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PART 3: A Long Walk, Trabzon

 

trabzon travel turkey info pictures uzun sokak
Most of Trabzon can easily be explored on foot. Here is a suggested itinerary which covers most of the city, with the exception of the Hagia Sophia and Boztepe, within the span of one exhausting day.
The two main arteries of Trabzon, Maraş Caddesi and Uzun Sokak (Long Street), lead west from the Square. The former is themore "modern" avenue and the latter the old mainstreet: A long trail of honking taxis rattle single-file down its cobblestoned length, barely wide enough to accommodate a small car's girth
Start at Uzun Sokak.

Kostaki mansion Museum of Trabzon trabzon museum photo

A left turn on Zeytin Caddesi will reveal an elegant stone mansion (Kostaki Mansion) which was originally a Greek convent and later the private residence of a wealthy Greek banker who abandoned it in 1923. It has a palatial interior with stained-glass windows, intricately carved woodwork, and cast iron statues. Now undergoing restoration, the mansion is to be turned into a museum in 1989.
Shortly before crossing into the walled city lies the Church of St. Anna (Küçük Ayvasil Kilisesi) on tiny Misirlioglu Street to the right Looking a bit forlorn in its rundown and padlocked state, St. Anna's is the oldest Byzantine church in the city, rebuilt in its present form during the reign of Basil I in 884-885.
The worn-out relief of reclining figures over the main portal probably belonged to an older edifice, one of the few bits of pagan antiquity left to see in Trabzon. The Byzantine frescoes described by scholars as late as in the 1920s are now gone.
The walled "old city" of Trabzon stands on a long and narrow hill that is cut off from the rest of the city by deep ravines on either side. Its table top shape-the trapeza-accounts for the original name of the city. It is girdled by Byzantine walls which split it into three consecutive sections-the upper citadel, the historic middle city or Ortahisar, and the lower city which merges with the jumble of the bazaar district. Ortahisar, across the Tabakhane bridge, is the most picturesque of all.
Dominanting the quarter is the Church of Panagia Chrysocephalos, or "the Golden-Headed Virgin". This was built in its present form in the 13th century and rebuilt in 1341 after a fire destroyed it during one of Trebizond's civil wars. For two and a half centuries, the Chrysocephalos served as the imperial cathedral of the Comneni and witnessed most of the coronations, solemn processions and imperial funerals of their imaginary Empire. At its heyday its dome was plated in sheet gold-hence the name-and travelers spoke of it in wonder and amazement as the dominant feature of Trebizond's exotic skyline.
The church was converted to Muslim use shortly after the conquest and it is now known as the Ortahisar or Fatih Mosque. The original frescoes are invisible under layers of whitewash and the Ionic colums in the interior, apparently lifted from a classical temple, have been painted over in pistachio green. Still, the beauty and grandeur of the overall architectural conception does not fail to impress the visitor with a sense of imperial majesty.
The crowds of believers who fill the mosque and the square outside it perpetuate the spirit of religious
devotion that once characterized the affairs of Byzantine Trabzon. The charming Hisar Teahouse is an ideal place to observe their comings and goings. With its tiny round tables and straw stools, the setting seems more suitable to children and it is humorous to watch swarthy, moustached Turks perched precariously on these little seats.
A similar setting is offered by the Atapark Teahouse across the Zaganos Paşa Bridge. Built in 1467 by Fatih's ubiquitous general and advisor, a Byzantine convert, the bridge consists of a 25 m high stone wall. In Pontic times a wooden drawbridge existed here which during times of war could isolate the citadel from invasions. The teahouse presents an excellent view of the crenellated city walls rising on the steep cliffside. Ancient wood-and stucco townhouses hang over the top. A rustic scene of vegetable patches with clusters of red-roofed houses and white mosques occupies the ravine bottom. Looking down, one may see a woman and her daughters sift through a mountain of hazelnuts piled upon a roof while a group of 15 year olds pursue a hard hitting game of street soccer. At sunset the yellow-ocher walls of abandoned Greek houses shine with a crepuscular glow. Twenty minutes later, the luminescence is gone and the gutted remains of these once grand residences become indistinguishable from the other houses along the walls.
A little further on lies the most important Ottoman monument in the city, the Gulbahar Hatun Mosque and Mausoleum. Built in 1514 by Selim 1, the mosque commemorates his mother, the "Lady Springrose", who was apparently born a princess of the Comneni house. Her tomb stands nearby and was revered as a shrine by both Muslims and Christians throughout Ottoman times. Surrounding the mosque and tomb is a pleasant garden where,
under the shade of an ancient plane tree, old timers will pontificate on the erstwhile glory of their favorite mosque.
With sufficiently strong feet you may want to make a detour from Gulbahar to Soğuksu Hill, the high peak bracing the city on the west. It is a steep climb to a very pleasant residential suburb where many Trabzon families-in an urban holdover from the yayla tradition-maintain their summer homes. That they did the same a hundred years ago is indicated by the many splendid mansions along the way, now in various states of decline. The best among them, though, stands in perfect shape, being blessed by the good fortune of briefly serving the founder of the Turkish Republic as a home away from home.
 

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

 

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