Trabzon is one of the cities that you either love or hate, there is a cosmopolitan atmosphere here, especially near the harbor, which is characterized by the usual port character. Trabzon is the largest and, without a doubt, the most civilized city on the Black Sea coast, everyone here is too busy with their own affairs to be interested in what is happening in Istanbul or Ankara.
The elegant medieval Hagia Sophia Church and the nearby Sumela Monastery contrast with this efficiency, but modernity loudly declares itself on Ataturk Alam, the bustling main square of Trabzon in the eastern part of the city center. Dolmushi honk here, as if participating in a race, music is blaring, someone is dancing on the square on summer evenings on weekends, and local student fans gather here in whole companies, with bandages on their heads. Popular items of clothing here are decorated with the symbols of the Trabzonspor football team; These favorites, like Bursaspor, are the only non-Istanbul football clubs of the Turkish National league.
Trabzon is the busiest port in the east of the Black Sea, where cargo from Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Iran is processed and distributed. The city fascinates with narrow, winding shopping streets and pedestrian zones – it’s just the quintessence of the Black Sea atmosphere. The pace of life here is contagious after the unhurried rhythm of smaller Anatolian cities.
The heart of Trabzon is the area around Ataturk Alani, also known as Meydan Park. The port is located to the east of the square, down a steep slope. There are cafes and restaurants in the Ataturk Alani area, along Uzun Lane and Kahraman-marash Street. To the west of the center, behind the market, on both sides of a narrow gorge, the picturesque old Ortahisar district is located.
The written history of Trabzon begins around 746 BC, when Milesian colonists arrived from Sinope and founded the Trapezus settlement with an acropolis on a plateau overlooking the harbor.
The port coped with its functions for 2000 years, until the Christian soldiers of the Fourth Crusade came here, who captured and plundered Constantinople in 1204, forcing its noble families to seek refuge in Anatolia. In the same year, the Komnenos royal dynasty founded an empire stretching along the entire coast of the Black Sea – Alexei I Komnenos proclaimed himself Emperor of Trebizond.
The rulers of Trebizond were distinguished by skillful political maneuvering, at various times they concluded alliances with the Seljuks, Mongols and Genoese. The empire reached the heyday of its power, based on trade with Eastern Anatolia and Persia, under Alexios II Komnenos, after which internal strife marked the beginning of its decline. The Trebizond Empire existed until its conquest by the Ottomans in 1461 – eight years longer than Constantinople.
After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War, the Greek population of Trabzon tried to create a Republic of Trebizond resembling the old Komnenian Empire. In this struggle, the Turks won a convincing victory, and Ataturk proclaimed Trabzon one of the richest, most powerful and most important pillars of the Turkish Republic.
The Italian-style house was built by a Russian merchant in 1913, and Ataturk stayed here for a short time in 1924. Decorated interiors and original furniture are able to put to shame most of the Ottoman remodels. Several impressive halls with high ceilings house folklore and Islamic artifacts, most of them have signs in English. The archaeological section in the basement also contains notable exhibits, including a bronze statue of Hermes discovered during excavations in the nearby Tabakha-ne and several beautiful wooden icons of the Byzantine period.
The pedestrian street Kunduracilar Caddesi leads from Ataturk Alani to the Trabzon Bazaar, located in the market quarter. Compared to Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, this is an authentic, prosaic market that locals are proud of. Next to the restored Charshijami, the largest mosque in Trabzon, is Tash Khan, a khan with a single dome, built in 1647. This is the oldest market square in Trabzon, full of workshops, shops and cafes – here you can enjoy a cup of tea.
Selim the Terrible, the great Ottoman conqueror of Syria and Egypt, built Gulbahar-khatun jami in honor of his mother – Gulbahar-khatun. Next door is a tea garden and a reconstructed wooden granary. You can walk to the mosque in a pleasant way in the western direction from the center, across the Tabakhane Bridge, under which you can see cultivated plots of land. Shortly after the next bridge, turn left and go to the Ataturk Monument.
Get away from the hustle and bustle of Trabzon at the Ataturk Villa, 5 km southwest of Ataturk Square. The villa is located above the city, surrounded by forests. The three-storey white villa boasts beautiful views and charming gardens. Built in the period from 1890 to 1903 in the Black Sea style, popular in the Crimea, for a wealthy family of bankers from Trabzon, it was handed over to Ataturk during his arrival here in 1924. Now the museum of Ataturk memorabilia is located here. Pay attention to a simple desk in the study with a wood-cut map of the Dardanelles campaign of the First World War.