Trabzon

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Trapezus, Trebizond, Trabzon: this city has a rich history and the names to prove it. Contemporary Trabzon is one of Turkey’s most cosmopolitan cities. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the reopening of Turkey’s northeastern borders, Trabzon has resumed its role as an important trade and transport hub for Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran. Russian influence is inescapable: Cyrillic lettering competes for prominence with Turkish, and Russian restaurants are almost as easy to find as local ones. While thousands of immigrants helped create an economic boom, the entrepreneurs were also joined by a considerable number of prostitutes, most from the former USSR, who form an inescapable part of the mosaic between the city’s Central Square and the Russian bazaar. Trabzon pulses with the dynamic energy of a large border town, and yet is small enough for visitors to appreciate its warmth and explore much of its rich landscape on foot.
Trabzon’s history as a commercial port and hilly refuge dates back to the ancient Greek colonists of Miletus, who dubbed their new community Trapezus. During the Greek and Roman periods, Trapezus grew to a commercial center of international scope. Under Alexius Comneni, who sought refuge here from the Crusaders during the sack of Constantinople, the city reached its heyday as the capital of the Trebizond Empire. His dynasty became the longest-lived, and one of the wealthiest, in Greek history its rulers lived off the profits of trade and local silver mines. The kingdom held out against the Ottomans until 1461 (even longer than Constantinople), when it was seized by Mehmet the Conqueror. Under Ottoman rule, the churches were converted to mosques, and Islam became the dominant religion. Trabzon was invaded by Russian forces in 1916, but was reclaimed by the Turks in February 1918. The city has been growing ever since, and with nearly 1.5 million busy residents, it shows no signs of looking back.

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TRANSPORTATION

Flights: The airport is a 10min. drive east of the Atatürk Alanı. Dolmuş leave constantly from next to the Hotel Horon, just off the Atatürk Alanı. You can also catch the airport- bound dolmuş along the coastal highway-be sure to ask for “Hava Alanı,” because the airport is not the last stop and drivers often speed past. THY’s main office (321 16 80; fax 326 64 34) is at the southwest comer of Atatürk Alanı. To: Ankara (1hr.; 10:05am, 7:45pm; $80, students $65); Antalya (9:40, 10:05am, 7:20, 7:45pm; $110, students $95); and İstanbul (2hr.; 5:40, 9:40am, 7:20pm; $90, students $75). Azerbaijan Airlines (Hava Yollari), 35 Maraş Cad., 3rd fl. (326 24 97; fax 326 60 29), flies weekly to Baku (l3Ahr., Su 1:45; $157, students $142).

Buses: The intercity bus terminal (information -»325 23 43) is 3km east of the main square and easily accessible by dolmuş. Ulusoy (325 22 01 or 325 21 60) and Metro (325 72 86) are reliable firms serving: Ankara (12hr., 7 per day 7:30am-mid- night, $9); Bursa (17hr., 4 per day noon-2pm, $33); Erzurum (6hr., 6 per day 7am- 6pm, $12); Giresun (2hr., every hr. 6am-llpm, $4.50); İstanbul (18hr., 10 per day 11am-11pm, $25); İzmir (23hr., 3 per day 10am-4pm, $40); Kayseri (12hr., 2 per day ll:30am-3pm, $21); Rize (l)4hr., every 15min. 6am-9pm, $3); Samsun (6hr., every hr. 6am-midnight, $8); and Tirebolu (2hr., every hr. 6am-llpm, $2). Depending on the company, students may receive a 25% discount. 

BLACK SEA COAST

International buses: Currently, 3 companies provide service to Georgia. Göktaş (B-325 04 11 or 325 51 40), AST/Buse (325 69 82), and Nuhoğlu (325 48 12) run buses to: Ardahan (8hr., 6pm, $15); Batumi (5hr., 6pm, $10); Kutais (6hr., 6pm, $15); Posov (10hr., 6pm, $20); and Tbilisi (12hr.; 6pm; $30, students $25). Both AST/Buse and Nuhoğlu provide service to Baku, Azerbaijan (2 days; Tu-Su 6pm; $60, students $50). Ask around in the Russian bazaar: several agents have offices around Camii Yam, opposite the covered market. Try to bargain. Depending on political conditions, AST/Buse also provides service to Yerevan, Armenia (24hr.; W, Su 6pm; $40, students $35). Travelers should obtain visas in advance; see Consulates, p. 447. Dolmuş: Trabzon’s dolmuş are, in fact, ordinary-looking 4-5 person cars, but, like dolmuş elsewhere, the final destination is listed above the windshield and on a placard on top of the car. Check the price before you board; cars have been known to overcharge foreign tourists. Most dolmuş lines originate in the main Atatürk Alanı, but you can hop on anywhere ($.40, students $.30).

