Turkey's 'hidden' coast: The Black Sea

My first hints that there was something different going on in Turkey's Black Sea region came in Istanbul -- watching environmental films that depicted the rugged beauty of its remote mountains and their hardy, sometimes eccentric inhabitants, and reveling in a wealth of unfamiliar flavors at the (sadly now shuttered) "Laz meyhane" Mohti, where hamsi popped up in everything from corn bread to omelets served in the raucous music- and smoke-filled restaurant.

Visiting the region for the first time last spring, I spent a week reporting on environmental threats from dams, mines, and other development, meanwhile picking up intriguing tidbits -- the distinctive regional architecture, the melting pot of languages and cultures -- that left me wanting to return.

The two travel lists I wrote for Matador Network this month offer just a taste of what the region has to offer -- if its natural beauty and rich cultural diversity can be preserved: