Trabzon (formerly Trebizond) is the largest city in the Eastern Karadeniz region of Turkey. Trabzon functioned as an independent state or empire during multiple occasions in its long history, ruling over a vast area spanning from Sinope in the west to Georgia in the east, and even including domains on the Crimea. Within Turkey Trabzon is known as a hospitable, energetic, traditional and patriotic city, which is culturally somewhat distinct from the rest of the country.
Trabzon was founded around 756 BC by Greek colonists from Sinope, who originally hailed from Miletus. They called their new colony Trapezous, ancient Greek for "table", due to the topography of the central hill, squeezed in between two rivers with steep cliffs on both sides. Trabzon has been a major trade centre since times immemorial—for long, it was a main port-of-call on one of the main routes between Europe and Persia and beyond, which involved taking a ship across the Black Sea from Romania (and later Constantinople). After the Roman conquest, the city was given a new harbor and a paved road towards Persia. The road not only fostered trade and cultural exchange, but was also used for attacks on the Persian Empire during the Roman and Byzantine periods. The Mongol sack of Baghdad diverted more trade caravans from Tabriz to Trabzon and the city grew in wealth from the taxes it could impose on trade between Europe, Persia and China. After a Turkmen attack on the city was repelled by a local force in the 1080s, the city broke relations with the Byzantine Empire and acted as an independent state. The city traded intensely with Genoa and to a lesser extent with Venice during the early renaissance, with some cultural influences going both ways. During this era, Trabzon was visited by many travellers, Marco Polo being among them.
In medieval times, the city served as the capital of the Empire of Trebizond ruled by the Komnenos family, which also provided several emperors to the Byzantine throne in Constantinople. The longest surviving rump Byzantine state, Trabzon was captured by the Ottoman Turks in 1461, almost a decade after the fall of Constantinople.
During the 18th and 19th centuries Europeans wishing to explore the Caucasus, Iran and the eastern domains of the Ottoman Empire used Trabzon as a point of departure or return. The first world war left deep scars in the city; It lost many of its young male Muslims at the battle of Sarıkamış in 1914, its entire Armenian population in the genocide of 1915, and most of its Greek inhabitants during the population exchange of 1923. Closed borders with the Soviet Union meant that the city could only recover culturally and economically in the 1970s. Trabzon today is still a city under reconstruction, but offers many historical, cultural and natural sights. The city constitutes the largest urban metropolitan region of Turkey's Black Sea coast, with nearly 1 million inhabitants. Trabzon functions as the cultural capital of the Turkish Black Sea coast, and its inhabitants are very proud of their city and region.
Trabzon has just returned on the tourist radar since a few years; the city is still investing in tourist infrastructure. Similarly to a few other Turkish cities like Istanbul and Izmir, Trabzon is culturally located somewhat in between Anatolia and Eastern Europe. In the case of Trabzon this is due to the Pontic Mountains, which formed a cultural barrier until recent times. Coming from the Anatolian heartland, it feels like one is entering Europe, while coming from the Caucasus, Trabzon comes across as the first city with Middle-Eastern influences. Tourists who visit Trabzon come mostly from a few countries: nearby Georgia, Russia, The Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Azerbaijan and the Gulf states.
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Average of Trabzon city
Trabzon lies in a humid subtropical zone with high precipitation throughout the year. In the winter there is the chance of some snow cover in the city. The climate of the city differs greatly from that of the mountainous hinterland. Snowstorms frequently isolate the high mountain villages from the outside world for weeks on end. Rural life in the the province moves along traditional transhumance patterns similar to communities in the Caucasus; each settlement is divided in multiple villages for each season. Thus most villages above 1200 meter remain unsettled during the winter months. At the Zigana-pass south of the city there is a small ski-resort.
The Eastern Black Sea Region has its own dialect, which is more influenced by Greek and Persian than Anatolian varieties of Turkish. Because of the isolation of the coastal cities, the dialect retained archaic grammar and vocabulary that has been lost in other Turkish dialects. The most striking example is the absence of vowel harmony, one of the building blocks of all Turkic languages. This means that the local dialect can sound funny to speakers of 'standard' Anatolian or Istanbul Turkish. Much Turkish low-brow humor revolves around characters from Trabzon, but the locals don't appreciate the jokes that are made at their expense. The western districts of Trabzon province form a gradual transition area to Anatolian Turkish. This Turkish will be more easily understood for tourists who have studied the language. Next to old varieties of Turkish, there are some minority languages that are spoken, mostly in the rural communities to the southwest and southeast of the city. Romeyka is the most archaic Greek language spoken in current times; its speakers are concentrated in the Of-valley along the Solakli river in the villages on the mountain slopes in Caykara district and surrounding areas. There are also small pockets of Greek speaking muslim villages in Tonya and Surmene districts. Although the locals don't like being called Greek outright, recent research has shown they are very proud of their language, and they are happy to use it to converse with Greek tourists. It is still possible to find Pontic Greek speakers in Trabzon city, and tourists should not be afraid to openly speak Greek in public space. It is more likely however that one finds a local who is fluent in German, Dutch or Russian. English language courses are immensely popular among the young generation, but it is not yet as common as in neighboring Georgia. There are small groups of Georgians and Ukrainians in the city.
Trabzon has long been touted as the "city of tale in the East". Its historical prominence, intellectual independence and trade relations with Italian city-states were elements that earned Trebizond a legendary mythical place in European literature until well after its economic and cultural peak when it functioned as the capital of the Empire of Trebizond in the 14th and 15th century (both Don Quixote and Picrochole wished to posses the city). The most renowned work of modern literature that describes the city is Rose Macaulay's The Towers of Trebizond. Travelers interested in classical history might want to read up on Xenophon's Anabasis, in which Trabzon enters as the first Greek city the soldiers encounter after their retreat from Persia. For those interested in the Renaissance trade relations of Trabzon, there is The Spring of the Ram, the second book from the series The House of Niccolò by Dorothy Dunnett, and The Burnished Blade by Lawrence Schoonover. Popular Turkish novels which feature the city are Pomegranate Tree by Nazan Bekiroglu and Aleko of Trebizond by Kadri Özcan. L'immortelle de Trébizonde, a French novel about the Armenian genocide by Paule Henry Bordeaux, was recently republished, and Anyush is a recent publication by Martine Madden. Travelers making a trip along the Black Sea could read Kéraban the Inflexible by Jules Verne; Turkish students recreating the journey concluded the trip was even more difficult two centuries later. Those heading to Georgia might want to read about the myth of the Golden Fleece, and those heading west, to Samsun or Sinope, about the Amazons.
