It was the speak of a standard sweetshop that did it. Within the Black Sea port metropolis of Sinop, the place boats have names like Masallah and Seref Kaptan, I had simply completed a plate of mantı, massive, comfortable dumplings topped with melted butter, chopped walnuts and thick, silky yoghurt. As I floated fortunately on a carb cloud, the waiter handed me a marzipan-style candy (“a present, you’re our visitor”) topped with half a walnut. It was the handiwork of grasp confectioner Mehmet Gürbüz, whose store, Sekerci Mehmet Gürbüz, run by his son, stands reverse the dumpling purveyor, Ornek Mantı. Mehmet himself, I used to be informed, takes care of his unique wood-panelled store in a small city referred to as Boyabat, an hour inland.
Turkey map
I needed to satisfy Mehmet and I needed to strive his sweets in situ. What I didn’t need, having already travelled 430 miles by coach from Istanbul, was to be held ransom to extra bus timetables, or to overlook any attractive roadside cafes.
So the next day, my husband and I rented a automotive for just a few days, to discover Turkey’s huge Black Sea area. We’d cease on the historic inland cities of Amasya and Tokat, house to uncommon culinary specialities, earlier than travelling on to the jap Black Sea metropolis of Trabzon, overlaying roughly 450 miles. Alongside the best way we’d pattern all of the Black Sea larder has to supply, from specialist kebabs to hazelnuts and wealthy highland dairy merchandise.

Luggage of nuts on the market at a bulk meals retailer in Trabzon. {Photograph}: Alamy
Earlier than leaving Sinop, we visited the Fortress Jail, or “Anatolian Alcatraz”, as soon as a grim-looking jail however as we speak a museum. Author Sabahattin Ali, whose 1940s novella, Madonna in a Fur Coat, stays one in every of Turkey’s bestselling books, was incarcerated right here. It was additionally right here, 150 years in the past, that two Russian convicts taught their Turkish cellmates the right way to make mannequin ships: little figures of freedom, to occupy the fingers and thoughts. Right now, craftsmen make them for vacationers.
The street to Boyabat was a breeze, and the sweetshop simple to search out. Inside, above picket, apothecary-style chests, stood rows of glass jars filled with shiny boiled sweets. Unscrewing one, Mehmet motioned for me to dip my hand in. As I sucked the candy (“Don’t chew!”) it slowly launched tiny honeycomb nuggets.
As a boy within the 1940s, Mehmet rejected a job within the household tailoring enterprise to create what he craved most, “the candies within the native sweetshop window”. I purchased 12 walnut sweets, just like the one I’d sampled in Sinop, and put the field, embellished with a ribbon, on the again seat of the automotive.

Manti dumplings in yoghurt. {Photograph}: Esen Ataman Kurklu/Getty Photos
We left, driving beneath the shadow of the city’s historic citadel, witness to Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman rule, earlier than stopping for an impromptu lokanta (tradesmen’s restaurant) lunch on the outskirts of city.
First to the desk got here recent bread and a bowl of kuru fasülye, creamy pale beans in thick purple, buttery gravy. Then a bulgur salad, a plate of 20 complete inexperienced chillies, a pile of lemon quarters and a bowl of croutons for the lentil soup. The right speedy roadside meal: easy, cheap and unpretentious.
We left Boyabat, trailing a minibus stuffed to the roof with one other Black Sea speciality, beyaz altın (white gold), super-strength garlic from the Black Sea metropolis of Kastamonu. This allium is known for being as much as 10 occasions extra pungent than regular garlic.

Fishing at Sinop. {Photograph}: Theodore Kaye
The street to Amasya was cinematic: velvety hills, pale as sand dunes, met vast, scrubby plateaux, fields of sunflowers, zigzags of pine-scented lanes and the odd signpost warning of boars. Some furry, on-bend overtaking apart, the going was good and the panorama was as soothing on the eyes because the Black Sea, now 100 miles or so away.
If, as republic founder Kemal Atatürk mentioned, Sinop is gorgeous, then Amasya is strikingly so. Surrounded by apple orchards, it’s dominated by Mount Harşena, a jumbly escarpment of pigeon-grey limestone stacks that line the banks of the Yeşilırmak (Inexperienced River). The rock-cut tombs of the kings of ,relationship from the second and third centuries BC, overhang the water. At evening, they’re lit up neon blue, a reminder of when Persian governors established the Pontic kingdom, selecting Amaseia (Amasya) because the capital metropolis.

