called mıhlama. It was SO GOOD!
More on our day trip to Georgia and a few more bridges soon!