- Tourist office (Trabzon Turizm Bürosu) (one block to the east of Atatürk Alani square, down Camii Sk., just beyond Hotel Nur), ☎ +90 462 3264760. For general tourist information. The clerk speaks English very well and provides you with a wealth of information about Trabzon and its surroundings (pdf). Before doing anything in Trabzon, go to the tourist office.
- Airport (E 10 km - Beşirli-Airport Bus transfer to the city with seven stops, the last (most western point) at Beşirli Uzunkum Hotel), ☎ +90 462 3280940, fax: +90 462 3259950, e-mail: email@example.com. By daily planes from Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir. There are also planes from Adana (Pegasus Airlines) and Bursa (Borajet), as well as scheduled international flights from certain European and regional cities.
The largely 6-lane D010 coastal highway is of high quality, and can bring you to Trabzon within 2.5 hours from the border with Georgia and within 4.5 hours from Samsun. The E97 is the main road connecting Trabzon to the rest of Anatolia, it runs south to Gümüşhane and then eastward towards Bayburt. The D915 from Bayburt to Of via Caykara has been chosen as the most dangerous road in the world and should not be attempted during winter. It does offer beautiful views on the surrounding landscape.
- Bus Station (Otogar Trabzon), Terminal Sk (~2.5 km East. There will be a "servis" (free shuttle bus) from the bus station to the city center.), ☎ +90 462 325 2343.
Buses from all major cities in Turkey. Example (price, journey time, density): Istanbul (65₺, 18 hrs, several per day); Kayseri near Cappadocia (-,12 hrs, daily). Tbilisi, Georgia (about 12 hours) which serve as a useful point of entry to the country from Caucasus, also hourly leaves a bus to Batumi (if the border crossing is too busy, the bus might turn around at the Georgian border, so be sure to get all your belongings off the bus. On the Georgian side you can take a taxi or minibus for 25-30TL to bring you the short distance to the center of Batumi). Kars: daily bus at 9:30AM and midnight (around eight hours). Ardahan: (45₺, - , at 12:30PM ). Doğubeyazıt (leaves at 10PM, arriving 10AM). Ulusoy (four-six per day, 5 hours. 25 TL (2012)). Torul and Gümüşhane (hourly until 20.00). In the morning there are two bus connections heading to Baku, Azerbaijan, and on Thursdays and Sundays there is an early bus to Yerevan, Armenia. Many busses coming from the Caucasus heading to Istanbul pass through Trabzon.
It might be a good idea to book tickets in advance. There are many travel /ticket agent shops around Atatürk Meydanı (the main square in Trabzon) who can help with this. You can get bus tickets for Trabzon on this site.
Turkish Maritime Lines used to operate two weekly ferryboats between Istanbul and Trabzon. However, as of 2007, this service has been canceled.
The center of Trabzon is walkable; most of its historical sights lie in an area of 1.5 kilometer by 500 meter. This includes the area around central Meydan square in the east, the bazaar quarter in the center, and the historic walled city towards the west. If one is interested in taking in as many historical sights as possible, it would be advisable to plan multiple walks around these different areas of the city. The historic city was built on a hill between two ravines (Zagnos to the west and Kuzgun to the east), thus there is a lot of height difference between neighborhoods, and travelers should be prepared to climb up and down stairs and walk streets with steep inclinations. In recent years car traffic has been limited through the historic neighborhoods, making it safer for pedestrians. Since the arrival of the coastal highway the city has been amputated from the sea. To alleviate this the city has started constructing a promenade along most of its 5 kilometer long western coast. With few restaurants or other facilities, it has yet to regain its historic attractiveness.
Notable locations outside the central zone are the Hagia Sophia to the west of the city and Boztepe tea garden overlooking the city towards the southeast. To get to these locations one best uses a minibus (dolmuş). There are dolmuş stops on Kahramanmaraş Street west off Meydan square. There is also s small minibus station just southeast of Meydan, under the viaduct. For transport towards one of the villages towards the east of Trabzon and in Rize province, there is again a different dolmus station along the coastal road.
- Local Minibus Station (Dolmuş gar) (To the south of central Meydan, under the viaduct). Busses to neighborhoods of Trabzon and surrounding villages.
- Regional Minibus Station (Dolmuş gar) (Down the hill and to the east of central Meydan, west of the coastal road). Busses to villages in Trabzon and Rize provinces.
Churches and Mosques
Trabzon has dozens of churches and mosques dating from the Byzantine period, the Empire of Trebizond and the Ottoman Empire. During the classical period the city at least had temples for Hermes (the god of trade), Apollo (war), and multiple Mithraeum for the Persian-Greek god Mithras. A bronze statue of Hermes can be found in the basement of the Trabzon Museum. On the places of these temples, which were destroyed for the most part in the 3rd century, christian chapels were built. The oldest surviving church is the 9th century Armenian church of St. Anna, which was built to the east of the Kuzgun valley because Armenians were not allowed to live inside the city walls. After the Ottoman conquest most churches within the walled city were converted into mosques. Many of these buildings retained some elements that hint at their Christian past. During the 18th and 19th centuries there was a boom in the construction of mosques and churches. Most of the historic churches and mosques of the city survived the first world war and the building frenzy of the 1980s onward. One of the most famous churches of the city however, the 19th century Saint Gregory of Nyssa, which stood on the rocky outcrop at the former Genoese castle Leonkastron, overlooking both harbors of the city, was dynamited in 1930.
- St.Anna Church (Hagia Anna, Küçük Ayvası Kilise), Ziyaret Sk No:9. This small Armenian church was built in the 9th century and is possibly one of the oldest buildings in the city. The door is locked, but one can look through the keyhole
- Former Panagia Khrysokephalos Church (Fatih Camii). Founded in 11th Century on top of a smaller chapel, part of which used to house a Mithraeum untill the 3rd century A.D. Turned into a mosque right after the fall of the city in 1461.
