The Foreign Residents in the TRNC
Trabzon Trip – Days 1 and 2
By Margaret Sheard
Day 1 – Monday, 23rd September 2013
The TFR members who were travelling from Ercan met at the airport and so started our group holiday. Everything went smoothly and we boarded the aircraft to take us on the first leg of our journey to Adana where we were then catching another flight to take us to Trabzon. Again there were no hitches and we were soon flying over Turkey and before long we were touching down on the runway at Trabzon which runs right along the edge of the Black Sea, what a lovely spot for the location of an airport which gave a fantastic first impression of our destination.
We arrived earlier than expected but before long our mini-bus arrived with our guide for the week, Sercan, and driver Ibrahim, who both greeted us warmly and took us to the Novotel Hotel which was to be our base for the holiday. There was no disappointment, it was a lovely hotel with excellent rooms and facilities. Our room on the 5th floor faced the beach and sea, so what more could you ask for. We had been told there was a large shopping mall near the hotel and there it was within 2 minutes walking distance. This was getting better and better. After we had unpacked we strolled over to the shopping mall, which was very large with lots of outlets and a very large supermarket selling everything from foodstuffs to toiletries to household items. There were escalators to the upper floors where there were more shops and many food areas and a brilliant go-kart track for the children who were having a whale of a time speeding around. Maybe this is where the Turkish drivers learn to drive so fast!
We all made our way to our rooms to unpack and unwind and get ourselves ready for our first evening meal as a group. At this time we were joined by 5 more members and friends who had come from Germany and Italy, so we were now all together to enjoy what was to come. I think one thing that pleased us all was that the temperature was lower and it was so nice to have some cool air for a change after the long and extremely hot summer in North Cyprus.
Day 2 – Tuesday, 24th September 2013
After breakfast we all joined our mini-bus for the first excursion of the holiday. The weather was good, sunny and not too hot. First we stopped at Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s summer house on Soguksu Hill, what a beautiful building it was, facing the Black Sea and with lovely gardens. There are now quite tall trees obscuring the view but at the time Ataturk would have been staying there it would have been quite spectacular.
The Pavilion was built in 1890 by an Ottoman citizen. In 1924 Ataturk visited and liked the Pavilion and in 1931 it was given to him as a gift from the people of Trabzon. The last time Ataturk visited was in June 1937 and at that time he made the decision to leave the property to the Turkish Nation. After the death of Ataturk the Pavilion was inherited by his sister, Makbule Hanim and was bought by Trabzon Municipality in April 1943 when it was decorated and opened as the Ataturk Museum.
We wandered around inside the Pavilion and outside in the well laid out garden. Chris wandered off to take some photographs of the gardens and the many varieties of flowers. There was a lot to see in the many rooms, viewing was from the doorways but you could visualise life in this Pavilion all those years ago. This was our first taste of the many places we were to visit and was a very interesting one.
Back on the mini-bus we were able to see and enjoy the lovely landscape of the area. Sercan gave us some information about what we were seeing and that Turkey is split into provinces and this area was Province No. 61. Agriculture and tourism are the main industries of the area and the speciality is hazelnuts which are harvested by hand, no machinery is used. I was struck by how green the area is but then there is no shortage of water with the many rivers and we were told that the temperatures rarely exceed 30 degrees.
We then arrived at our second destination which was Ayasofya Mosque. This was originally a Greek Orthodox Church and the building is regarded as one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture which has survived to this day. In the 15th century the church was converted to a mosque and during World War 1 it was used by the Russian military as a hospital and depot. It was then put back to use as a mosque until 1964 when it was turned into a museum. In July 2013 it was again converted back to a mosque, the paintings have been veiled and the floor covered by a carpet but it is still possible to see the original high central dome at one point in the building.
There seems to be some controversy over Ayasofya being used as a mosque again but it does not alter the fact that this is a beautifully preserved building in a wonderful location close to the sea and just looking at it from the outside makes you realise the skill that went into creating this building all of those centuries ago. Perhaps we should just be thankful that it is still here for present and future generations to see.
Off we went again, this time to visit the area of Boztepe, high up over the city with panoramic views, where the group wandered around and took photographs of the sprawling city below.
I took the opportunity of resting near the mini-bus and got into conversation with a father and his teenage daughter who were from Iran and she told me she had come to Trabzon hoping to get a place at the University but unfortunately the major she wanted to do, English Literature, was not available. I suggested to her that North Cyprus has some very good universities and maybe she should consider trying there and I was surprised when she said it was very difficult dealing with other countries as the world seems to consider Iranians as terrorists. I asked what she was going to do next and she replied that she would probably apply to Ankara. I wished her the best of luck for the future and they moved on. What nice people, the young lady spoke excellent English, they were both extremely polite and it was a pleasure to spend a little time talking with them.
Then it was off to lunch at a seaside restaurant where they served a famous speciality of Akcaabat Meatballs. There were a few of the group who were vegetarian, including myself, and all of the restaurants we visited during the trip did a good job of finding us an alternative.
We then went into the centre of Trabzon where we walked through some of the narrow streets which had a market atmosphere with all sorts of wares being sold and we eventually arrived at a lovely park in the centre where we could have some free time for shopping or just looking around. After a busy day and quite a lot of walking, Chris and I decided to rest our weary legs and sat in the park watching the world go by, which was very pleasant and the change of people who joined us on the same bench from time to time was also nice as we tried to have some sort of conversation with them.
Going to north east Turkey you soon realise the differences to North Cyprus. For us the realisation was that a high proportion of the women were wearing traditional clothing with headscarves and long skirts and while wandering around the market it was noticed that most women were dressed in this fashion. On entering the new modern shopping area more women were seen to be dressed in the European style.
Back to the hotel for a rest, shower, change of clothes and down for dinner at the end of our first day of sightseeing in and around Trabzon.
There are many pictures taken during our travelling day and the first day of sightseeing and these can be seen in the following slideshow.