An old Silk Road city - day 29

Trabzon Travel Blog

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Sailing into Trabzon

Trabzon, Turkey is another of the Black Sea towns.  Well, Trabzon is a city actually with a population of 200,000 and over 900,000 people living in the area.  It is a major shipping port and was founded by Greeks from Sinope (our next port) in 8th century B.C.  It is claimed that this city was the site of the ancient Colchis but its current name “Trabzon” is from its trapezoid or tabletop shape.  The city is perched on a high flat plateau between two deep ravines with rivers running down to the sea.  Trabzon’s old enough and large enough to have every tourist thing I could want.  And I bought them too – books, jewelry, handicrafts, tourist doodads, etc.

our guide Cem


We had the best guide yet, a young man from Istanbul’s SeaSong tourist agency named Cem (pronounced Jim) who knew his history (as all Turkish guides are required to do), spoke understandable English and told us jokes too.  He told us, among many other things, that Black Sea people are called the Laz people and are easily identified from others in this region by their blond hair, blue or green eyes and large noses.  Since he was talking to a bus full of US citizens, many of whom fit this description, I wondered a bit about some of the jokes that followed but he was so good-natured that it really didn’t matter. 

There are so many layers of history here that the past seems to be hovering over our shoulder everywhere we turn.

Ortahisar Faith Mosque
  We visited the Ortahisar Faith Mosque which was originally built in the 13th century as a church, rebuilt after a fire and reconsecrated as a Mosque  Up a hill and overlooking the town is the Atatuk Museum, a lovely wedding cake of a house given to the Turkish national hero Ataturk.  As far as I could tell Ataturk never actually lived here but he is so revered in Turkey that anything connected to him is honored and this lovely house is a respectful shrine holding a map with his penciled notations.

The Turks are good businessmen and never miss an opportunity to sell something to the passerby.  Anywhere you go in Turkey, there will be a chance to buy a carpet.  In Trabzon there is also the chance to buy beautiful woven silver jewelry.  It’s light and lacy in appearance but very well made and sturdy.
Typical street scene in a shopping area
  I couldn’t help myself and actually bought jewelry along with the usual several books.  As a matter of fact my favorite book so far is from here “The Practical Anatolian Guide for Travellers and Professional Tour Guides”  And no, it’s not a typo of mine,  that spelling of Travelers is verbatim from the cover.  Further delights inside the book include “ Foods feeds our body while knowledge feeding our souls.  One plate of meal comes onto our table by the works of hundreds of people.  This work also appeared due to numerous people’s knowledge, skills and labor.”  I love this book for its graciousness and for its slightly skewed use of English.

We also visited the Hagia Sophia, a church built about 1250 A.
Frescos in Hagia Sophia
D. and named to rival the famed church in Istanbul.   Although this building started as a church, it was converted to a mosque in 1670 and then into a museum in 1964.  Beautiful frescos from the 1260’s were covered over (and preserved) when the building became a mosque and are now visible in all their glorious original colors.  These frescos alone are worth a trip to Trabzon but I also got photos of some of the headstones from a nearby cemetery.  Turkish headstones for men have a turban on top with the size of the turban indicating the deceased’s importance.  The bigger the turban on the stone the more he rated.  Women’s headstones have beautiful designs on the face but no special additions on top.  Also, just in case you didn’t know, Turkey is Islamic but separates religion and state in a way that (as of now, but less so than 20 years ago) doesn’t require women to cover their heads.
flowers and marble ruins in the rain
   However, the Islamic injunction against statues or paintings of people and animals does apply.  Therefore instead of churches covered in paintings, icons and statues, the mosques are quiet carpeted spaces decorated with abstract designs and script from the Koran. 

Trabzon has a reputation for being rainy and lived up to that reputation the day we were in port.  The heavens opened in the afternoon and we went back to our nice dry cabin on the ship.  We missed seeing what is supposed to be one of the major sights of this port – the Sumela Monastery.  This monastery was built 1,000 feet up the side of a cliff just outside of town along the Old Silk Road between the West and China.  The monastery was founded in the 4th century and has been associated with an important icon of the Virgin Mary since that time.  I just couldn’t face climbing all those rocky steps in the rain but Cathy did and said it was worth the effort.  Maybe next time I’ll manage to go too.

londonstudent says:
I write "traveller" too, and so does everyone else in England! The US spelling has a single "l", and looks completely wrong to me. I blame Webster :)
Posted on: Dec 07, 2010
Andy99 says:
Very nice description!
Posted on: Apr 28, 2010
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Sailing into Trabzon
Sailing into Trabzon
our guide Cem
our guide Cem
Ortahisar Faith Mosque
Ortahisar Faith Mosque
Typical street scene in a shopping…
Typical street scene in a shoppin…
Frescos in Hagia Sophia
Frescos in Hagia Sophia
flowers and marble ruins in the ra…
flowers and marble ruins in the r…
a cemetery
a cemetery
The large park in the river canyon…
The large park in the river canyo…
The city walls
The city walls
Ataturk is remembered everywhere. …
Ataturk is remembered everywhere.…
Ortahisar Faith Mosque
Ortahisar Faith Mosque
Ortahisar Faith Mosque
Ortahisar Faith Mosque
I cant resist the designs of manh…
I can't resist the designs of man…
Atatürk Köşkü
Atatürk Köşkü
Atatürk Köşkü and the gardens
Atatürk Köşkü and the gardens
the circus is in town
the circus is in town
Enough cotton candy for everyone
Enough cotton candy for everyone
old tombstones in the archeologica…
old tombstones in the archeologic…
Hagia Sophia exterior
Hagia Sophia exterior
Frescos in Hagia Sophia
Frescos in Hagia Sophia
Frescos in Hagia Sophia
Frescos in Hagia Sophia
Frescos in Hagia Sophia
Frescos in Hagia Sophia
Frescos in Hagia Sophia
Frescos in Hagia Sophia
Frescos in Hagia Sophia
Frescos in Hagia Sophia
Frescos in Hagia Sophia
Frescos in Hagia Sophia
Frescos in Hagia Sophia
Frescos in Hagia Sophia
brass shopping opportunity
brass shopping opportunity
more shopping
more shopping
shopkeeper and silver jewelry oppo…
shopkeeper and silver jewelry opp…
woven fabric shopping opportunity
woven fabric shopping opportunity
Trabzon
photo by: eye_snap