Turkish acquaintances from Istanbul raised their eyebrows quizzically when I told them of my impending journey to Kdz. Ereğli. “Gerçekten? Why would you go there? Nothing to see, an ugly, coal-mining, steel-manufacturing town. It’s dangerous for you, they don’t like outsiders.” They were wrong. Gerçekten!
Kdz. Ereğli is a beautiful, peaceful seaside town located along the Black Sea shoreline in a westerly direction from the rugged cliff faces and hilly terrain of Zonguldak city.
Here, you may spend lazy days sauntering along the Black Sea waterfront, breaking for aromatic cay or Turkish coffee (kahve) and delicious (çok nefis) snacks of sea-fresh grilled fish sandwiches (balık ekmek), or corn-on-the-cob (mısır).
Get to know the locals. Let yourself be moved by the stories of their lives. See the light shining in their eyes as they talk of encounters with wolves amongst the mountains and streams of their summer retreats. Feel their calm of spirit and authenticity as they talk of picking Ottoman strawberies, nuts and grape leaves (yaprak) in the fields and forests of their childhoods.
At nearby beaches, extending further west along the Black Sea to the resort town of Akçakoca, sip from a fresh çay or ayran as you watch extended families camped by shade-tents cavorting cheerily, innocently, along sandy, branch-strewn shores. Hear their banter, feel their united warmth, inter-generational respect and contentment. Comprehend a simplicity of heart and spirit, long since lost to greater segments of the so-called “developed”, Western world. Feel the love, dignity, respect and family values that still bond the generations so admirably here.
Sit amongst the tea gardens where senior citizens, in their dozens, chat gleefully, like excited children, under shady, green trees, playing tavla (backgammon) and okey.
Fill your lungs with sea air as you stroll the zig-zag tiled boardwalk east towards a majestic, golden sunset performance on the harbour. Climb the boardwalk fence. Scramble across the rocks and find yourself a front-row seat amongst the splintered, woody ruins of disused boat ramps. Gaze across the glistening harbour towards the iconic twin towers of the Erdemir steel plant silhouetted on the distant horizon. Sit quietly and watch the fishing boats rocking gently, peacefully, on the shimmering golden waters. Let your mind drift, sharing the thoughts and dreams of locals who also sat here once, dreaming perhaps of faraway lands and adventures yet to be had.
Be warned – your heart and soul may be forever lost to the unique kindness, warmth and authenticity of spirit you experience from encounters within this region. ??