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Trabzon

Trabzon
Trabzon is a city on the Black Sea coast of north-eastern Turkey and the capital of Trabzon Province. Its ancient name is Trebizon and being located on the historical Silk Road route with a trade gateway to Iran and the Caucasus, was for centuries a mixture of religions, languages and cultures.  

The once gilded roofs, beautiful architecture and exotic customs that attracted visitors like Marco Polo have all but vanished and today it is a fast paced city with a population of over 220,000.

Trabzon Aya Sofya Church

There are remains of cobblestone alleyways that offer a glimpse of its previous grandeur and is the home to the monastic church of Aya Sofya that has the most superb frescoes in all of Anatolia. This beautiful and picturesque church was converted into a mosque and later a museum and has an open-air tea garden on the grounds.

Trabzonspor Football Club

It is also home to the football team Trabzonspor, the most successful in Turkey outside of Istanbul and who play at Huseyin Avni Stadium.

Trabzon History

The city was founded in the 8th century by Sinope and Miletus settlers and the town’s original name Trapezus (and subsequent variations Trebizond; Trapezund; Tribisonde) derived from its promontory  flat summit “trapeza” or “table in ancient Greek.
Trapezus continued to flourish under both Roman and Byzantine rule being aided by the support of Hadrian and Justinian and because of its location on the Silk Road route. The 13-14th century “Golden Age” began with Alexios, a descendant of the royal Komnenos line, who escaped the Crusaders attack on Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1204, landed in Trebizond and as commander of the Georgian army declared himself as the rightful Byzantine emperor. At the time there were two other ‘pretenders’, one in Epirus and the other in Nicaea but Alexios was the most successful.

The town’s long survival owed itself to a number of factors; the Mongol raids of the 13th century that forced the Silk Route to divert through Trebizond; the unethical diplomats making alliances with different chiefs scheming at its borders and the stunningly beautiful Komneni princesses being given in marriage to any convenient match that came along, whether they were Christian or Muslim. The port was particularly important and the Genoese and Venetian merchants became the main transporters of silk, linen and woollen fabrics. Each had been bestowed the same maritime trading privileges as they had already been given from Constantinople (Istanbul) and bought with them their westernised ideology, art and culture. Due to the political extremes, even for that time, and the native aristocracy fighting pitched battles, with the Latin’s joining in, then a civil war in 1341 completely destroyed the city and sent the empire into decline.

In 1461 the last emperor, David, negotiated a bloodless surrender to Mehmet the Conqueror .  From then the Ottomans used the city as a training ground for future rulers; whilst still a prince Selim the Grim was the provincial governor between 1490 and 1512. His son Suleyman the Magnificent was born and raised there until his accession in 1520. Trabzon was then renamed and today still remains a somewhat religious city. The establishment of European consulates and grand buildings paid for by the rich merchants during the late Ottoman era bought a resurgence of Christianity but this was soon to end due to world and civil war and the foundation of the Republic.

Once the construction of the railway line between Ankara and Erzurum was completed the shipping industry dwindled and Trabzon is now a transhipment point for moving goods to the Caucasian republics that have recently become independent.

Trabzon Transportation and Main Roads

Trabzon Airport is 7km from town and have regular minibuses (dolmus) to the town centre. The main bus station (Otogar) is closer, 3km away and also has a minibus (dolmus) service along with long distance buses. There is one legal car park close to the centre otherwise parking can be problematic in this very congested city.

All roads lead to the square Ataturk Square otherwise known as “Meydani” or “Park” and this is Trabzon’s main hub for social life and hotel choices. The bus operator’s ticket offices are at the corners of the square and most of the sights are within walking distance, with the exception of Aya Sofya, which you will need to take some form of transport to get to the Kaymakli Monastery behind Boztepe.

From the square the street of Iskele Street winds down to the port and to two of the city’s major avenues that lead west towards the old town; Kibris Sehitler Caddesi becomes Uzun Sokak a narrow and cobblestoned high street that heads off to Kahraman Maras Caddesi where most of the traffic is carried. Taksim Street leads southeast up toward Boztepe, the hill that dominates Trabzon.
   

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