PART 3: A Long Walk,
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.
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
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.
The Main Square
A Long Walk
Lady of the Mountains
The Way to