Ferries: The Turkish Maritime Lines office (321 70 96 or 321 20 18) is just inside the gate at the base of İskele Cad. (which curves down behind Hotel Anil). Open M-F 8am-5pm. From early June-late Aug., a ferry plugs along between Trabzon, Samsun, and İstanbul. For schedule and rates, see The Black Sea Ferry, p. 416. Departs W 7pm. Arrives: Samsun, Th 6am; Sinop, Th 12:30pm; Zongulduk, F 2am; İstanbul, noon. International Ferries: To Russia: All year long, the “COMETA” sea-bus ferry follows the Trabzon-Sochi route to Russia (12hr., 5pm, $50-100). Sarı Tur (326 44 84) sells tickets for the two ferries, “Appolonia” and “Karden,” which link Trabzon and Poti, Georgia (Tu and F; 10hr.; evening departure; $30 one-way, $50 round-trip). Many agents are along İskele Cad., down toward the sea.

ORIENTATION

The heart of Trabzon is the Meydan (square). Most of the city’s best hotels, restaurants, dolmuş, and services are concentrated within a 500m radius. For some good hotels, take İskele Cad. northeast of the square and then left onto Güzelhisal Cad. Maraş Cad. nms west out of the Meydan, leading past banks, exchange outlets, the PTT, and a few historical sites before ending just below the ancient Aya Sofia. Running parallel to Maraş Cad. are the pedestrian-only Kunduracılar Cad. and charming Uzun Sok., which buzzes with the activity of internet cafes and small food outlets. Gazipaşa Cad. is the short main road between Atatürk Alanı’s western edge and the coastal highway, Sahil Yolu, which leads to the intercity otogar, 3km east, and to the airport. To the west, it passes a stretch of çay gardens and amusement parks.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

TOURIST, FINANCIAL AND LOCAL SERVICES

  • Consulates: Georgian Consulate, 20 Gazipaşa Cad., 2nd fl. (326 22 26; fax 326 22 96), quite far down Gazipaşa Cad., approaching the sea. Visas are usually processed the day of demand. Transit visa $15; 2-week visa $40; one-month visa $50. Open M-Sa 9am-12:30pm and 2-6pm. Iranian Consulate, Kızıl Toprak Sok. No. 3 (326 76 50). Just off Boztepe Cad. Open M, Th, Sa 8am-lpm and 3-5pm, Su 8am-lpm. Allow 2 days. Westerners may be told to seek visas from the Iranian Embassy in Ankara. Russian Consulate, Orta Hisar Mahallesi, Refik Cesur Sok. No. 6. (326 26 00; fax 326 26 01). US and other Western citizens should generally obtain visas at the Russian Embassy in Ankara. Open M-F 9am-lpm and 3-5pm.
  • Banks: Trabzon’s larger banks are along Maraş Cad., just west of Atatürk Alanı. For traveler’s checks try Akbank or TC Ziraat Bank. (326 71 13. Open M-F 8:30am-5pm.) Many exchange offices along Maraş Cad. have better rates.
  • English Language Bookstore: D&R, 17/C Uzun Sok. (]321 98 55), on the main street southwest of Atatürk AlanC. This branch of the widespread chain has a considerable range of foreign papers and magazines, though the English language books are mainly confined to dictionaries, phrasebooks, and a few classics. Open daily 10am-9pm.
  • Laundry: Pak Çiti Laundry, Cumhuriyet Mah., Zeytinlik Cad. No. 18/B (326 13 51). From Atatürk Alanı, walk down Uzun Sok. until you reach Zeytinlik Cad., then turn left. $4 per load. Student discount available. Open M-Sa 8am-8pm.

