header_montage_1

RİZE

Prime Minister Erdoğan's ancestral home              Population: 78,000

riz1Keşans with everythingOld name: Rhizaion (Greek)

Tea, tea, tea. For people who assume that most tea comes from India and Sri Lanka, the sight of the endless deep-green tea plantations carpeting the slopes of the mountains east of Rize will come as something of a surprise. Not to the Turks, though, for whom the eastern Black Sea is synonymous with the production of their favourite beverage.

This was something that came about almost by accident when, after the British cut off Russian access to tea from the subcontinent in 1917, the Russians were forced to start growing their own leaves along the Georgian coast. Then in the 1930s Zihni Derin introduced the idea to the thin coastal strip on the Turkish side of the border.

For most visitors working their way east along the Black Sea coast journey's end is Trabzon. But for the hardy few who’re heading on to Georgia, Rize is the best place to make a last overnight halt with some of the best hotels in an area which is notoriously short of good places to stay. Ditto for those heading up into the Kaçkar Mountains for whom the town offers enough of interest to fill a quick few hours between buses.

Around town

Today’s Rize is a thoroughly modern looking town that does its best to conceal the fact that it started life as the Greek city of Rhizaion.200 DSC04749

It’s rather prouder of its lingering Ottoman heritage, however, with the central square backed by three imposing mansions and the post office beneath them decked out in pseudo-Ottoman finery.

Two of the mansions house museums (closed Mondays), the better of the two, the Sarı Evi (Yellow House, also known as the Tuzcuoğullari Konağı), focusing on local life. Come here to see not just the ornate furniture in the then popular Western style that once filled the mansions but also the costumes worn by two of the minority populations that live around Rize: the coastal Laz and the inland-dwelling Hemşin.

Beside the museum a curious wooden building on struts is one of the seranders that used to be used to store grain safely out of reach of rats.

Beside it the second of the mansions houses the Çaykur Tea Museum (closed Mondays) honouring one of the two products (the other is hazelnuts) that keep the wheels of business rolling around here. Unless you’re particularly interested in what goes on inside a tea factory you may find the displays of old machinery a little ho-hum. The house itself, on the other hand, is magnificent and you can only wonder how it is that people who once lived amid such beauty can now settle so seemingly happily for concrete suburbia.

riz2Tea-gathering baskets on sale in Rize bazaarThe third of the mansions houses a restaurant named Evvel Zaman (Past Times) that is almost as chock-a-block with memorabilia as the museums.

If you're feeling the urge for a cuppa the most obvious thing to do is hop on the bus that stops right in front of the museums and whisks people up to the hilltop Çay Arıştırma Enstitüsü (Tea Research Institute). Here, beneath the shade of giant magnolia trees, you can sip tea from a samovar and contemplate the view of Rize and the Black Sea unfolding in front of you.

From the Tea Institute you can spot its main competition in the pleasant places to drink tea stakes, and that is the small castle that perches on a lower hill across town to the west. This castle dates back to the reign of the Emperor Justinian (of İstanbul’s Hagia Sophia fame) although, like most castles, it’s been patched up time and again, especially during the reign of the Trabzon Byzantine Emperor, Alexios II (1297-1330).

Today you approach the tea garden via the courtyard of the Kale Cami (mosque), mounting steps until you emerge in front of the tomb of Ekrem Orhun, an ex-mayor known as the "Father of Rize", who so loved the view from this spot that when he died in 1983 he was buried overlooking it. Beyond that you emerge in one of Turkey’s loveliest tea gardens with roses ringing an old cannon and tables set up to scoop the views in every direction.

200 DSC04743What else does Rize have to offer? Well, the Orta Cami may be a 19th-century building but it has a glorious wooden ceiling that’s well worth a quick look, while the nearby bazaar sells a variety of handicrafts including colourful filigree copper trays from Erzincan, and handy wooden stools and baskets made rather closer to home. Here, too, you’ll see the roundels of local cheese that look like so many piled-up yellow frisbees.200 DSC04813

Today, when hardly any young woman would be seen dead with her head covered by a stripy Laz keşan headscarf, enterprising individuals are finding a myriad new uses for them. Poke about in the bazaar and you’ll spot them turned into everything from shirts and dresses to cushion covers and oven gloves.

Footnote: Fans of the current prime minister may be interested to know that Prime Minister Erdoğan was born in the nearby village of Güneysu which is why the local university is named after him.

Eating

The Liman Lokantası (Tel: 0464-217 1568) does a mean bowl of kuru fasuliye (beans) with ayran to wash it down. 

In a part of the world famous for its pastry chefs the Dergah Pastanesi (Tel: 0464-217 9898) is a large, cheerful cake shop which attracts a very mixed clientele and is only minutes away from the sights and the public transport.

Sleeping

Dedeman Rize. Tel: 0464-223 4444

Hotel Milano. Tel: 0464-213 0028

Otel Kaçkar. Tel: 0464-213 1490

Keleş Otel

Transport info

Plentiful buses and dolmuşes ply the eastern end of the Black Sea highway calling in at Rize on the way from Trabzon to Hopa and Sarp (for Georgia).

Buses to the Tea Institute (marked Ziraat) leave on the hour from in front of the museum; those to the castle leave from the local bus terminal near the waterfront in the town centre which is also where you can pick up dolmuşes to Ardeşen and the other Laz towns

Day trip destinations

Ardeşen

Güneyce

Of

Şimşirli

Sürmene

Read more: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-250659-into-tea-growing-country-rize-and-the-laz-lands.html

 

 

Events Calendar

September 2018
S M T W T F S
26 27 28 29 30 31 1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 1 2 3 4 5 6

Exchange Rates

Weather