HAZELNUT HARVEST, HERALD OF ABUNDANCE: GİRESUN

TODAY, WOMEN OF GİRESUN STILL HAVE THE HABIT OF KEEPING SOME HAZELNUTS FOR BAD DAYS. HAZELNUT MEANS LIFE HERE.

A friend of mine who is from the Black Sea Region still remembers with a smile how his mother used to snap at him as they walked by the hazelnuts, spread on the side of the road along the beach: “Don’t be lazy, keep walking! In this season, even the dead rise to harvest hazelnuts!” August is the harvesting time for hazelnuts. Hazelnuts harvested from Fatsa to Perşembe and from Ordu to Giresun are dried on sidewalks, gardens, roofs, and balconies by the families. Roads are filled with trucks that pull the rental sweepers that separate the nuts from their husks.

A life relevant to hazelnuts
To understand the vital importance of hazelnut in these coastal parts of the Black Sea, seeing where hazelnuts are grown, watching their harvesting, and knowing some facts of these lands would be enough. Weddings depend on hazelnut. White appliances are purchased after the harvest. Constructions start according to the harvest. Those who work at foreign lands adjust their vacation times according to the harvest time. There is a way of doing shopping with hazelnut. One shops before the harvest and owes in hazelnuts that are not harvested yet. Today, women of Giresun still have the habit of keeping some hazelnuts for bad days. Hazelnut means life here.

Hazelnut capital of the world
The road sign upon entrance to Giresun says, ‘Welcome to the hazelnut capital of the world.’ None of the other hazelnut species has been able to compete with the quality of Giresun’s hazelnuts until today. Only hazels can be grown on the steep slopes where no farming vehicles can access. The economy, development, and growth of the town depend on the hazelnuts grown in these lands that descend from father to son. Although, the town has a developed understanding of hotel management, it is hard to say that it relies upon the marine tourism. However, the nature tourism becomes to prominence with the flatlands that are 60-70 km in distance. The substructure of the town is from the term (1888-1904) of mayor Greek Kapudan Yorgi Efendi, whose term was the longest with no interruptions as the town’s mayor. I remember what Erden Menteşeoğlu, famous researcher-author of Giresun, told as I look at the Giresun pictures at Çarıkçı Hotel’s lobby: “Captain Yorgi was a genuine Ottoman pasha who took serving for Giresun as his duty. The first cobble stone pavement had been installed in his term. Ziya Bey, the district governor of the time, and he had the building that has been used as the Government Mansion until today and the magnificent stone engraved  gate of the Millet Garden built.”

Longing for Giresun
The Zeytinlik neighborhood, where the old Giresun houses are located, is a protected area that defies time with a few uncorrupted streets, columned stone mansions with wide stairs and beautiful gardens. As you go towards the neighborhood, you will see an old Greek Orthodox church from the 18th century, which is today’s Archeological Museum of Giresun. The church used to be called Gogara. Melee weapons, silver jewelry, ancient coins, and wine and olive oil amphora that were retrieved from the wrecks in the Black Sea in the cellar section are exhibited in the museum. The floor table that was set in a hole where water was found is noteworthy. It was made by tying together a few hazel trees. Located in the Çınarlar Neighborhood, the Catholic Church that is from the 18th century is used as the Children’s Library today.

History telling castle
Giresun Castle, located at the highest point of the peninsula dividing the city into two, is a wooded picnic area popular with the public rather than a tourist spot. A white monumental tomb is seen when you look towards the city walls from where the cannon stands. It is located in the castle where the remains of the Byzantine fortifications and palace ruins are. This tomb belongs to Topal Osman Agha, who had been the commander of Atatürk’s guard regiment and who was among the National Struggle heroes. Osman Agha, who was accepted as a ‘national hero’ in Giresun, took his nickname Topal ‘limp’ because his right foot was injured in a battle in the Balkan War. Osman Agha died before the declaration of the Republic and the funeral was transferred to the Giresun Castle with the direction of Mustafa Kemal and then a tomb was built there.

The only inhabitable island
Giresun Island, which is a mile away from the Giresun coast, is the only inhabitable island in the Eastern Black Sea. It is believed that the island, on which the city walls and remains of the Byzantine monastery are located, is a land piece that is separated from Gedikkaya, which resembles an eagle’s beak. The old name of the island, which is popular as a picnic and camping area that can be arrived in 25 minutes, is Aretias. The island’s land surface is about 40 decares. According to the legend, the island was sacred for the Amazons who dedicated a temple to God of War Ares. Jason and the Argonauts who set on a journey to capture the Golden Fleece had landed on the island to make an offering at the dark stone; however, they had been attacked by the dragon-like birds three thousand years ago. Today, the island is considered sacred by the people of Giresun.

My worries and troubles to the sea…
Aksu Festival, where the tradition of May Seven is carried on, is held every year on May 20 at the mouth of the Aksu Stream, 4 km from the center of Giresun. During these festivities, women come from the villages and they cast seven pairs and one single stones at the place where the Aksu Stream falls, saying “My worries and troubles to the sea”. Seven is a number with sanctity, the single stone is the last one to cast to make the wish come true. After they perform their ablutions with the sea water they pray in front of Hamza stone on the eastern end of the island and make wishes. Believing that it will bring abundance, they roam around the island by boats. Going to the island during the laying period of many bird species that live there is prohibited.

Nut shell floor installation
The corn vendor on the beach is making roasted corns over the hazelnut shell fire. After baking the bread, the baker gives the remaining burnt shells to the corn vendor. The shells are used to warm up, the dried husks are used as fertilizer or as a blanket under the farm animals. An interesting anecdote is as follows: About 20 years ago, during the restoration of the famous Globe Theater in London, where Shakespeare plays are staged, it is noticed that the floor of the standing audience section is laid with an extraordinary substance, nut shells. As a result of the research, it is revealed that in the 17th century nuts were imported from the Black Sea. Fiskobirlik’s hazelnut shell is required to be used in this part of the theater through the State Theater, Opera and Ballet Employee Assistance Foundation. 175 sacks of hazelnut shells were sent to the UK free of charge immediately.

Local blessing
At Giresun Port, loaded trucks will deliver hazelnuts, grown in modest mountain villages with utmost care, to the important companies of the world and to chocolate companies, sometimes exceeding the boundaries of the world’s biggest hazelnut producer country, sometimes transporting them to the shore by cable car. Atapark Tea Garden is filled with seasonal workers from east and southeast to work in the harvest every year. When nuts are adversely affected by the weather conditions, Giresun mourns. Hazelnuts are such a local value, that usually no one wants to sell their inherited hazel gardens. On the contrary, sometimes there are people who sell what they have to get a bigger garden. Hazel gardens not only protect the soil against erosion, but they also protect people from the immigration. Hazelnut is a blessing, a festival… Folk songs are the proof of it: Inside of a hazelnut / I don’t eat without you beloved / Today I saw my beloved / I am not sorry that I died / The bride who harvests hazelnuts / Don’t let hazelnuts stay on the branches / Come let’s talk / Do not let my mind hooked on you…

Flavor Stop
The local dishes, served at the Fiskobirlik restaurant, are delicious.