EMERGENCY AND COMMUNICATIONS

  • Police: Trabzon is split into 6 police districts, each with its own telephone number. The best option is to call  155. A tourist police office (326 30 77) is next to the Kibris Restaurant on the east side of Atatürk Alanı. Open daily 8am-5pm.
  • Hospitals: Trabzon’s best hospital is the K.T.U. Farabi Hastanesi (Karadeniz Teknik Üni-versitesi Tıp Fakültesi; 325 30 11 or 377 50 00). Take any dolmuş marked K.T.U. Another option is the private Özel Karadeniz Hastanesi (229 70 70). Nümune Hospital (230 22 97) is 2km west of downtown at the intersection of Maraş Cad. and Faik Dranaz Cad. Take a dolmuş marked “Hastane” or “Nümune” to the Nümune Durağı. There are numerous pharmacies on Gazipaşa Cad.
  • Internet Access: In Atatürk Alanı, try World Internet Cafe (323 11 34), on the 2nd fl. of the building adjacent to McDonald’s. Open daily 9:30am-lam. Also surf at Limit Internet Cafe (323 28 94), inside the Corner Hamburger and Pizza joint on the east edge of Atatürk Alanı. $2 per hr. Open daily 7am-llpm. IPEK Internet Cafe, Maraş Cad., İpekyolu İs Merkezi No. 60 (323 31 50), on the 2nd fl. of an outside flight of stairs, is pleasant and clean. $1.25 per hr. Open daily 8am-ll:30pm.
  • PTT: 1km west down Maraş Cad. Open daily 8:30am-5:30pm. Telephones open 24hr. Postal Code: 61020 (downtown only).

ACCOMMODATIONS

While Trabzon seems to have more hotels per square kilometer than any other city in the world, only a few are off the prostitution circuit. Many, in fact, serve as dormitories for prostitutes and do not admit men. The hotels below have managements dedicated to keeping them safe and free of Nataşas.

Eli Otel Anıl, Güzelhisar Cad. No. 10 (326 72 82 or 326 72 83). Adjacent to Otel Yuvan, 50m off İskele Cad. A good, clean, comfortable, and central hotel. 36 big rooms have carpeting, tiled baths, hot water, and TV. Breakfast included. It’s a good idea to reserve during the busy summer months. Singles $10; doubles $18; triples $25.

Hotel Nur, Meydan Camii Sok. No. 10 (323 04 45 or 323 04 46; fax 323 04 47). Off Atatürk Alanı, opposite the İskender Paşa Camii, next to the tourist office. Very friendly, helpful management. 15 large, clean rooms, all with shower, toilet, and TV. Fresh watermelon available at breakfast. Singles $13; doubles $22.50; triples $35. &

Hotel Yuvan, Güzelhisar Cad. No. 10 (/fax 326 68 23 or 326 68 24). Adjacent to the Otel Anil, 50m off İskele Cad. This simple, good-value hotel has shower, toilet, and TV in every room. Ask for a room with a view. Singles $6; doubles $10; triples $15.

Hotel Benli (321 10 22). Across from İskender Paşa Camii, by the tourist office and Hotel Nur. Provides basic but comfortable rooms in a safe, older hotel. Each floor has a squat toilet and shower. Singles $3, students $2.50; doubles $6, students $5.

FOOD

Trabzon’s local cuisine is a mélange of standard Turkish fare, fresh Black Sea fish, and com, potatoes, and peas from the fertile highlands south of the city. The Meydan supports a dazzling array of restaurants, including dozens of Russian joints, from tasteful dining rooms to late-night upper-story beer halls. Maraş Cad. has a number of more up-market places. A fruit and vegetable market lies lVàkm west of the square along Maraş Cad. (Open daily 6:30am-9pm.) Cheese, bread, and other basics are cheapest at the Tan-Şa Supermarket on the southwest corner of Atatürk Alam. Lots of fruit and vegetables are available at the Russian Bazaar, too. 

