Trabzon is nestled in a lush green valley hemmed between mountains and the sea. Flags were draped everywhere for their football team, Trabzon Spor. Even though we visited during Ramadan, there was an undercurrent of excitement for the upcoming final game where they cinched the National title.
Typical of anywhere in Turkey, Trabzon has a long, distinguished history starting as a Greek settlement in 756 BC. Justinian expanded the Roman defenses in the 6th century and the fortress walls still stand. Today, they form a backdrop for the beautiful Zagnos Valley Park.
When Istanbul and #1 Hagia Sophia (Aka: Holy Wisdom Church) fell to the Muslims, the Orthodox faithful escaped to Trabzon and built #2 Hagia (out of 3 total) in the year 1260 AD. The beautiful frescos remain, even though this is a mosque ( and has been on and off since 1584) where depictions of spiritual faces are not tolerated during prayer . It’s a miracle that this survives today. I love the painting of Jesus without a beard, which would have put him at the age of 12 when He was teaching in the Temple.
DRIVE TO SUMELA MONASTERY
The 4th century Sumela Monastery is about an hour drive from Trabzon through dark green forests that rise up the Zigana mountains to snowy peaks. It’s May and waterfalls thunder with ice melt. The spray catches rainbows in the afternoon sunshine.
Sumela means virgin of the black mountains and was built into a cave decorated with frescoes. It was already an important Orthodox center when Selim Grim invaded in 1461. He was wounded and the monks healed him which was great– because the monastery was spared. The larger buildings were added in the 17th century. We could not tour inside due to a dangerous rockfall and reinforcement work on the mountain. Still impressive, and the walk in is lovely. Don’t miss the mini chapel and ruins of monk quarters to the right.
We had a lovely fresh trout lunch at Sumer Restaurant near a rushing creek. One of the dishes we ate was Kuymak which is melted butter, cheese and grain. Kind of like macaroni and cheese with a deconstructed noodle.
Back in Trabzon, wander the old town to see mosques and old wood buildings, visit the silver workshop of Saray Gumus, and wander the pedestrian walkway (Uzun Sokak). Try some Kome ( mulberry paste with walnuts) and Cig Kofte ( bulgur wheat and spicy tomato paste balls served on lettuce). Some impressions of Trabzon below:
We had a lovely stay at Grand Zorlu Hotel and it’s convenient for restaurants and shopping.