- Former Eugenios Church (Hagios Eugenios, Yeni Cuma Camii), Cami Sk 26-76. Now it is a Mosque. Founded in 13th Century
- St John Church (Sotha Kilisesi), Haneci Sokak (1. Çulha Sk.). This church is mostly used as a cultural centre
- St. Mary Church (Santa Mariya Katolik Klisesi), Sümer Sk. The only church in Trabzon that has regular masses.
- Kudrettin Mosque (Kudrettin Cami). Former St.Philip church.
- Mollah Siyah Mosque (Mollah Siyah Cami). Former Byzantine St. Andreas church
- Yeni Kemerkaya Mosque (Yeni Kemerkaya Cami). Former church built in 1838
- Hoca Halil Mosque (Hoca Halil Cami). Former church
- Erdoğdu Bey Masjid (Erdoğdu Bey Mescidi). Another former church, next to a newer mosque
- Hızırbey Mosque (Hızırbey Cami). Ottoman mosque built in 1789 around a pre-existing church.
- Hüsnü Gökkuş Paşa Mosque (Hüsnü Gökkuş Paşa Cami). Former St.Elefterios church. Unfortunately, the building was recently defaced with a kitsch facade and a LED ticker board. Also, the municipality has started demotion of large parts of the historical port quarter Çömlekçi, where the former church is located.
Interestingly, much of the Islamic architecture in Trabzon makes use of Seljuk and local Pontic/Caucasian references, instead of Ottoman ones found in other Turkish cities. Baroque Revivalism was also quite popular, and still has some influence on new mosque constructions.
- İskender Pasha Mosque (İskender Paşa Camii), Meydan Cami Sk.
- Bazaar Mosque (Çarşı Camii), Çarşı Cami Sokak.
- Gulbahar Hatun Mosque & Tomb (Gülbahar Hatun Camii), Yavuz Selim Bulvarı (Tanjant Cd.). Founded in 1507
- Tabakhane Mosque (Tabakhane Camii). Interesting revivalist mosque next to the Tabakhane bridge.
- Marketgate Mosque (Pazarkapı Cami). Ottoman mosque.
- Hacı Kasım Muhittin Mosque (Hacı Kasım Muhittin Cami). Ottoman mosque.
- Müftü Mosque (Müftü Cami). Ottoman mosque built in 1753.
- Ahi Evren Dede Mosque.
- Tavanli Mosque (Tavanli Cami). Ottoman mosque.
- Tekke Mosque (Tekke Cami). Ottoman mosque, built in 1591.
- Hamza Paşa Mosque (Hamza Paşa Camii). Ottoman mosque.
- Hacı Salih Mosque (Hacı Salih Cami). Recently restored Ottoman mosque.
- İçkale Mosque (İçkale Camii). A small but very old mosque, built on the acropolis of the old city, near the palace.
- Hasanpaşa Mosque (Hasanpaşa Cami). Ottoman mosque.
- Haji Yahya Mosque (Haji Yahya Cami). Small Ottoman mosque
- Hoca Halil Mosque Mosque (Hoca Halil Cami). Small Ottoman mosque
- Semerciler Mosque (Semerciler Camii). Small Ottoman mosque
- Kaymaklı Monastery (Monastery of the All-Saviour, Ամենափրկիչ Վանք), Hizmet Cd., Trabzon suburb? (2 km East).
- Kızlar Monastery (Panagia Monastery, Kızlar Manastırı), Desen Sokak and Mht. Coşkun Karaağaçlı Cd. corner, Boztepe Mh.. Founded in 1360's. There is a rock church with fresco's. Currently (2015) being restored and transformed into a cultural arts center.
- Aya Sofya Museum (Trabzon Ayasofya Müzesi), Ayasofya Caddesi (W 3 km. - You can reach here by any Dolmuş marked 'Aya Sofya', which depart from the north side of Atatürk Alani square. The ride take 5-10 minutes, and costs about 1,5 TL. This should be one of your sights while in Trabzon.). A beautiful and picturesque church converted into a mosque and later into a museum that still has stunning frescoes within—just like its namesake in Istanbul. There is a peaceful open-air tea garden on the grounds. While the main hall of the church has been converted into a mosque (its legal status is still under debate) all of the best preserved frescos are still visible in the narthex.
- Trabzon Museum (Trabzon Müzesi). Tu-Su 09:00-12:00, 13:00-18:00. Former Mansion of Banker Kostaki Teophylaktos (Kostaki Konağı), built in 1889. The first floor houses the gallery of ethnographical artefacts. In the basement is a bronze statue of the Greek god Hermes, found at Tabakhane bridge nearby. 3 TL.
- Trabzon Ataturk House Museum (Trabzon Atatürk Köşkü Müzesi), in Soğuksu Village.
- Silk Road Museum (Ipekyolu Müzesi). Shows objects connected to the silk road trade. Located in the office of the Chamber of Trade and Industry.
- Şamil Ekinci Museum (Trabzonspor Müzesi). Prize museum of beloved football club Trabzonspor
- City Museum (Trabzon Kent Müzesi). The city museum shows the history of Trabzon from its Greek inception to the Ottoman times. It also has sections on local flora and fauna, clothing, music, dance, arts and craft, and as of 2015 it is under construction.
Three of the historic caravanserai of the city have recently been restored. They are all located near to each other, in the Bazaar district.
- Bedesten. A former caravanserai. Recently restored and turned into an arts and crafts center.
- Taş Han. A former caravanserai. Recently restored.
- Alaca Han. A former caravanserai. Recently restored and turned into an arts and crafts center.
Other buildings of interest
- City walls (Fortress of Trabzon (Kalesi)). Most of the city's defense walls and a few towers remain standing, surrounding the historic center. Only the northern section near the coastal highway has been removed. The walls can best be viewed from Zagnos bridge and park. Sections of Roman, Byzantine, Trebizond and Ottoman Empire times remain visible.
- Aqueduct. In the south of Zagnos Valley Park there is a small late Roman/early Byzantine aqueduct.
- Kalepark Fortress (Güzelhisar). It is a former Genoese fortification called Leonkastron. You can get there by walking to the northeast from the eastern end of Meydan square. There is a tea garden just west of the fortress.
