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Located in the East Black Sea Region, Rize carries the most characteristic features of the region. It separates from other regions of Anatolia with its unique cultural structure, as well as its geographical features. With its steep slope valleys, peaks-reachable mountains, glacial lakes, all tones of green plateaus, historical bridges and castles, strong flowing streams, it is an amazing tourism spot.
The history Rize
There is limited information about Rize in prehistoric times. Thanks to its large woods covering the city, almost no archeological artifacts could have been found until now. In Greek, the word “Rhisos” means “rice”. In Romaic, it transforms into “Rıza”, meaning piedmont. In Ottoman Turkish, “Rize” means “small crumb”.
The very first known hosts of the Rize region are Asia-rooted tribes. These tribes used to make animal husbandry and agriculture. About BC 800, Cimmerians invaded the East Black Sea Region, including Rize.
During the war between Cimmerians and Sakas, Sakas had to migrate from their lands. That migration resulted in a Turkish tribe called Kalaç settled in Rize.
The Roman traveler Pilinus (AC 23-79) states in his books that a tribe called Laz’oi lives in the region and they rule coast side of the area. Today, this tribe is well-known in Turkey as Lazlar.
From AC 10 to 395, the region has been ruled by Romans. After 395, Byzantines took the wheel and ruled until 1204. In 1204, Greeks of Trabzon founded the Pontus Greek State, including both Trabzon and Rize.
Until 1461, Pontus Greek State reigned the region and later on, Mehmet the Conquerer came and conquered these lands. Until 1877, Rize was only a district of Lazistan region of Ottoman Empire. In 1877, Rize became a city.
The city of Rize today
Rize is raising its tourism potential day by day where local and foreign tourists flocks in summer and spring. Rize has a warm weather all year, which is the most rainy city in Turkey. People of Rize used to go up to plateaus and live there all summer, since it becomes too hot and plateaus are cool enough to spend summer. Almost half of the city is covered with woods, including some special species. Rize holds the 25% of woods of Turkey in its borders.
Since the city gets too much rain every year, most of the agricultural area is made of tea fields. Tea growing is the most important economy in Rize. Special organic tea growing is being made in the city, including black, green and white tea. The tea of Rize is imported more than 100 countries and it contributes to the economy of Turkish Republic. Hazelnut is the most important that is grown in Rize after tea. Nearly 70% of the people is making agriculture in Rize. Industry in Rize is based on tea producing factories.
Places to visit in Rize
Kaçkar Mountains National Park
It is 16 kilometers away from Çamlıhemşin district. Kaçkar Mountains National Park consists of 51.000 hectare area, which was announced as a national park in 1994. There are 9 villages and 33 plateaus in the park. It has a very rich flora with Fırtına and Hemşin Streams as well as Kaçkar Mountains and different small lakes. In the park, you can see 756 different plant species and 327 different animal species.
There is also some wild animals like bear, wolf, fox, pig and deer. It has the feature of untouched forests in the Fırtına Stream and Palovit Valley districts of the park.
Anzer Plateau, which 35 kilometers away from Rize’s İkizdere district, is not only Rize’s but also Turkey’s one of the most important geographical areas thanks to its natural beauties and flora. The plateau is famous with its honey, which was announced as tourism point in 1991. It is shown as one of the most expensive honeys around the world, which is made of endemic plants that is grown only in Anzer Plateau. It is considered as a heaven for photographers where you can also make hiking, rafting and paragliding. It is one of the best locations in Rize to visit, especially in summer when yellow and red plants grow and give a fantastic look to the plateau.
Ayder Plateau is 19 kilometers away from Çamlıhemşin district and 69 kilometers away from Rize city center. It is considered as one of the best plateau not only in Rize but also in Turkey thanks to its amazing atmosphere and nature covered in different coloured plants. From start to end, you can come across with spruce and beech trees.