HALLUCINOGENIC HONEY

In the 5th century BC, Cyrus of Persia recruited a ragtag troop of jack-booted Greek thugs to pillage various villages in Asia Minor. Among the 10,000 Greeks was Xenophon, who recorded their misadventures In the Anabasis. On the march home, the booty-laden horde happened upon an enormous swarm of bees whose hives brimmed with honey. This particular pillage, however, had payback: some of the soldiers who sampled the nectar ended up unconscious or ill. Those who consumed the ambrosia in moderation reported fantastical visions {who knows what the bees were seeing). The morning after, the entire legion woke up with a wicked hangover and some rich but embarrassing stories. After enduring a few days of rehab and detox from the deleterious effects of too many mind-altering, psychotropic substances, the Hellenes were marching west to Trabzon. It’s unknown whether the soldiers suffered flashbacks to their honey-induced trips.

Şişman Restaurant ( 322 34 45), on the top floor of a building on Maraş Cad., just off Atatürk Alanı. Its outdoor tables provide a good vantage point to observe the ebb and flow of street life below. Rakı $1.25, Efes $.90. Open daily 9am-lam.

Kebabistan, Maraş Cad. No. 30 (»321 86 51), opposite the Zorlu Grand Hotel. Among the cleanest and best in Trabzon, with a very good selection of sweets and desserts. Vali kebap ($4); ayran ($.40). Open daily 1am-1pm.

Güloğlu Restaurant, Atatürk Alanı No. 4/E (»321 53 32). A recently renovated kebap and lahmacun salon. Enjoy the A/C while you Indulge in the sarma beyti kebap ($2) and finish with a 6-piece portion of delicious baklava ($1). Open daily 6am-llpm.  Tad Pizza and Burger (» 321 12 38), on the northeast corner of the main square, opposite the Belediye building. Good for a break from kebap and ayran, though the hamburgers ($1) might be better called köfte burgers. Tad also has a $1 salad bar with specialty called aşure, a fruity pudding ($1). Open daily 7am-llpm.

Ev Mamiilleri, Gazipaşa Cad. No. 11/A (»326 24 20), halfway down Gazipaşa Cad., walking toward the sea. Without a doubt the best pastry house in Trabzon. Make sure to taste the delicious laz börek ($1.25). Open 7am-midnight,

SIGHTS

AYA SOFIA

Aya Sofia (Trabzon)

Aya Sofia (Trabzon)

Now a disused church with excellent, well-preserved frescoes and beautiful interior, Aya Sofia has a history as complex as the city itself. The site originally held a temple of Apollo (117-38BC) and then a basilica. Comnenian Emperor Manual I (1238-1263) commissioned the construction of the edifice you see today. Orthodox Christians claimed the basilica for the next 200 years, decorating its interior and exterior with frescoes and reliefs. Upon the 1461 Ottoman seizure of Trebizond, the church became a mosque. The Turks briefly used the building as a hospital and munitions depot during part of World War I. A 1960s restoration project uncovered some of Turkey’s best frescoes. Though some of the paintings are crumbling, most are visible. Placards subtly positioned around the church explain the frescoes, while preserving the atmosphere of the original building. The main building is surrounded by a garden with views of the Black Sea and is a welcome break from the bustle of Trabzon below. (Either take a dolmuş from Atatürk Alanı, or, from the old city, take a dolmuş along the coastal highway; ask the driver for Aya Sofia and walk 2 blocks uphill. Museum open Tu-Su 9am-6:30pm. $1, students $.50.)

TRABZON MUSEUM (TRABZON MÜZESİ)

An Italian-style building, the museum was built by a wealthy Greek banker. It was subsequently used as a local headquarters for Atatürk during the War for Independence. Since then, it has had various identities: a courthouse, a trade school for girls, and since April 2001, a museum. The ground floor is now a beautifully restored Baroque museum, offering a glimpse at upper-class Trabzon society of 100 years ago. The living room and dining room constitute one of the best house restorations in the region. In the basement is a display of items found at a dig at Tabakhane, near Trabzon. Perhaps the most impressive item is a statue of Hermes. Other items include a collection of ancient coins and icons. (322 38 22; fax 326 18 88. Uzua Sok. Zeytinlik Cad. No. 10.)

