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EMPIRE OF TREBIZOND

HISTORY OF TRABZON AND PONTUS

 PART 1: Imagined Empire

"Still the toers of Trebizond, the fabled city. shimmer on a far horizon, gated and walled and held in a luminous enchantment."
From the 14th Century traveler Marco Polo to the novelist Rose Macaulay, old Trebizond has evoked an image of sumptuous and slightly surreal exoticism in the Western mind. Polo visited the city during the brief Medieval interlude when Constantinople lay in doldrums and the half-imaginary Empire of Trebizond stood out as the last stronghold of Byzantine wealth and splendor. Ruy Gonzales de Clavijo, visiting in 1401, described a city of golden towers and glittering mosaics, a Christian relic at the gates of far Asia. Don Quijote styled himself Emperor of Trebizond when he first stumbled over the boundaries of reality. In an equally fantastic mood, the court his¬torians of Napoleon Bonaparte attempted to prove that the Corsican adventurer was a descendant of the Grand Comneni of Trebizond.

EMPIRE OF TREBIZOND


Tantalizing reminders of medieval glory survive in modern Trabzon, hidden in the back alleys of the city and remote corners of the Surrounding mountains. There are the battered fortress walls, jutting over ravines in the heart of the city: the Hagia Sophia, with its extraordinary collection of Byzantine frescoes: the cathedral of Panagia Chrysocephalos, once the imperial shrine of Politic dynasts; the Church of St. Eugenius, with its spectacular view over the city; and outside Trabzon, the Unbelievable Monastery of Sumela clinging to a wall of basalt in the deep forest.
There are also traces of a more recent period of glory-the belle epoque of the turn of 20th century, when Trabzon prospered briefly amid the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire as it had once prospered on the ashes of the Byzantine. They include the misleadingly named Atatürk House and other memorials of an opulent Greek bourgeoisie that dreamt of restoring Trabzon to its old grandeur.
The visitor who expects a city of gold-plated domes and decadent wealth may be at first disappointed to find a homey provincial city instead. Today's Trabzon lives mainly as the central market town of eastern Black Sea's colorful, quirky and eccentric people, who have little memory of and less interest in any Byzantine past. Having lost to Samsun the title of being the region's main seaport the city now faces inland, seemingly oblivious to the sea and the commercial traditions to which it once owed its fame and wealth.
It takes a couple hours of strolling in the cobblestoned streets of downtown Trabzon to fall in love with this "new" city. The pomp and glitter of old times is gone, replaced by the cozy charm of narrow alleys, pastel colored houses and a bustling bazaar. It is easy to feel at home here. Within a day, all the sights around Belediye Square, Uzun Sokak, and Ortahisar take on the quality of familiar landmarks; within a week, one acquires a surprising number of acquaintances to greet during a walk around the Square.
Taking long walks is the key to getting to know Trabzon. The idea of strolling the town goes a long way back, with an English delegation sent by Edward I in 1292 reporting that due to the existence of "so many stony streets in the city and mule paths in the interior, there has been a notable expenditure on shoe leather." Today, the "stony streets" are of a smooth cobblestoned variety that extend into the city's back alleys and cul-de-sacs, as well as serving the main thoroughfare of Uzun Sokak. The plethora of shoe repair shops in the city center suggests that the natives continue to wear out a good amount of leather.

PART 1: Imagined Empire
PART 2:
The Main Square
PART 3:
A Long Walk
PART 4:
Atatürk House
PART 5:
Bazaar District
PART 6:
Hagia Sophia
PART 7:
Boztepe
PART 8:
Rising Above
PART 9:
Lady of the Mountains
PART 10:
Obscure Monasteries
PART 11:
The Way to the Pass
PART 12:
Gümüşhane

 

 

Usefull links

Greek Penetration of the Black Sea
Encyclopedic Dictionary of Black Sea (Karadeniz Ansiklopedik Sözlük) by Özhan Öztürk
Travel to Black Sea’s blue and the mountains’ green and Turkish wedding
TRABZON GREEK: A LANGUAGE WITHOUT A TONGUE by Ömer Asan
Pontians: The Incredible Odyssey of the Black Sea Greeks
Colchis, Armenia, Iberia, Albania
Eastern Black Sea houses, Turkey
Black sea, CHERNOYE MORE, Karadeniz
 The cost of language, Pontiaka trebizond Greek

 

 

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