Mansions, a mosque and rock tombs at Amasya. {Photograph}: Izzet Keribar/Getty Photos
I walked in the direction of the 14th-century psychological hospital (which, I later discovered, pioneered the usage of music remedy) searching for Amasya Çörekcisi bakery. Baking town’s buns since 1925, it’s identified for its candy rolls – flaky and comfortable, studded with walnuts, poppy seeds and hazelnuts.
Crossing the river, I discovered a extra uncommon dish to strive – toyga, a white soup, thick with chickpeas, wheat and yoghurt. Amasya is understood for its okra, too, which, based on legend, Mehmed the Conqueror’s horsemen would dry out and put on as decorative beads.
That evening, after ingesting rakı with a marriage celebration, we stayed in a good-looking, half-timbered, riverside Ottoman mansion, Uluhan Resort (doubles from £36).

Boyabat Fortress. {Photograph}: Alamy
The next day, we took the street to Tokat, a simple two-hour drive away. Twinned with Mogadishu, Tokat counts outdated Seljuk caravanserais, calico artisans and orchards of pear timber amongst its sights, in addition to its well-known Tokat kebab. Eager to strive it instantly, we headed to the hilltop Seyirtepe Cafe. Its round eating room has floor-to-ceiling home windows with unobstructed views over Tokat. The kebabs, made with six-month-old Karakaya lamb, aubergine, tomato, a scattering of complete garlic cloves and peppers, and served on paper-thin lavash bread, are able to sending Tokat residents misty-eyed on the mere point out. Only one chunk confirmed its excellence.
Subsequent day, our journey again to the coast switched from laid-back jaunt to a High Gear white-knuckle experience. We had been ready for a seven-hour drive to Trabzon on slim roads, by way of town of Giresun, however the satnav packed up, and we discovered ourselves unwittingly scaling a foggy, 2,200-metre excessive mountain move referred to as Eğribel Geçidi. Asphalted however badly potholed, it was a gradual, blind climb. Later, I discovered it listed on a “Harmful Roads” web site, included as a result of it’s commonly shrouded in dense mists that roll in from the Black Sea and are trapped by the mountains.
Finally we had been again down, secure, in a panorama of mountains tinged with pink, beige and cream, wild flowers on the roadside and clear blue lakes. I jumped out of the automotive to take pictures at each alternative.

A corn-on-the-cob stall in Trabzon. {Photograph}: Alamy
We lastly arrived on the sea and the city of Giresun, identified for its cherries, in time to seize a well-earned pint of Efes and catch a blood-red sundown over the harbour.

The following morning we drove on to Trabzon, by way of the busy and controversial D010 coastal freeway, which has cruelly divorced town and its residents from the Black Sea.
Removed from the affect of Ankara or Istanbul, Trabzon is a provincial capital with a powerful identification and gritty underdog spirit. Based as a Greek colony within the eighth century BC, it’s house as we speak to a football-mad inhabitants who embellish cafes, taxis and barbers within the claret and blue colors of Trabzonspor.
Only a few Europeans hassle to go to, regardless of its respectable regional museums, nice cafes and proximity to the Black Sea’s most well-known monastery, Sumela, which hugs a cliff face an hour’s drive away. It’s an underappreciated metropolis.

Cafe and outlets within the mountains close to Sumela Monastery. {Photograph}: Zeytun Journey Photos/Alamy
A lot of those that do come are Saudi, Bahraini and Kuwaiti households, who arrive in the summertime trying to escape the scorching temperatures of house and looking for the issues that flip off many sun-starved westerners: misty hills, low cloud, wet coastlines and alcohol-free eating places.
I fortunately misplaced a day in Trabzon’s bazaar, tasting enormous blocks of brown-and-white-marbled helva, shopping for olives in a rainbow of colors, looking for hazelnuts (70% of the world’s hazelnuts come from right here) and lingering in bakeries stuffed with native Vakfikebir bread, spherical and heavy. Delis show yellow balls of butter from villages within the close by district of Tonya, the place locals nonetheless converse a Greek dialect. The butter has an unforgettably grassy, wealthy and clear flavour.
We had been hungry for extra – however happy that our self-drive gamble had greater than paid off. It was a bittersweet second after we handed again the automotive keys, style buds nonetheless dancing, Black Sea flavours nonetheless on our tongues.
• Caroline Eden’s ebook, Black Sea: Dispatches and Recipes by way of Darkness and Mild (Quadrille, £25) was named Finest Journey and Meals E book of the Yr on the 2019 Edward Stanford Journey Writing awards. To order a replica for £22 together with UK p&p go to The Guardian Bookshop or name on 0330 333 6846. Enterprise rents vehicles in lots of cities within the Black Sea area of Turkey.
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