Excursions to the Far East and Black Sea Coast: Places to Explore



Trabzon has a dramatic location, perched on a hill overlooking the sea, with lush green mountains behind. Once the capital of the empire founded in 1204 by Alexius Comnene, grandson of a Byzantine emperor, the city was famed for its golden towers and glittering mosaics—probably built with family money diverted from the royal till before the fall of Constantinople.

Today's Trabzon seems far removed from that imperial past: the city is bustling and modern, with a busy port, crowded streets, and seemingly little to distinguish it from many other provincial Turkish towns. It only takes a little digging, though, to get under the modern surface. Byzantine-era churches, such as the lovely Aya Sofya, a smaller version of the similarly named church in Istanbul, can be found not far from modern apartment buildings. The city's old town, meanwhile, with its Ottoman-era houses, pedestrian-only streets, and lively bazaar are a nice break from the concrete and crowds.

You can spend a day exploring the city, which is also a good base for a visit to the Sümela monastery. At night, have a fish dinner by the Black Sea or up in the hills overlooking the city.