Trabzon II: Churches and Sunsets

The thing about taking a random Georgian marshrutka is you never know exactly where you will be dropped off unless you have taken it to the destination previously. I tried to memorize the map of the city as best I could. And in reading other travel blogs, I knew I wanted to end up in the city center. But that’s NOT where I was dropped off. The helper asked me, didn’t understand me, then we compromised on “Parki” (because the city center was indeed a park). So he had the driver stopp at a U-turn lane on the highway, drop me off and pointed up a hill- “Parki!”   …okay.

I wouldn’t say I’m the typical mancho dude. I don’t think I conform to the stereotypes. But I do HATE asking for directions. I would much rather rely on my internal sense of direction. Which I must say is usually pretty good. I walked up this ‘hill’.

Trabzon is a city between the Black Sea and a mountain range. It appears that as it expanded, they simply cut into the mountains and continued to build. There are steep retaining walls and terraces everywhere. I walked up this steep hill that winded me from the effort. I got to a smallish park that was packed with people. I didn’t see any of the tell-tale signs of this being the ‘right’ park, though. I saw a tourist center (one of the tell-tale signs that I didn’t observe), but it was closed for the weekend. Fail! How can the tourist center be closed on a weekend? Whatever.

I decided to regroup and walk back down the hill to another park I noticed by the sea. When I got there, I remembered I had saved the map on my iPad. I went to a vendor to ask where we were and where was the park I wanted. He briskly told me upfront, he DID NOT speak English, and promptly tried to service the next costumers. Ouch. But I wasn’t deterred. He action was not a blemish on Turkish culture or hospitality; I have seen such actions, if not worse, in the States. He simply didn’t want to deal with an oblivious foreigner that doesn’t have a clue. Got it. But fortunately the girls who were next in line were keen to assist me (and they were of such which made the vendor rethink trying to help me, too). Apparently the park I was looking for WAS up the hill. Great.

I went to the policeman beside the tourist center and showed him my iPad, and he said that this tiny park was indeed the park I was looking for. He pointed over to the mosque, which was the REAL tell-tale sign I was looking for.

In reading about Trabzon, things to do, places to see, and hotels, to gauge the prices of things, I came across a pretty wide spectrum of prices. That could be attributed to the dates (pre 2013) or the time of year (tourist season). So I will throw in my two cents about current (May 10, 2014) pricing.

I stayed at Otel Benli, which is behind the mosque. Also behind the mosque is Otel Nur, which looks and is reportedly more expensive than Otel Benli. Otel Benli is a no frills hotel. One would call it economy class. I got a single room that consisted of a single bed, towel, a sink and a table. The toilet and the shower were in the hall. They asked for 25 TL, but I haggled down to 20. I think I could have bargained for less. In my readings, they said single rooms were from 10-20 TL. The next morning, I had planned to look at their double rooms, and go over and scope out Otel Nur, but I had to prepare for a tour. They had wi-fi. It was a little noisy at night outside due to the bus stop right outside the hotel. It’s not a GREAT hotel. It’s clean, hot water, helpful staff. But you get what you pay for.

Once I put all my gear down, I wanted to make the most of the rest of the day. I found a bus to Aya Sofya. Again, the driver stopped ‘near’ the Aya Sofya and pointed in the direction I should walk. …Okay.

Aya Sofya

Aya Sofya

The Aya Sofya is a Byzantine Era Church (Hagia Sophia) that was converted to a mosque after the Ottoman conquest. It was a beautiful building set on a hill overlooking the Sea. I was glad I didn’t have to hike a mountain to get to it. Everyone is unhappy about the designation of the building. It is currently a museum. Which makes Muslim community angry, and the Christians think that if there are changes that are to be made, then change it back to a church. I must say from a historical standpoint, when they made it into a mosque, they installed a drop ceiling that conceals the beautiful artwork in the dome of the building. Bad move.

DSCN5412

I didn’t want to take a wrong bus to god knows where from the Aya Sofya, so I simply walked North in the direction of my hotel. After passing some cool local spots, I reached the city center again. I saw a sign for my next destination, Boztepe Park, but wanted reassurance. My hotel clerk said, “Just walk up the road” …Okay.

If I didn’t mention this before, Turkey is a beautiful country. They have done a wonderful job of mixing the old structures with the new living spaces in an environmentally friendly way. My hotel had to have been built in the ‘20s but they had installed motion sensors for all the lights. Love that! Walking up the ‘hill’, I passed park after park, but none gave me the sense of a “must see” destination. But the further I walked up the ‘hill’, the more it became a mini mountain. I was sweating my ass off after maybe 20 minutes of walking. I then saw how high this mini mountain actually went. I thought about hailing a bus to take me the rest of the way, but decided instead to keep the adventurous spirit. And besides, if the park is all it was talked up to be, then it would be a pleasant end to an arduous hike.

I finally got near enough to the top of the mini mountain that I could overlook the city. That gave me a taste of what I was in store for. I got to a car park overlook. I knew this wasn’t it. No one mentioned a car park. But behind it was a café, with outside seating. I decided that I would sit here and read (I brought a book for this very occasion) as the sun set. The waiter knew enough English to take my order. They didn’t serve food, which was a bummer. After ordering just water and Turkish tea, I asked him where I could get food. He pointed to the car park, and also to a restaurant a little further up the mountain.

I decided to go to the restaurant to treat myself. And I am so glad I did. The view was gorgeous. They had little cabanas for private groups scattered all throughout the woods on the property. This restaurant had a commanding view of the city, the sea, and the surrounding mountains. And I got there just in time for a beautiful sunset.

DSCN5432

The walk back was a breeze as always compared to the walk up. When I got back to the hotel I was spent. I had thought about going out again to try and find a dance club. But that idea died almost immediately. I crashed.

***

Well, since my baby left me,
I found a new place to dwell.
It’s down at the end of lonely street
at Heartbreak Hotel.

Heartbreak Hotel, Elvis Presley

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