Monday, May 11, 2009

Solidarity Day in Küre Mountains National Park

For the first time since 1978, one year after the 1977 May Day in which 37 people were killed, Turkish labor was allowed to demonstrate in Taksim Square with a "reasonable number" and mark the International Day of Solidarity of Labor, or May Day, which was re-instituted as a public holiday almost three decades after it was banned by the 1980 military coup administration.

May Day wasn't entirely peaceful this year. By using teargas, bombs, and pressurized water, police forces kept demonstrators from reaching Taksim from certain districts. In the end, however, around 4,000 demonstrators reached Taksim Square. (

We found out last minute that our school was giving us the day off for Solidarity Day, but instead of heading to the city, seven of us rented a van and drove north to Küre Mountains National Park in the Black Sea region.

On our drive there, we stopped at World Heritage sight, Safranbolu. As I was the only first-year teacher on the team, we didn't stop long in this place that most had frequented more than once over their two years. Just long enough to take some pics of the Ottoman architecture, decide I am going to take my mom there when she visits in August, and enjoy extremely slow/poor service at a little touristy restaurant.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has listed the Küre Mountains as one of a hundred forest 'Hot Spots' in Europe deserving priority conservation. The Park covers an area of 34,000 hectares and receives high rainfall which accounts for the surprising-to-see-in-Turkey, lush vegetation. The most impressive sight was Valla Gorge, 700 meter karst limestone walls rising 700 meters which begins at the confluence of two rivers, the Devrekâni and its tributary the Kanliçay.

The biodiversity within the plant life was pretty impressive, too. We went at the perfect time, for the meadows were carpeted with colourful flowers. Supposedly, the mountains are home to numerous wild animals. Of Turkey's total of 130 species of mammal, 40 are to be found here, including the brown bear, otter, wolf, roe deer, red deer, wild boar, fox, marten, badger and hare. (We only saw a wild dog, a giant purple beetle, and a golden eagle).

There wasn't much to the national park as far as interpretive signs, trails, ranger stations, etc., and not much tourism surrounding the park in the town we stayed in. Honestly, I am impressed that a country with just an emerging economy can afford to even set aside land for national parks, put up a few signs, and make a couple trails. In the U.S., when times are hard, the first thing cut are National Park funds. So even though it was dinky, it was nice to see that it was preserved. I guess in this case, the WWF probably contributed financially.
A few old villages have been grandfathered into the national park. Note the wooden houses (not the concrete of most towns- Turkey loved concrete).

We stayed in a town called Pinarbasi, a few kilometers outside the park. It was no West Yellowstone or Jackson Hole, but our pansyon was out in the country and quite cute. I slept like a rock, and the provided breakfast and dinner was great. Turkish breakfasts typically consist of cheese, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, and bread. It is the same wherever you stay, sometimes fresher than other places. We were in farm country, so everything was delicious- like the fresh *warm* milk offered to us at breakfast.

On our way home, we stopped at another Ottoman town near Safranbolu. Less touristy. Cute family gardens, and traditionally dressed crooked women selling homemade sauces, fruit leather, and produce.

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