- Office of the chamber of mechanical engineers (Makina Mühendisleri Odası). One of the most interesting architectural works in the city. It faces the small Hagia Anna church.
- Trabzon Bar Association. The former American consulate, squeezed in between Yavuz Selim boulevard southeast of cental Meydan square.
- Office of the chamber of journalists. Small but quaint historic building on the central Meydan square.
- Former Trebizond Province Governors office. This historic building now houses a cultural center.
- Russian consulate. This large building is located in the heart of the historic walled city.
- Former Phrontisterion (Kanuni Anadolu Lisesi). Currently the Turkish high school Kanuni Anadolu Lisesi. This monumental building housed the main Pontic Greek school of higher learning until 1921.
- Trabzon Art House (Trabzon Sanat Ev (Eski Vali Konağı)). The former city governors mansion.
- Arsenal (Cephanelik). In the south of the Tabakhane valley lies the old armory. It is restored and now houses a restaurant.
- Nemlioglu Mansion (Nemlioglu Konak, Nemlioğlu Konağı) (Central).
- Ortahisar education directorate (Ortahisar ilçe milli eğitim müdürlüğü). Monumental building on Kahramanmaraş street.
- Former Alaca Turkish Bath (Alaca Hamam), Kazancilar Sokak. A monument.
- Meydan. encircled by Atatürk Alanı. The central park was recently renovated. There is a large statue of Ataturk which draws groups of demonstrators. But you can easily drink a relaxing tea under the trees, watch passers-by, eat on the sidewalk cafes or have a beer on one of the rooftop bars.
- Zagnos bridge & valley park. A new park along the western side of the ancient walled city. With views on many historic mansions. Includes a small theater and byzantine aqueduct.
- Boztepe tea garden. Southeast of the center, on a hill overlooking the city. Offers great views during day and night. Until the third century A.D. there used to stand a tall statue of Mithra guarding the city on the hill, which was at that time named after the Persian-Greek god. It was replaced by a church and later a mosque. On the hill are also the Ataturk kiosk and Kızlar monastery (under renovation in 2015).
- Fatih Park. A public tea garden just southeast of Meydan near the Iranian consulate. Come here to relax or play a game of backgammon.
- Atapark. To the west of Zagnos bridge. It has a tea garden, Ottoman mosque, and the central public library. There is also a full-size model of a Serander, a timber structure typical of the Black Sea region meant to store food away from rodents. To the north of the park is the Varlıbaş shopping mall and the City Council building.
- Kuzgun / Tabakhane valley park. The new park along the eastern side of the city. Under construction.
- Memorial House Museum of Akçaabat (Akçaabat Ortamahalle Evleri Müzesi). Akçaabat (former Platana, the village closest to Trabzon city) is home to dozens of historical wooden mansions in the local Pontic/Caucasian style. It also has two church buildings, one of which is being restored.
- Akçakale Fortress (Akçakale kalesi). Only worth it if you plan on visiting the beach nearby.
- Kuştul Monastery (Turkish: Kuştul Manastırı, Greek: Ιερά Μονή του Αγίου Γεωργίου Περιστερεώτα) (near Şimşirli village, 30 km southeast of Trabzon).
- Vazelon Monastery, Maçka district, (40 km south of Trabzon). Founded in 270 AD. Now, ruined and abandoned
- Pontic Mountains (Turkish: Kuzey Anadolu Dağları, meaning North Anatolian Mountains, Trabzon Province). Many trekking, hiking, possibility. Zil Castle, Palovit Waterfall
- Günes Sanat Galerisi (Art gallery), village Zigana (also called Kalkanli) (about 1 hour by bus from Trabzon southward over the mountains towards Torul and Gümüshane). This art gallery is made by mr Azmi Aytekin, a 73 year old painter and thinker from Zigana. He has traveled around the world, and has settled in the small village Zigana (also called Kalkanli) near the magnificent Zigana mountains. Visit his homepage for pictures.
- Sürmene (Greek: Σούρμενα, Sourmena; Ottoman Turkish: ﺳﻮرﻣﻨﻪ)) (E 40 km). 5 km to the west of Sürmene, stands a ruined medieval castle
- Uzungöl Lake (Uzungöl gölü) (99 km from Trabzon, 19 km from Caykara). A lake up in the mountains at an altitude of 1090 m. A great number of broken rocks from the slopes filled up Haldizen stream and Uzungöl was formed in this way. The lake is 1000 m long, 500 m in width and 15 m in depth. - It is surrounded by forests. Uzungöl has an interesting view with the village houses around it. And there are some other small lakes on the mountains which are 15-20 km. from Uzungol. The lake is also surrounded by convenient tracks for hiking. There are some facilities such as bungalows and some establishments which rear trout. Travel agencies organize day tours during summer (40 TL). Uzungöl is the most touristic location in Trabzon province. Its beauty lies not so much in the lake or village itself, but more in the surrounding landscape, which is easily accessible by foot or rented bike.
- Cevdet Sunay Memorial House, Çaykara-Sultan Murat Rd (21km. In Ataköy). Cevdet Sunay was the fifth president of Turkey. He was born in this small town and grew up in Trabzon. His birthplace has been a museum since 2001. Incidentally, it is located near the Sultan Murat Yayla, where an important memorial site from the First World War is located at Martyrs Hill (Şehitler Tepesi)
In the rural districts of Trabzon one can find many historical 18th and 19th century churches, mosques and mansions.
- Yakupoglu Memis Aga Mansion (Yakupoğlu Memiş Ağa Konağı) (Sürmene quarter).
- Ahmet Aga Mansion (Yakupoğlu Ahmet Ağa Konağı) (Sürmene quarter).
- 99 Window Hashim Aga Mansion (99 Pencereli Haşim Ağa Konağı) ('Sürmene' quarter).
- Mustafa Topal Mansion (Sarımollaoğlu Topal Mustafa Konaği) ('Araklı' quarter).
- Cakiroglu Ismail Aga Mansion (Çakıroğlu İsmail Ağa Konağı) ('Of' quarter).
- Cakiroglu Hasan Aga Mansion (Çakıroğlu Hasan Ağa Konağı) ('Of' quarter).
