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Since the distant past the rural people of Turkey have moved to the alpine pastures during the summer, both to escape the heat of summer and to graze their herds on the fresh grass high in the mountains. Now this traditional way of life has become a new holiday alternative to the usual sea sand and sun. Every year more people head for the mountains instead of the coast, and 500,000 people are expected to choose a mountain holiday this season. The most popular destination for these holidays is the Eastern Black Sea mountain range, whose alpine pastures known as yayla, offer crystal clear water and clean air, mild temperatures, and spectacular scenery. It is close to the eastern Black Sea town of Rize and en route to the famous Kaçkar massif. It also offers the additional attraction of hot mineral springs. Fifty kilometres east of Rize along the coastal road, and just before reaching Ardesen, turn inland to Ayder. The road through scenery in ever shade of green is a marvellous taste of the beauties to come. At first it makes its way along the deep valley through which the appropriately named Firtina (Storm) river thunders its way down to the sea. Slender high-arched stone bridges span this wild torrent. This region is famous for its local dishes, such as muhlama (pastrami with eggs and onions), green cabbage soup, and a variety of layered pastry called laz boregi, which can be found at the country restaurants along the road and in the town of Çamlihemsin. They also serve the delicious red spotted trout caught in the Firtina. Being very rich in fauna, there are different species of wolves, bears, wild boars, foxes, wild goats, deers, skuns, cayotes, wild hens, eagels, falcons, havvks and phesants. Each year in april and may sea-trout runs from Blacksea to the creeks of Hemsin, Fırtına and Caglayan after laying eggs at the same place of the river each year, the sea-trout runs back to the Blacksea in August and September. Natural breeding habits of sea-trout is worth to see in the park. Because of the elevation at Kaçkar Mauntains increases at short distances, it contributes to various plateau-linked activities and temporary settlements are seen in the area. Having one of the most important summits of our country, the actuel glaciation and other natural values of Kackar Mauntains have drau/n mauntaineers, tourist and scientists to this area. Firtina and Hemsin Rivers where biodiversity is concentrated are among the first places to see. Zilkale ruins at Firtina River valley are important from the cultural point of view. Plateau settlements which shows the socio-economic and cultural values of the region display the concordance of people and architecture to the nature and provide an impressive scenery. Ayder settlement and hot springs are the other atractions of the Park. Near the Ayder Plateau settlement there is an area which provides services f or daily use. In Camlihemsin district and Ayder Plateu there are camping sites around settlements. Perched precariously on the steep valley sides are the delightful half-timbered houses of the region. No roads lead up to them, and you will wonder how on earth the inhabitants clamber up to their homes, and whether the magnificent views are worth the struggle. Every house has its own pulley system, known as vargel, for carrying loads up and down. Moreover, since neighbours are spaced so far apart the local people have developed their own unusual communications system, a whistling language capable of expressing quite complex messages. Sadly the advent of the telephone means that this language, known as "bird language", is dying out among the younger generation. The main crop at the lower altitudes of this mountainous region is tea, which makes way for forest as you climb higher. This is an area of high rainfall, particularly on the northern slopes facing the Black Sea. Once over the watershed both climate and vegetation change dramatically. The southern slopes are drier and hotter, and the vegetation sparser. The rich flora of the northern slopes is the haunt of millions of bees, and the superb produced here sells for five times the price on the other side of the mountains. Camlihemsin, at an altitude of 1350 metres, bustles with preparationsfor the coming tourism season. Thankfully the authorities have forbidden concrete construction at Ayder to preserve the traditional timber architecture of the region, and it is compulsory to timber the facades of any concrete buildings predating the ban. The spas have also benefitted from the tourism boom. Originally serving only people from the surrounding provinces, they now have clients from all over Turkey. The note worthy high-plateaus of the region which are located 2,000-3,000 metres above sea-level are Cat, Basyayla, Ortayayla, Tirovit, Hacivanak, Pokut, Hamlakit, Palovit, Sal, Kavron by the Kackar Mountains and the world-famous Kackar high-plateaus. These high-plateaus are very important from the standpoint of tourism. Hot-water springs on the Ayder Plateau cure many illnesses; there is a modern hot-spring facility located there. The Kackar Mountains are the fourth-highest Mountains of Turkey, a chain similar to the Alps. They are perfect for walking and climbing. Although all these features mentioned above constitute the basic building-blocks of tourism, some want to destroy these beauties in exchange for a minute amount of energy production. However, it has to be realized that people can only live in harmony with their environment, because the environment is the cause of their being. It is our undeniable responsibility to protect Camlihemsin and Firtina Valley and to transfer them to future generations. It is impossible to evaluate Rize by using topography and flora of Anatolia as a standard. Rize has much more contrast and sharper land forms than does the central plateau. The vegetation is so dense in Rize that it is virtually impossible to see the ground. The shoreline and hinterland possess myriad shades of green. Rize is famous the world over for its flora. There about 20 flowers that are unique to the Rize area. The inner regions coming right to the shoreline, with mountains and plateaus, omplete the picture while traditional villages and plateau houses blend in with nature to make an enriching contribution. Visitors to area (mountain side of Rize) confrented with the enchanting land of nature, in every way beyond their expectations. In Rize you can climb the highest peaks on the Black Sea nature, the Mt. Kackars; taste the most nutritious honey in the world (famous less and unique and known black colours) the Anzer Honey; and take the advantage of the Ayder Thermal Springs. In other words a "Tour to Rize Mountains" to anyone who wants to experience such unique and beautiful settings.
Herewith I would like to emphasize again the excellent experience we had last week with our guide Yildirim on the climbing of the Ararat. He was taking care of us with a lot of attention and we could really trust on him. Also after the climbing he was escorting us very kindly and all appointments were taken accurately. It was really a great pleasure for us.
We should also congratulate Celam who prepared nice meals, always with enthousiasm, and we will remind him as our good cook forever.
As soon as we have the opportunity, we will send you some pictures about this expedition.
Be assured we are happy about the way it was organised.
Pierre Kockerols / Brussel