KIZLAR (GIRLS’) MONASTERY

This monastery was used by the Greeks until the 1923 population exchange. Most interesting is the main chapel, a cave on the south side where scholars claim ceremonies in honor of Mithra (an ancient Persian sun god) were held. Weathered frescoes still decorate the chapel walls. The lookout point 100m below the entrance to the monastery makes a great picnic spot. At daily prayer times, you can hear echoing calls to prayer from dozens of mosques. (At the time of publication, the monastery was closed indefinitely. To reach it, either walk 2km up Iran Cad., or take a dolmuş to Bötepe. Ask for “Kizlar Monasteri.”)

ATATÜRK KÖŞKÜ (ATATÜRK’S VILLA)

Atatürk Köşkü was built at the turn of the century by a wealthy Trabzon Greek. Though the elegant white villa only actually housed “Father Turk” twice, the house is now an Atatürk museum with many photos and memorabilia. Its views and garden are of more interest than the museum itself. (Take a dolmuş for Çamlık from the meydan or a bus marked “Köşk” for 5km into the hills southwest of the city. Most dolmuş will drop you off at the bottom of a steep hill. They may offer to take you to the top for extra. Open daily 8am-7pm; in winter 8am-5pm. $1.25, students $.75.)

OTHER RELIGIOUS SITES

St. Anne’s Church stands as Trabzon’s oldest existing Christian structure, dating from the 7th century, when the Byzantine Emperor Basil I ruled Trebizond. These days it’s in a sony state, boarded up with a coffee house next door. To get there, start from the square and take Maraş Cad. west past the PTT and down an alley on the left (Mısırlıoğlu Aralığı). The church is closed for restoration. Farther down Maraş Cad., take a left on Fatih Camii Sok. and walk uphill about 300m. There lies one of the city’s treasures, Fatih Camii, also known as Ortahisar Camii. This mosque was once the cathedral of the Panagia Chrysokephelos, the Golden-Headed Virgin. Once a favorite of the Comneni rulers, it was converted to a mosque by Mehmet in 1461, when the floors were carpeted and the exquisite but idolatrous mosaics were covered in plaster. A small portion of the original mosaic remains intact on the east side of the mosque, since it is non-flgurative and therefore not offensive to Muslim worshipers.

To reach Gülbaharhatun Camii, the Mosque of the Spring Rose, go south from Maraş Cad. to Uzun Cad. Walk west until you reach the south side of Atapark, a verdant spot with relaxing çay gardens. Gülbaharhatun mosque was built in 1514 by the Ottoman Sultan Selim I in honor of his mother, Ayşe Gülbahar, who is buried in an impressive tomb to the left of the ornate mosque. Just up the road on Amasya Sok. is the birthplace of Süleyman the Magnificent.

ENTERTAINMENT           

Football. Trabzon is a football town, and adored Trabzonspor, the blue-and-burgundy colored local team, plays regularly from late August to late May. The stadium Is about 5km east of downtown, on the seaside Spor Cad. Prices vary with the matches, but average about $4 for sheltered seats and $1 for open-air ones.

Saray Sineması, Kasım Oğlu Çıkması No. 15 (321 00 06), about 500m west of Atatürk Alanı. Take the 4th left off Uzun Sok. and look up to the left. It shows Hollywood films with Turkish subtitles, and, unlike most places, doesn’t show pornography. Most shows start around 8:30pm. $3.50, students $2.50.

Magicworld: Cosmic Bowling and Billiards, Maraş Cad., İpek Yolu İş Merkezi (»323 33 11), at the basement level, in the mall opposite the Zorlu Grand Hotel. Escape the hectic Turkish rhythm with 5 lanes, 6 pool tables, and a sparkling new cafe and restaurant. Bowling $4.50; billiards $4. Open lOam-midnight.

Russian (Rus) Bazaar, Çömlekçi Mah., begins near the Otel Anil, at the top of the hill, and continues down to the sea. Shoppers can find anything. Open daily 8am-7pm. Sekiz Direkli Hamam, Pazarkapı Mah., Hamam Sok. (»322 10 12). A worthwhile 2km west of the main square. Walk along Maraş Cad. and bear right on ¡slahane Sok., well before the walls of the old city. Walk down islahane for 150m, then bear left on Kalkan Olug Cad. for 50m. The hamam will be on your right. Rejuvenate yourself with a scrub and massage. Constructed by the Selçuks around 1073 BC and used until 1916, it was renovated 8 years ago with marble and wood paneling. Bath $4.50, kese $5.50. Open daily 4:30am-llpm; women only Th 8am-5pm.

