An Early Morning Tour of Trabzon

Trabzon bench

What do you do when you arrive in a new city at 6:00 a.m. and you can’t yet check into your hotel?

After fueling yourself at McDonald’s, you take a self-guided walking tour of course.

And that is exactly what I did when my bus pulled into the otogar in Trabzon, Turkey at 5:35 a.m., over an hour earlier than I anticipated. Then I arrived at my hotel to find the front door locked. As I sighed in exasperation, the owner of the fruit stand next door knocked on a window to wake someone up to let me in. The sleepy desk clerk told me a room should be ready by noon but as I gave him a really sad, pathetic look, he revised his estimate to 10:00. That gave me at least four hours to kill.

My guidebook was a savior and a nightmare at the same time.

This is one of those times when I was extremely grateful to have a guidebook with me. The hotel had no maps and it was far too early for the tourist information office to be open, so my self-guided tour was made possible 100% by my Rough Guide to Turkey. Ironically, it was also made 50% more difficult by the fact that the map in the book seemed horribly inaccurate and lacking a lot of street names.

I started by walking down a main, yet nondescript, street, looking for what appeared on the guidebook map to be a large mosque and square off to my right. Twenty minutes later, I had reached remains of the old town walls and realized I had gone way too far. So I improvised and decided to find the Gulbahar Hatun Mosque, the most important Ottoman mosque in Trabzon.

Gulbahar Hatun mosque, Trabzon, Turkey

From there, I passed the Zagnos Tower at one end of the city walls and began to cross the Zagnos Bridge when I noticed an enormous park in the ravine down below (I would normally try to provide some fascinating information about the tower and bridge but my guidebook said very little and even a Google search came up empty).

Kuzgun Deresi, Trabson, Turkey

I immediately found the stairs down to the park and spent the next hour or more exploring and taking pictures. Not even 7:00 a.m. with a slight drizzle falling from the cloudy sky, I had the park all to myself.

Kuzgun Deresi, Trabzon, Turkey

Kuzgun Deresi, Trabzon, Turkey

Or at least, I had it to myself until a flock of geese decided to appear to keep me company. And let me tell you, these were some of the most talkative, active geese I have ever seen. I probably spent 15-20 minutes just standing and watching them.

Trabzon, Turkey

Eventually, I moved on, walking up the far side of the park to try to get a closer look at the remains of the Byzantine Palace that towered above. Unfortunately, I discovered that homes have been built all around, and even adjoining, the ruins and old city walls. The closest I got was standing in someone’s garden about twenty feet from the walls.

Trabzon Garden

From there, I backtracked through the park and across the Zagnos Bridge and then to the Tabakhane Bridge. At that point, I tried to follow directions in my guidebook to find the 13th century Yeni Cuma mosque, formerly the Church of St. Eugenius. And while I tried valiantly, I did not end up anywhere near the mosque and somehow instead found myself back in the main square where I started my walk!

Trying to regroup, I headed up a nearby pedestrian street that was supposed to lead directly to the mosque and square I sought earlier. After a lot of wandering, I stumbled upon the mosque, stuck right in the middle of what would normally be a busy bazaar (it was Sunday so even if it wasn’t so early, many shops would be closed). Finally, I made a U-turn back to the main street and out of the corner of my eye, caught sight of the 9th century St. Anne’s Church – which pretty much wrapped up most of the main sites in the city center described in my book.

St. Mary's Church, Trabzon, Turkey

By that point, it was after 10:00 and I was completely exhausted. I was happy to have made the most of my morning to see quite a bit of Trabzon, but it was time for a nap!

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10 thoughts on “An Early Morning Tour of Trabzon”

  1. I will be in Trabzon next month Katie. So looking forward to it. Are you doing Rize and Artvin as well? Have you been to Sumela monastery? If so, whats is it like? Sorry for all the questions but I am so excited to finally be going! 🙂

    1. Hi Natalie! I didn’t make it to Rize or Artvin – I headed to Erzurum and then Kars before going on to Georgia. I did go to Sumela but had horrible luck with the weather – it was quite foggy and drizzly the day I went. Had planned to do a post but my pictures were all pretty lackluster. I was a bit disappointed with Sumela, mainly because the amount that you can actually visit compared to how big it looks is pretty small. That said, the frescoes you do get to see are pretty amazing. Contact Eyce Tours to arrange transportation there – they run vans that go at 10 every day for 25 lira.

  2. Oh this takes me back to too many mornings spent wandering around empty, foggy towns because of ill-timed transit arrival times. It’s admirable that you made the most of the time, despite the (not surprising to hear) inaccurate Rough Guide maps. Rough Guides always seem so flawed!

    1. My Rough Guide for Egypt was great, but the one for Turkey was kind of a pain – a lot of inaccurate maps, which is really frustrating.

  3. I think I’ll be heading to Trabzon during my RTW next year, if I decide to overland from Istanbul to Georgia, as opposed to taking a flight. The park looks gorgeous – Turkish cities are so different from one another, and I love being surprised just walking around a city (Malatya knocked my socks off, it was gorrrrgeous!)

  4. Hi Katie,

    Trazbon (and Istanbul) are the only two cities I’ve ever been to in Turkey – well, from Trazbon I took a bus to Tirebelu – to attend a friend’s wedding. Funny you should be there. How did you like it? Glad you found a McDs!

    Safe Travels!
    Sumbal

    1. I liked Trabzon although it rained most of the time I was there. 🙁 Without the rain I probably would’ve liked it more!

  5. Hi Katie,

    It’s Jallay from Melbourne, Australia and we met in Trabzon on the tour bus to Sumela Monestry. You helped me by taking my photos so thanks for those as I really do treasure them. I ended up staying in Trabzon longer than expected and was fortunate enough to travel through Rize onto a wonderful mountainous town called Ayder. We had snow capped mountains and swiss bungalows to stay in. I might as well give the bungalows a plug here now (if you don’t mind) as they really was senssational and the scenery was magnificent. http://www.ayderkardelen.com/

    I remember you were moving on to Georgia after we met so I’d be keen to hear what you thought of that as I will be back that way again next year and am thinking about this time jumping over the border.

    I hope you are well. Jallay

  6. My wife and I are arriving in Trabzon on 21 Sep aboard the Oceania Nautica. I have had no luck in arranging a tour of the Highlights with a small group… travel guide. Could you possibly help us out with a contact?

    Thank you sincerely

    1. I went to Sumela Monastery outside of Trabzon with Eyce Tours (info@eycetours.com). Not sure if they do just city tours, but you can ask.

      Otherwise, Trabzon is pretty walkable and with a good guide book (I used the Rough Guide for Turkey) or map, you can probably self-guide yourself and see most everything.

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