In 1987, the plateau was set as tourism point and in 1994, it has gone under protection by the state. Ayder Plateau is also famous with its hot springs, which is the most visited plateau all around the East Black Sea Region. There are many hotels, restaurants and cafes in the plateau where you can spend a nice holiday with the refreshing oxygen of the plateau. You can taste beautiful hamsi buğulama, hamsi köfte and muhlama in Ayder Plateau.
Being 15 kilometers away from Çamlıhemlin, Zil Castle was buit in the west sides of the Fırtına Stream. It is 750 meters high from the sea and 100 meters from the stream itself.
It was constructed to provide security for the caravan road which goes up to Bayburt city. After Ottoman Empire conquered the region, they kept using the castle for border security.
Even though it is not known exactly when the castle was built, it is estimated that Zil Kalde was constructed around 14th century. It is consisted of an inner castle, outer castle and castle walls. One can reach the castle by a path in the northwest side of the building.
The castle is one of the most visited places by foreign tourists since it is the highest point in the area and it is in a good shape even after centuries.
Fırtına Stream starts from the Ayder Plateau and spills into the sea in Ardeşen district’s 2 kilometers west. It lies in the breath taking green forests of Rize and goes until Kaçkar Mountains. The stream is 57 kilometers in length. It hosts the biggest rafting parkur in Turkey, that’s why it is very popular. The parkour is 23 kilometers in length, many people from all over the world join this amazing experience. You can also experience the rafting parkour all of the year.
It is one of the most important historical places in Rize, located in the city center. It succeeded to become very famous since it is in the city center and very easy to visit. It is consisted of inner castle, outer castle and castle walls. Even though inner castle and castle walls are still alive today, outer castle is an almost demolished ruin. Khorassan mortar and chipped stone is used to build the castle. Although the inner castle which is known to be used by Genoese was devastated in time, it was rebuilt by Byzantines. You see a magnificent view of the city, from the top of the castle.
Pokut Plateau stands on high mountains, being 2.050 meters high from the sea level and 21 kilometers away from the Çamlıhemşin district. Even though it looks near to Çamlıhemşin district, because of its rugged path, it takes almost 2 hours to reach to plateau. The word Pokut comes from Armenian, meaning “Windy valley”. Even if it is not exactly known when the very first settlement has been made, it is estimated 200 years ago. Being a small plateau, it has only about 70-80 houses. Some of them serves as a hostel. Pokut Plateau is known as the best terrace of Kaçkar Mountains. It is one of the most beautiful sight-seeing places in the whole Black Sea Region. By making a walking about 15-20 minutes, you can also reach another great place, Sal Plateau.
Pileki Cave is the biggest cave among the ones in İyidere district. Known as a handmade cave, Pileki stone is carved since the beginning of BC 2300, until 1970s. Since the technology has improved, the stone is not carved anymore. There are many tunnels, wells and lakes in the cave, which is very popular as a touristic spot.
Gito Plateau is located in Çamlıhemşin district of Rize, like many other famous natural artifacts. It is considered as a virgin plateau since it is not as popular as some other ones and doesn’t have touristic buildings. It is kilometers higher than the sea level. You should follow a path after Zil Castle to reach Gito Plateau. But it is very difficult to reach since the path is not in a good shape. This natural beauty is famous for mostly photographers and mountainers. There are 50 houses on the plateau and most probably you will have to make a camp to spend the night.
What to eat in Rize?
Just like its own culture and atmosphere, Rize also has a unique cousine. Even though there are nearly hundreds of different, delicious meals unique to Rize region, some of them are considered as world-famous. These are muhlama, etli kuru fasulye, Rize kavurması, saç kavurma, Rize pidesi, pepeçura, Laz böreği, sütlaç, enişte lokumu, hamsili pilav, mısır ekmeği, pazı tavalısı, hamsi kolu, hamsi çığırtası, kara lahana çorbası, and of course, the famous Rize tea.