Meydan Hamam, Maraş Cad. No. 3 (»321 38 23), just off Atatürk Alanı. Less beautiful than Sekiz Direkli, but better located. Kese $1.25; massage $1.50; bath $3.50. Open daily for men 5am-10:30pm, women 9am-5pm.

NIGHTLIFE

Kibris Restaurant, on the top floor of a building on the east side of the Meydan. The decor is slightly faded, but the outside terrace Is a perfect spot to spend an evening watching over the main square. Two-floor restaurant and bar. Open daily 10am-lam. English Pub, (326 88 26) Zorlu Grand Hotel, Maraş Cad. No. 9, 2nd fl. An imitation English pub In Trabzon’s ultra-posh, 5-star hotel. The chairs are plush and the pub is tastefully built. Apart from the very expensive apertifs and drinks, this is a pleasant and comfortable place to while away the evening. Beer $5. Rakı $2. Open daily 5pm-2am. Efulim Club and Restaurant, Kunduracılar Cad., Ofluoglu iş Merkezi, 2nd floor (»326 92 88). Enjoy live music in elegant surroundings. Efes $2. Restaurant open daily noon- 6pm. Club open 8pm-lam. Bar open until 2am.

High Life Disco, Gazipaşa Cad. Head toward the sea; the disco is on the right 20m before the bridge. A favorite among area students and free of Nataşas.

Façuna Night Club (a.k.a. Façino), Grand Hotel Zorlu, Maraş Cad. No. 9, top floor. Drinks may be pricey (Efes $4), but the big dance floor of this fashionable hotel club ranks high among Trabzon’s slim pickings. Open Sept.-June F-Sa 9pm-2:30am.

DAYTRIP FROM TRABZON: SUMELA MONASTERY          

There are three ways to make the trip from Trabzon to the monastery and national park: wallet-bruising taxis (minimum $33 round-trip), dolmuş ($6-10), and organized tours which run from June to September ($5, see Trabzon: Travel Agencies, p. 446). Sumela dolmuş leave every day at 10am from the Ulusoy office on the east side of Atatürk Alanı; alternatively, you can negotiate fares with the driver of a Mağka dolmuş loading from 8- 11am near Trabzon’s Russian Market. Tours tend to rush, and the chambers of Sumela are worth exploring on your own, so be sure to give yourself 30min. for the steep climb to and from the monastery. Park $2, students $1.

Nowhere else in northwestern Anatolia is the region’s Byzantine legacy so breath takingly combined with the jagged, forested landscape than at Sumela Monastery. Approximately 45km southwest of Trabzon, high in the mountains, Sumela was founded in 385 AD by two ambitious Athenian monks who, according to legend, were visited by the Holy Virgin in a dream. Sumela’s structures and five-story facade are built into a cliffside cave perched over a lushly-vegetated gorge; the cave provides natural protection from the elements and contributes to its astonishing beauty. The monastery reached the height of its glory in the late Middle Ages, when it had 72 rooms, an immense library, five fully frescoed chapels, and a refectory, much of which are still recognizable. The inner chapel is a spectacular treat even for those wearied by the tourist-track’s parade of Byzantine imagery. The three layers of frescoes portray scenes from the Old and New Testaments, as well as enthroned Byzantine emperors. Though tattooed with Turkish, Greek, and English graffiti, the frescoes remain unique and impressive.

A fire 60 years ago destroyed all of the monastery’s wooden structures, many of which arc currently being renovated. The labyrinthine, honeycombed chambers of the monks’ cells, however, remain intact, and photos in the English-language guide ($5) sold at the park gift shop show Sumela in its former glory. At the moment, the restoration team outnumbers visitors. Take advantage of the solitude, stick your head out of a monk’s bedroom window, and savor glimpses of the panorama that Sumela’s lucky devotees enjoyed for centuries until the 192-3 Greco-Turkish population exchange.

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