- Sümela Monastery (Turkish: Sümela Manastırı; Greek: Panagia Soumela, Virgin Mary of Soumela), Altındere Vadisi, Maçka, ☎ +90 462 5311064, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Closed for 1 year from 22 September 2015 for a geological study on the rock face above the monastery due to increased seismic activity in the region.
A spectacular rock-hewn monastery perched dramatically on the narrow ledge of a steep cliff in the forests south of Trabzon. It was built in the fourth century, just before the Roman Empire split into east and west, by two Athenian priests, Barnabas and Sophronius, who, according to legend, found a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary in a cave. The monastery's location in this geopolitically tumultuous corner of the globe naturally saw times of trouble and fell into ruin numerous times throughout its history, with its most thriving times falling under Byzantine and Ottoman rule.
The twentieth century, however, was not kind to the monastery. It was abandoned following the chaos and inter-ethnic violence at the end of World War I, and the population transfer of Trabzon's (formerly Trebizond) Greek population back to Greece. Its remote location gave it some sanctuary, but its frescoes still attracted the occasional casually hurled rock by a bored shepherd. The beautiful frescoes today suffer from decades of heart-wrenchingly pointless vandalism by travelers—judging from the various alphabets and names scrawled across these impressive religious works of art, it appears that just about every culture in the world has taken part in the desecration. The buildings themselves have been fairly heavily restored in recent decades, as the Turkish government has stepped in to protect the monastery and to turn it into a museum.
- The simplest way to get to the monastery is by tour, and you can find a tour in town by just asking any other traveler there (no tourist visits Trabzon without seeing Sümela). For instance, Eyce Tours offers round trip to Sumela for about 30 TL (address: Atatürk Alani, at Taksim İşhanı sk. 11. (462) 3267174). Also both Metro and Ulusoy bus companies run minibuses to the monastery during summer months from their Ataturk Alani offices.
- The monastery lies close to Maçka, about 30 km south of Trabzon, and those preferring to get to the monastery on their own means instead of taking a tour can get to Maçka by taking minibuses heading for Gümüşhane, Erzurum or other destinations south from Trabzon. There is also a direct bus connection run by Maçka municipality from Cemil Usta street south of Meydan square. The rest of the way, approximately 17 km to the actual site of monastery, can be done by hitchhiking. The dolmuş from downtown Maçka have the same price than if you would buy it from Trabzon(20TL) and departs at 10h30, which will take you to the entrance of Altındere National Park (Milli Park). Then, the monastery is about half an hour walk away, which can be done through a forest trail, which was recently widened in order to cope with the ever increasing numbers of visitors, or along the tarmac road leading to the monastery.
- Those approaching with their own vehicles can get as near as 300 meters to Sümela itself, where there is a car-park in front of Hagia Barbara Chapel. There is an additional fee of 20 TL for cars, paid at the entrance of the national park.
Since Sümela is closed for the moment (but you still went to Maçka village for some reason), why not explore Altındere national park? Upstream along Altındere (Golden River) above the tree line are beautiful landscapes with ice cold lakes. An alternative route could lead eastward towards the ghost towns of Santa (Dumanlı, in Gümüşhane province). These are multi-day treks for which you need an experienced tour guide. The best place to arrange this would be in Trabzon at one of the tourist offices off Meydan square.
Trabzon is not only the cultural capital of the Turkish Black Sea coast, it is also home to Trabzonspor, the most successful Turkish football club outside Istanbul. Thanks to unrelenting popular support it is rare for the team to lose home games, so if you like football, be sure to visit at Hüseyin Avni Aker stadium. If you are visiting but supporting a competing team, it would be a good start to visit the Trabzonspor clubhouse and adjoining bar/restaurant. Trabzonspor supporters will welcome you and possibly ask you to join them to the game and have a drink afterwards. If the team wins from one of the main clubs from Istanbul, the city transforms into a giant street party. Due to the match-fixing allegations of the 2010-11 season, when Trabzonspor lost the title to rival Fenerbahce under suspicious circumstances, Trabzonspor fans have in part become disinterested in the Turkish football league, even using the slogan "Trabzon, not Turkey". Luckily for the city, the basketball branch of Trabzonspor has made great improvements over the last years. It is now one of the country's best performing clubs, and also participates in European competitions. The new Hayri Gür Basketball Arena is one of the largest in Europe.
- Hüseyin Avni Aker Stadium (about a 20-30 minute walk west of the main square. If in doubt, ask a local "Trabzonspor Stadyumu" and they will point you in the correct direction). Why not watch a match of the local football team, Trabzonspor, the most successful team in Turkey outside of Istanbul. If you are in the city on a weekend, you can watch the team at the stadium.
- Hayri Gür Arena (Southeast of the airport. Take a bus or dolmus heading east.). With a capacity of 7500, it is one of the largest basketball courts in Europe.
Hamams, beaches and swimming pools
Unfortunatly Trabzon is left without a beach since the construction of the coastal highway. The nearest beaches are at Akçakale, 25km to the west, and at Kalecik, 25km to the east. Please take note that the water of the Black Sea is not suitable for swimming during the colder months of the year. Also, these shingle beaches don't offer the comfort or facilities that one finds in the Turkish riviera. The nearest beach holiday destinations are Giresun to the west and Batumi to the east. Within the city itself are 4 historical bathhouses (Hamams). Three of them are still operational. Only the central Hamam is continually operational for both sexes, while the others have specific days for male and females.
- Central Hamam. If you're brave, try traditional Turkish bath (Hamam). The men-only Hamam is right next to Efes Pub; the women-only Hamam is just around the corner. A really great authentic Turkish experience, and the people are very nice and will walk you through everything. 25 TL for a bath (including a scrubbing and massage) at the women's Hamam, and you should also tip your masseuse.
- Black Sea Theatre Festival Mostly (but not exclusively) groups from countries around the Black Sea participate in this festival.
- International Painting Festival Promoting painting int he wider area of Trabzon.
- Kadirga (third week of June, Kadirga Yayla, Şalpazarı) The largest and oldest folk festival of Turkey. On the Pontic alps near the Gümüşhane province border. Locals, European Turks and Pontic Greeks meet on the mountain pastures to celebrate their shared culture in folk costume, music, dance and cuisine. On other summer pastures (yayla's) there are similar (but smaller) festivities.
