Trabzon, the ancient Trebizond, the pearl of the Black Sea as it is called, has a long and rich history and has a lot to offer to the cultural tourist.
Trabzon was founded as Trapezus (meaning table) in the 8th century BCE by Greek colonists coming from Sinope, itself a Milesian colony. In 1204, the armies of the Fourth Crusade, consisting of the Venetian navy and European knights, captured and sacked Constantinople. They murdered the Byzantine Emperor and crowned one of their own, Baldwin of Flanders, Emperor of the East.
A few days later Alexis Comnenos, a descendant of his namesake of the 11th century, landed at Trebizond and declared himself the lawful Emperor of Byzantium. Under the rule of the Comneni, Trabzon flourished and reached its greatest splendour. Alexius III (1349-90) made the city one of the world's leading trade centres, renowned for its great wealth and artistic accomplishment. The Empire of Trebizond endured until 1461 when it was overrun by Mehmed the Conqueror. Under the Ottomans, Trabzon became the starting point of caravans to Persia.
Trabzon or Trebizond was known as the Constantinople of the East and has always spoken to the imagination of people. Don Quixote liked to think of himself as the Emperor of Trebizond (ya coronado por el valor de su brazo, por los menos, del imperio de Trapisonda).
Until the late 19th century Muslims and Christians lived side by side and the call to prayer mingled with the sound of church bells. After World War I, Trabzon was included (1920) in the short-lived independent state of Armenia and also the Greeks had the intention to make it part of a Greek Pontic Republic. After the Turkish War of Independence and the creation of the Turkish republic, the city's large Greek population was deported in 1922-23.
Presently, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Trabzon is booming as a commercial centre for the Eastern Black Sea area and the Caucasian republics.
Sights & Photos of Trabzon
Trabzon is mostly situated on a table like a promontory above the harbour and has many historic monuments. The citadel Orta Hisar is one of the oldest remains in Trabzon. According to some sources, Trabzon's city walls go back as far as the 5th century BC. They were enlarged and restored in the Ottoman period. The walls were built as three separate sections. Yukarıhisar (upper fortress), Ortahisar (middle fortress) and Aşağıhisar (lower fortress). Yukarıhisar (upper fortress) was the centre in Byzantine time. Ortahisar (middle fortress) was the centre of administration of Ottoman time. Aşağıhisar (lower fortress) was the city's trade centre.
The best-preserved historic monument of Trabzon is the Church of Aya Sofya (Greek meaning Holy Wisdom) a 13th century Byzantine Church, an excellent example of Byzantine architecture. It is now restored as the Ayasofya Museum. The walls of the Aya Sofya are decorated with frescoes which are the finest examples of Byzantine craftsmanship.
Among Trabzon's oldest remains is the Church of St. Anne (Küçük Ayvasıl Kilisesi). It was constructed during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Basil I in 884-885 CE. Unfortunately, it is closed to visitors. Another important church was the Church of St. Eugenius, the patron saint of Trabzon. The church dates from the 13th century. Since the capture of the city by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1461, it serves as a mosque. It is most of the time closed to visitors.
Travel Information & Travel Tips
Trabzon is also the starting point for a visit to Sumela monastery. Mavi Dünya EYCE Tur, Gazipaşa Mahallesi, Mektep Sokak, Otopark İçi, Canbakkal İş hanı;, No. 11 (Tel. +90 (462) 326 63 37) offers a good half-day tour to Sumela in mini-bus.
We had (2003) a very nice stay in Trabzon at Hotel Nur, İskenderpaşa Mahallesi, Meydan Camii Sokak 15 (Tel. 90 (462) 323 04 45, +90 (462) 323 04 46), close to Atatürk Alanı. It has pleasant airy rooms.