When you think of Turkey, Trabzon is not probably one of the foremost places that come to your mind, unless if you are an Arab. Hugely popular with tourists from the GCC countries, this beautiful region on the Black Sea Coast is hardly known to others. Nestled in the Pontic mountains, bordering the Black Sea and with a rich history and lots of locals this was the first city we visited in Turkey and we loved it. Here are our top 5 things to do in Trabzon city, the capital of the province, before you head out to explore the stunning surrounding areas.
Start from Centrum Park. The Trabzon Meydan Parki or Centrum Park is the central hub of activity in this fast-paced city. Reaching here is easy with the minivans or otobus that are seen aplenty carrying locals around for about 2-5 lira per person. (Look for the label ‘Meydan’ on the front of these minivans) There’s a small park in the center lined by restaurants and busy shops all around. Start your visit in this epicenter of the city, soaking in the atmosphere and treat yourself to a meal from the many restaurants around. Not in the mood for a heavy meal? Just grab a Simit for a lira just like the locals do and walk on! These little round sesame-encrusted bagel-like bread are as popular here as in Istanbul and you will find it all around with street vendors.
Shops, museums, and historic inns. Just a short walk westwards from the Meydan Park is a lineup of three museums. The Trabzon museum, city museum, and history museum. The museums are not very big and full of historical objects and sculptures describing life in the bygone era of this ancient city. One of the museums that we visited, the “Trabzon Sehir Muzesi” had information only in Turkish but was an interesting stroll with peeks into the history of the city. Around the museums are busy shops selling all kinds of goods and bustling city life. As you walk around, try to keep pace with the locals if you can! Famous is the Copper Bazaar in this area and just nearby is an interesting old inn called “Alacahan” With a little help from locals we were able to find this little place hidden in an alleyway with cute colorful suspended umbrellas hanging in front of an old wooden door. Too bad it was closed by then but we sure would have loved a look inside.
Aya Sofia and Ataturk Pavilion. We are not yet done with the historic places here. One of the main tourist places is Aya Sofia, much like the Istanbul’s famous namesake, it is an old church turned into a mosque but very unlike the massive edifice in Istanbul this is a humble building but definitely worth a visit. An 800-year-old building from the Byzantine era, which served as a church for 200 years, a mosque for the next 500, a depot and hospital during the first world war and back to a mosque since 2013.
For a more recent slice of history, there is the Ataturk Pavilion, a gift of the people of Trabzon to the founder of modern Turkey because he fell in love with it on his first visit. It’s not hard to see why. Even if you are not a history buff, a visit to this place for its quaint surrounding and unbeatable views should be on your list.
Mosques and old Fortresses. One can’t fully appreciate the beauty of this city unless you visit one of the many beautiful mosques scattered around. The mosques in this region have a distinct style of slender minarets and multiple domes with exceptional floral, colorful artwork.
The ladies areas are usually a second story level built out of wood at the back corner of the main hall- the best place to see the artwork and observe the central chandeliers. Every mosque we stopped whether big or small was remarkable and some of my best memories are praying in these beautiful structures. The Fatih, Gulbahar Hatun and Iskenderpasha mosques are some of the famous ones in the city.
One of the fortresses from the Ottoman area that has survived till date is the Trabzon fortress with three levels. The Ortahisar or the ‘middle fort’ houses the statue of Yavuz Sultan Salim (9th Ottoman sultan) and the Kanuni House, a small museum now, which is the birthplace of Suleiman the magnificent (from the famous Turkish soap “Magnificent Century”)
Boztepe. After a long day of walking, exploring the history and shopping, relax and unwind as the locals do by heading towards Boztepe. Small, winding and busy roads through the city will take you up the mountain. Try to spot the “TRABZON” sign in the hills above as you are going up. Once up, relax in the huge park bearing the said sign, or taste the local delicacies in the restaurants with unparalleled views of the city, the greens of the mountains and the blues of the Black Sea.