- Ramadan The Islamic holy month (called Ramazan in Turkish) is very visible in Trabzon. While most liquor stores and restaurants close during the day, in the evening it can be hard to find a free spot on the many sidewalk cafes surrounding central Meydan square.
- Divine Liturgy (August 15th, Sümela Monastery) Every year since 2010 the Greek Orthodox patriarch has lead a liturgy at the Sümela Monastery (Moní Panagías Soumelá) in Maçka district, south of the city. Because of the size and location of the monastery, only a few hundred people are allowed to join the liturgy. In Maçka village screens are set up for other pilgrims.
- Kalendar (night of 13-14th January) In some villages in Sürmene and Çaykara districs, similar to Pontic Greek Momogeroi, the "old-new year" of the Julian calendar is celebrated. Locals wear traditional clothing or guise themselves as sheep or Haji Firuz.
- A historically important festival in Trabzon was Epiphany on January 6th. Thousands of Christians and Muslim onlookers gathered at Kalmek point, the place where the city protrudes the most into the Black Sea, to see the Christian ceremony. With the departure of the Greek Orthodox population, this tradition was lost to the city.
- Cinemaximum. The movie theater at the Forum shopping mall. Mainly shows blockbusters with Turkish subtitles.
- Royal Sinema. The main cinema near central Meydan square. Also offers blockbusters with Turkish subtitles. Next door to Lara cinema, which mainly shows dubbed movies.
- Avşar Sinema. This cinema is located in the Varlıbaş AVM shopping mall north of Atapark (just to the west of the western city walls). Blockbusters with Turkish subtitles, but offers a slightly larger choice.
- Trabzon state theater (Trabzon Devlet Tiyatrosu). Trabzon was one of the first Ottoman cities to house a theater, and in 1912 it was the first city in the empire outside Istanbul to have an opera house. The state theater of Trabzon still offers quality plays. Even though virtually all plays are in Turkish, the powerful performances can still move tourists.
- Hamamizade İhsanbey Cultural Center (Hamamizade İhsanbey Kültür Merkez). A culture center with (amongst other things) a theater hall. It is one of a few interesting works of modern architecture in the city.
Trabzon is well known in Turkey as a destination for nature tourism and outdoor sports activities. The mountainous districts in Trabzon and neighboring Giresun and Rize provinces offer plenty options, but most areas are hardly developed for (international) tourism. However, this is also what makes the region attractive to adventurous travelers and Turkish families fleeing the hordes of tourists in Istanbul or the west coast. The beauty of Trabzon really lies in its alpine nature and remote, independent village life; Waking up in a traditional timber shed by the sound of cowbells and the scent of morning dew drawing the endless flower fields into your bed. Having fresh milk, corn bread, eggs and cooked green vegetables and spring water straight from the tap. To have this experience, you have to leave Trabzon, leave Uzungöl, and move higher up the mountain slopes, to the villages with their typical architecture and beautifully ornamented timber mosques, or even higher, where there are 'open air mosques', similar to the very first mosques in the world. Even though the people here are devout, they are not conservative in the traditional sense. It is normal for men and woman to mingle, make jokes, etc. Sufism has had a strong influence on these remote districts, and many people still grow up speaking minority languages like Romeyka Greek, Laz or Hemsin Armenian.
The densely forested mountain slopes of Trabzon province are ideal for trekking adventures. However, there are no maps available in print or online. The exception is the Kackar mountains in next-door Rize province. Kate Clow's book on the area includes detailed routes with coordinates. Because dense fog can obscure a clear day within a few minutes in these mountainous areas, it is ill advised to wander around alone or without GPS. Brown bears, wolves but also friendlier wild animals can be found in the forests. It is legal to set up camp in the wild, but be sure not to leave any trash.
Alternatively to trekking through the highlands of Trabzon, mountain biking along the relatively flat, connected alpine pastures (yaylas), running parallel to each other and at right-angles to the coast, is fun and doable. You will see a lot of Turkish tourists on their mountain bikes.
Fırtına valley in upper Hemsin district of Rize province is ideal for rafting in Fırtına river, with its many centuries old arch bridges.
Although many valleys in the Trabzon region are suitable for winter tourism, for a long time there was no development in this direction. There is however a long tradition of locals using a contraption similar to a snowboard, called a petranboard, for transport down snow covered slopes. There is just one small ski-resort, located at the Zigana-pass between Trabzon and Gümüşhane, though it is being enlarged. The only way to experience the higher pristine slopes of the Pontic Mountains to the southeast of the city is currently by helicopter. Heliskiing trips can be arranged from Uzungöl, Ikizdere and Ayder, but are expensive and can be dangerous for the inexperienced. A large ski-resort with multiple pistes and ski-lifts is being constructed at Uzungöl.
As an important trade node, Trabzon also developed its own refined export produce. The area is rich in mineral deposits and it is thought that even in its early years as a Greek colony, part of its exports to the Agean were valuable metals. The ultra-fine handwoven gold and silver bracelets of Trabzon are a popular wedding gift throughout the country. Other local trades that still survive in the market quarter are copper-smiths and leather-workers. An exceptional souvenir would be a Kemençe (Pontian Lyra), the national instrument of Trabzon. A decent playable Kemençe violin will set you back around 200 TL. Of course there are also key chain versions. For those heading to Iran or the Caucasus by bike, Trabzon is likely the last city in a few thousand kilometers to have an outdoor supply store. Alternatively, you might find supplies at the many hunting or fishing shops.
- Market Quarter (Bazaar). To get to the Bazaar from central Meydan, walk down pedestrianized Kunduracılar street to the northwest. The hand-woven gold and silver bracelets of Trabzon are world renowned. You can find the jewelry stores in the market quarter. Most of work occurs indoors, however. The sound of copper-smiths can still be heard.
- Uzun Sokak. Trabzon's main pedestrian shopping street.
- Forum shopping mall (near Atatürk Airport). A modern shopping mall offering a similar experience to large shopping malls across the globe.
- Cevahir Outlet shopping mall (near Novotel, in Yomra town).
