Aktepe, home of most famous tea

Aktepe, home of most famous tea

Wilco van Herpen Hürriyet Daily News
Aktepe, home of most famous tea

Walking around in the Aktepe village, one can see the Kaçkar Mountains far away rising up with their peaks that can go as high as 3,900 meters.

The sun is shining but it is still very cold. Two days ago it snowed and the mountains are all covered with a beautiful, untouched layer of snow. I am in Aktepe village in the Black Sea province of Rize.

Aktepe is a small village with some very nice old houses and marvelous nature. The mountain slopes are covered with tea bushes but I cannot see them because they are all covered with snow. This is the area of the famous Turkish tea.

I like snow a lot and want to enjoy it as much as possible but I have one big handicap: I cannot ski. So my alternative is hiking in snow and Aktepe is an ideal place to have a nice hike. Walking around in the village, you can see the Kaçkar Mountains far away rising up with their peaks that can go as high as 3,900 meters.

I like to wander around without any aim and have fate decide for me what I am going to see this time. After a brisk walk, I see an old water mill. Around the mill the vegetation is covered in ice, creating a kind of surrealistic painting. Time is literally frozen here. Little droplets of water slowly cover the plants with a layer of ice and the leaves are imprisoned in this ice during wintertime. The ice is as clear as glass and the plants wait patiently for the early spring sun to set them free again. This is nature in optima forma.

‘Real nice experience to make flour’

Aktepe, home of most famous tea

A woman is about to make corn flour and I ask her if I can try to do her job. First she is surprised by the request but she quickly agrees. I walk up the stairs to open the water channel, which makes the mill work. Picking up the shutter and putting it in the opening where the water was streaming away from the mill, the water begins to do its work. It streams down and the millstone start to turn. I walk down and see the stone turning faster and faster.

An awkward smell slowly reaches my nose; the stone is slowly burning. The woman tells me to be quick in pouring in the corn, otherwise the stone will heat up too much and crack. I take her bag and pour all the corn in a funnel. The raw sound of stone grinding on stone disappears and a more smooth sound of the corn being ground into flour takes over. Nice, yellow flour is being thrown out of a special wooden funnel and ends up in a small basin made of stone. Within minutes, all the corn is turned into flour, and I quickly walk up the stairs to close the water stream. This was a real nice experience; in the 13 years I have lived in Turkey, this was the first time I made flour.

I say goodbye to the woman and continue with my hike. Slowly I go back to the village. The road is covered with snow and ice; I have to be careful not to fall down. Finally, I reach the village, where a woman is picking the leaves of collard greens. I am surprised to see what she is doing. The collard greens are covered in snow; will this taste nice, I wonder? The woman tells me that collard greens need snow or night frost – that’s when the leaves becomes soft and tasty. She is going to make karalahana dolması (collard greens with a filling of rice) and is selecting the best leaves for it.

The village is quiet but then something attracts my attention. I hear the sound of something that looks like a bagpipe. This must be the sound of a tulum, a Turkish kind of bagpipe. I see an old storage room for corn or wheat. It is made of wood and stands on four legs. Each of the legs has a kind of Frisbee exactly in the middle. This is to prevent animals climbing up the legs and having a feast in the barn. It is such a simple solution but very effective.

When I go around the corner of the warehouse the sounds increases and then I see the guy, playing the tulum. It is beautiful and whether I want to or not, I find myself dancing to the beautiful melodies of the Black Sea. I totally forget to take pictures; the music is so nice. After a while the men gets cold, thanks a couple of people who were listening and disappears. I am happy I found this village, it was a very active day, but now I need to lie down and have a rest.