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Things to do in Trabzon
Sumela Monastery



Trabzon

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Trabzon is a major port on the north, Black Sea, coast of Turkey. Due to the severe topographical nature of the coastal strip, travel along the coast was impossible until relatively recently. The mountain chain running parallel to the coastline made land traffic out of the question. Hence there are numerous sea ports along the coast, served not just by Turkey itself but also by Georgia, Russia and the Ukraine. Isolated from the main cities of Turkey, the Trabzon district came much more under the influence of Russia. During the centuries preceding the 20th, wave after wave of Russians settled here, undisturbed by the Turks. It was only when the Russian Revolution came at the start of the 20th century that many Russians began to return home in the hope of a better Russia than under the czars.

Although the area has had almost a century of Islamic influence, Orthadox Christianity has left a deep imprint in the town and area. In much of the town, you can actually believe that you are in Russia rather than Turkey.

The airport is built virtually on the beach - the only level land available.

The church of Hagia Sophia (Greek: meaning "Holy Wisdom"), now the Hagia Sophia Museum, is a former Greek Orthodox church located in Trabzon. It dates back to the 13th century when Trabzon was the capital of the Empire of Trebizond. It is located near the seashore and 2 miles west of the medieval town's limits. It is one of a few Byzantine sites still existent in the area.

Hagia Sophia was built in Trebizond during the reign of Manuel I between 1238 and 1263. After Mehmed II conquered the city in 1461 the church was converted into a mosque and its frescos covered in whitewash. During World War I and for a brief period afterward, the city was occupied by the Russian military and used as a makeshift hospital and depot. Afterwards it was put back into use as a mosque, until 1964 when it was turned into a museum - which it remains to this day. From 1958 to 1964 the frescoes were uncovered and the church consolidated with the help of experts from Edinburgh University and the General Directorate of Foundations.

The Hagia Sophia church is an important example of late Byzantine architecture, being characterised by a high central dome and four large column arches supporting the weight of the dome and ceiling. Below the dome is an Opus sectile pavement of multicolored stones. The church was built with a cross-in-square plan, but with an exterior form that takes the shape of a cross thanks to prominent north and south porches. The structure is 22m long, 11.6m wide and 12.7m tall. The late 13th-century frescos, revealed during the Edinburgh University restoration, illustrate New Testament themes. External stone figurative reliefs and other ornamenting is in keeping with local traditions found in Georgia and Armenia. 24 metres to the west of the church is a tall bell tower, 40 metres high. It was built in 1427 and also contains frescoes.

A few miles directly inland up a steep valley accessible only in summer months, is the Altindere National Park - containing 800 species of plant life not found anywhere else in the world.

Hidden in this isolated valley is the 4th century Sumela Monastery, built into the cliff face.

Leon Edgar Books