- Varlıbaş AVM, Gülbahar Hatun Mahallesi Atapark Karşısı Merkez, 61040 Trabzon / TÜRKİYE, ☎ +90 462 223 60 00. 10AM-10PM. An older shopping mall just to the west of the western city walls (to the north of Atapark).
- Russian Bazaar (Rus Pazarı). The 'Russian Bazaar' is a street that runs down from Şht. İbrahim Karaoğlanoğlu street, to the east of Meydan square. Here you might be able to find cheap fake brands. For a more authentic bazaar experience, go to the market quarter.
Typical ingredients for a Black Sea meal differ greatly from those of Anatolia. Vakfikebir ekmegi is the local sourdough bread similar to Italian Pane Casareccio. It is baked in a stone oven and can weigh up to 7 kilograms. Because the Black Sea coast is too moist for the cereals that grow so abundantly in the rest of Anatolia, the main grain variety used in rural communities surrounding Trabzon is maize. Thus cornbread is also a popular dish. Hamsi (Anchovies) are a main staple for the region. They are typically fried and eaten whole. Fishermen from Trabzon catch about one-fifth of the Turkish total. There is even an Anchovies bread (Hamsikoli). The Black Sea region grows 70% of the worlds hazelnut production, and they are also often used in dishes. Some fruits that are grown in the region are cherries, persimmon and kiwi. The Black Sea kitchen relies heavily on stews and soups of vegetables and beans. It also includes many dairy dishes like Kuymak/Muhlama, fresh cow milk and Ayran, and different types of cheeses.
The pide (pizza) and köfte (meatballs) of Trabzon are famous in Turkey for their distinctive taste. Trabzon pide is a kind of pizza with cheese and eggs, similar to Adjarian Khachapuri, but there are many varieties. Many places sell these typical dishes, a cheap but good example near the city center is "Cardak Pide Salonu".
Kuzen is also a good option: no standard kebabs but (for example) delicious wrap-like rolls filled with hot Merkez sausage. You can find it in in Cevdet Akcay sokak next to the modernish shopping mall on the north side of Kahraman Marash Cad.
There are a few restaurants at the northern side (İskele street) of Meydan square, like popular Cemilusta. Most menus revolve around meat or fish dishes. Fast-food stores and kebab shops can be found at the western end of the square. There is also ÇigköfteM, a vegetarian fast-food chain.
If you are fond of pastries, sweets and ice-cream, there are many places along Uzun Sokak selling baklava, beton helva and dondurma.
Most food in Trabzon is cooked to a high hygienic standard, and additionally most restaurants give you free hand wipes to clean your hands before and after eating food.
- Bordo Mavi. Relaxed garden restaurant of Trabzonspor fanclub, next to the Trabzonspor Museum. One of the only restaurants in the city center that servers wine and spirits.
- Kulüp Garden Cafe (Kulüp Bahçe Kafe). Small stylish garden restaurant with diverse day menu and live music. At no.7 Özüdoğru, a dead-end side street of Uzun Sokak.
- Tarihi Kalkanoğlu Pilavı. A historic restaurant established in 1856 serving traditional dishes around pilav.
- Trabzon Architects Union Garden Cafe (Trabzon Mimarlar Odası Bahce Cafe). A relaxed green garden cafe with a small menu.
- McDonald's & Burger King. Western fast food can be found at the intersection of Meydan square with Kahramanmaraş Cd.
Akçaabat specialties and restaurants
Akçaabat, the historic village Platana, some 10 km west of the city, is renowned throughout Turkey for its special kind of meatballs, called Akcaabat koftesi. Made with ground meat, garlic and bread it's very delicious with ayran(yogurt mixed with water) and piyaz (beans,lettuce). There are plentiful quality restaurants in Akcaabat town such as Nihat Usta, Keyvan, Cemil Usta, Korfez Restaurant. You can have a walk and drink tea after dinner in Akcaabat Fisher Port. You can also try "kiymali" which is made with meat and served with butter. Don't forget to visit the historic neighborhood with its dozens of timber mansions when you are in Akçaabat.
There are only a few restaurants that serve alcohol in the city center. Among them being Bordo Mavi and Trabzon Şehir Kulübü Restaurant in Nemlioğlu Cemal Sokak (sidestreet of Uzun Sokak). Other options are a bit further from the center, between Trabzon and Akcaabat, such as Tirvana, Lazeli or Marina. A lot of the more traditional restaurants offer non-alcoholic cocktails. Luckily, because Trabzon is a student city, there is still quite a broad choice between music venues compared to other Turkish cities.
Coffee & Tea
For those longing for real (European-style) coffee, Keyif Coffee & Tea Store has a huge selection of Tea (listing them by area and even Tea Estate) and first rate Cappachino (3 TL). They are hidden within the shopping complex Canbakkal İş Merkezi, a few blocks to the west of Atatürk Alani square. Kahve Durağı and Edward's Coffee offer many kinds of coffee and cakes. Cinema-themed sineK, next to Royal Cinema also offers western (and Turkish) coffee and tea. It is a kind of hip place where young Trabzonites come to play games after going to the movies. You might need to make reservations (like for most popular or trendy restaurants in the city). Time's Coffee Restaurant on Kahramanmaraş Cad. offers coffee and more with a rooftop view of the city. It is located on the 7th floor of the Silk Road Business Center.
- Reis'in Yeri. Grill house and tea garden with a view on the old Genoese fortress. You might be able to get a beer here.
The cheapest hotels are down from Atatürk Square towards the port, but they usually function as unofficial brothels. By European standards the area is safe, however, and the prostitutes quite discreet. Between those hotels, Hotel Erzurum was acceptable and frequented by backpackers. Some of the more upmarket hotels in Trabzon are Hilton Garden Inn, Zorlu Grand Otel and Novotel. Zorlu Grand Otel is in downtown Trabzon, at Maraş Street. Novotel is some distance out of Trabzon, in Yomra (a town close to Trabzon) but it takes only ten minutes from city centre with a car or dolmuş (bus) to get there.
