Why tourists often skip the Black Sea Region is a riddle to us. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful regions of Turkey! The lush green mountains, delicious food, nice & mild climate. It is here where tea is produced, and it’s also known as hazelnut and honey region. And when I read that the most expensive honey on earth is from here we had to visit it. 

After a fabulous time in South East Turkey it was time to move up North again. It feels a bit like criss-crossing through the world but well, we enjoy that. So from scorching hot temperatures to a wonderful mild climate at the Black Sea region.

But, this was not why we were here. It was also not because of the amazing green mountains you can find here, though very welcoming. No, I – Milene – wanted to go here to see the Hemshin people and check out their beekeeping. They are famous for it.

Cave honey!

Even so famous that there is cave honey which you can buy. It’s a tad expensive though: Eur.10.000,- for 1kg.
So, we didn’t buy it. Neither did we get to see it, unfortunately. But we did get to see the modern way of beekeeping of the Hemshin, which is equally as nice.

The ancient way is actually not that interesting as the bees work the entire season and only once per season the beekeeper goes there (2500 mtrs above sealevel) to check out how they did. Next time we’ll definitely visit the caves in the right time 😉

We did buy some local hemsin honey from 2.000 meters above sea level and tasted it of course. And we didn’t only taste honey we also got to join a beekeeper and see his work. The bees in the fabled honey forest of Camlihensin are often in trees or high platforms to keep the bears from stealing the honey. Only one animal is allowed to steal honey of course. We got up one of those platforms and even though it felt as if it would collapse anytime we didn’t feel too scared while not wearing a beekeeping suit. The bees were actually quite relax, not aggressive at all. We checked out the queens together and looked at the pollen, honey and eggs.

It’s important to check upon the bees cause like pandemics in human lives, bees also get diseases. These diseases go easily from one to the other colony so as a beekeeper it’s your task to check for diseases and not spread it but stop it. Luckily these bees were as healthy as ever, maybe that’s why they were relaxed. The queens were doing a great job and the weather was amazing. No reason to be aggressive at all. And remember, when a bee stings she often dies so it’s better not to sting.

The Hemshin people

Not only is the beekeeping in this area interesting, also the people. They are the Hemshin people, originated from Armenia.

To survive, these Armenians gave up their religion. They converted to Islam. They also started to speak the local language; Turkish. Some of the Hemshin people still speak the ancient Anatolian (western) Armenian dialect. But only very few. 

The Hemshin are without doubt one of the most enigmatic peoples of Turkey and the Caucasus. As former Christians who converted to Islam centuries ago yet did not assimilate into the culture of the surrounding Muslim populations. As Turks who speak Armenian yet are often not aware of it. As Muslims who continue to celebrate feasts that are part of the calendar of the Armenian Church. And as descendants of Armenians who, for the most part, have chosen to deny their Armenian origins in favour of recently invented myths of Turkic ancestry, the Hemshin and the seemingly irreconcilable differences within their group identity have generated curiosity and often controversy.

We drank local Ayran with one Hemshin beekeeping family and got to see how they live in the beautiful countryside of the Black Sea.

We stayed a night in the amazing forest of the Black Sea Region, made ourselves a nice campfire and slept like babies. 

The next morning it was, unfortunately, time to go. We could have spend a lot more days in this amazing area but like we say to most places “we’ll be back!”

Love, Milene & Yuri