- Hotel Erzurum, İskenderpaşa Mh. Güzelhisar Cd. 19 (100 mt below the square (Atatürk Alanı), between Yuvan and Anil Hotels, and next to Nazar Hotel), ☎ +90 462 3225427. Rooms come with own bathroom and TV. Friendly staff. No safety problems for solo lady travelers. However, it should also be noted that this hotel is very basic... no hot water and the occasional six-legged visitor. Also noise from outside was an issue on some nights. Still a good option if you are traveling on a budget though. 25 TL pp (Sept 2011).
- Otel Benli, İskenderpaşa Mah. Meydan Cami Sk. No:5, ☎ +90 462 3211750, +90 462 3231046. Basic hotel with clean rooms, shared bathrooms with warm water, WiFi throughout, and very helpful staff. 50mt from Atatürk Alanı (main square). Can organise transport to the Sümela monastery at the going rate of 25 TL per person round trip. 40 TL twin, shared bathroom.
- Hotel Nur, Iskenderpasa Mah. Cami Sokak (Next to the tourist office.They speak some English.), ☎ +90 462 3230445, +90 462 3230446, fax: +90 462 3230447. sgl for 50 YTL (fall 2010).
- Ramada Plaza, ☎ phone=+90 462 3353030. Luxury hotel just east of the airport. Has many facilities such as multiple restaurants and bars.
Trabzon has a long educational history; after the Pandidakterion of Constantinople it had one of the first universities in the world teaching in subjects such as astronomy, mathematics, philosophy and medicine. In current times Trabzon has remained a place of higher learning. Karadeniz Technical University (KTU) is the oldest university in the Turkish Republic outside Istanbul and Ankara. It has nearly 50.000 students (about 20% of the urban population of Trabzon city). The university is growing in popularity amongst foreign students, but is not yet as popular as universities in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir or Eskişehir. The university participates in the Erasmus program for European students. Avrasya University is a new private university.
In general the quality of food and drinks in Trabzon is fine, but tap water in the city is heavily chlorinated. In the mountain villages tap water has been connected to local springs and is absolutely safe to drink. Fresh dairy produce are delicious but if you are unaccustomed to this, it could upset your stomach. Very few local dishes contain a large amount of oils (or are wrongly prepared that way). Most of the vegetables and fruit that you can buy at markets in the province are grown locally in an organic way, so they are perfectly safe to eat. If you see wild fruit next to the road while on a hiking or biking trip, it is placed there for travelers to enjoy. But be aware of the local poison honey (deli bal)!
Trabzon is generally a safe city for visitors and has low crime rates. As the city is not touristic, you will not be bothered by pushers of restaurants or shop owners in the bazaar quarter. During the 90s and early 00s there was a problem with street prostitution around the harbor due to the collapse of the economies of the neighboring ex-Soviet states. In the recent decade this has mostly been tackled, and there are now also places where it is safe and comfortable for women to go out. The mountainous hinterland of the city is also safe, but rather sparsely populated. It is not recommended to travel in these remote areas alone, but if well prepared it is possible to do a bicycle camping trip by yourself. If you plan on hiking in the forested mountains, be sure to read about how to deal with bear encounters.
- Internet in both hotels and internet cafes (costing 1-2 lira/hour) is both glacially slow and unreliable, with a tendency to drop connections for high-bandwidth programs, such as Skype.In recent years, Trabzon municipality provides internet to folks free of charge at central parks. The city has a high-speed internet connection recently.
- Taksim police station (Taksim Polis Merkezi Amirliği). The police station just south of Meydan square
- Imperial Hospital (İmperial Hastanesi). Hospital in the center of the city.
- Trabzon Research and Education Hospital (Trabzon Kanuni Eğitim Ve Araştırma Hastanesi). Hospital in the western part of the city.
- Adnan Menderes University Research and Application Hospital. Hospital in the eastern part of the city.
- Farabi Hospital (Farabi hastanesi). University Hospital at Karadeniz Technical University near the Airport.
- Fatih State Hospital (Fatih Devlet Hastanesi). State hospital in the west of the city.
- Consulate of Georgia, Pertevpasa sokak 10. EU citizens don't require a visa for Georgia or can get it at the border. Thus it is not necessary for them to visit this consulate.
- Consulate of Iran (İran Konsolosluğu), Taksim Caddesi, Kızıltoprak Sokak 3 (just south of the central square), ☎ +90 462 3267651, fax: +90 462 3267652. Many travellers (especially Europeans) report of getting a visa easily and quickly (i.e. in a single day) here. As of Dec 2013, the consulate will issue visas to nationals of Anglophone countries (including Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Canada), but only with a pre-issued reference number from an approved travel agent.
- Consulate of Russia, Refik Cesur Caddesi 6 (in an imposing building made of volcanic rock in the old Ortahisar district). Although getting a Russian visa for EU citizens usually require several weeks to process, in this embassy a visa can be obtained within a few hours.
- Rize — capital of the province to the east of Trabzon in the heart of Turkey's tea growing region. As it has no tourist attractions, it mainly functions as a stop-over for those heading to the Firtina-valley and Ayder - a village near the Kaçkar peaks, the highest point of the Pontic Mountains.
- Giresun (W 175 km) — capital of the province to the west of Trabzon, standing out with its lively nightlife; trips to a nearby island with lush vegetation can be arranged from here. The mountains behind Giresun are much lower than those in Trabzon, but offer much of the same natural and cultural beauty.
- Gümüşhane - via the Zigana Pass and Torul. Take the same path as many famous travelers before you like Xenophon and Marco Polo and cross the Zigana Pass to the south of the city.
- Kars — via Bayburt and Artvin. Cross the Pontic Mountains to the mountain fortress city of Bayburt, visit the hidden Georgian churches along the Çoruh river towards Artvin and end up in Kars - a good jump point to the nearby ancient ruins of Ani. From Kars you can either head to Georgia or south-eastern Turkey. During this trip you will see very different landscapes.
- Georgia via Batumi. Follow thousands of Trabzonites to their favorite weekend destination, the Georgian beach holiday resort town Batumi, with its clubs and casinos, just 3 hours drive east.
- Iran via Doğubeyazıt - Historically Iran was reached by Europeans through the Trabzon-Tabriz route via the Zigana-pass south of the city. This is still the main route connecting the city to Anatolia.
|Routes through Trabzon|
|Samsun ← Giresun ←||W E||→ Sürmene → Rize|