After meeting a lovely lady on the ferry from Sochi who let me sleep in the spare top bunk in her cabin rather than on seats in the bar with all the male travellers, I arrived in Trabzon, Turkey, with a spring in my step.
Turkey matched my mood. Just an easy 200 metre walk through the old town from the wharf up to my hotel, I was checked in and eating my first free breakfast before I could learn the word for “Hello”.
“Do you want another coffee?”
“Yes please! ”
Turkey is confident and all smiles. Everything feels like it is done with a flourish of bravado and fun! The markets are colourful, the food divine, the people press tea and pour their perfumed cologne water into the hands of strangers and friends alike. . . Here the invoice gets rounded down not up! But don’t let me tell the whole tale already!
I spent two days in Trabzon. Like everywhere in Turkey, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Mongols, Christians and Arabs have left their traces… not to mention the civilisations that came before and the many others mixed up in between and amongst. Turkey is a honey and pistachio layered baklava oozing with peoples and history.
I visited Aya Sofya on a hill overlooking the Black Sea, originally built between 1238 and 1263 as a church and now a mosque; the incredible Greek Orthodox Sumela Monastery clinging to a cliff face in the mountains, also dating from the early 13th century and only abandoned in 1923; and an ornate Italian-designed Russian merchant’s mansion which once hosted Ataturk (the “founder” of modern Turkey) and now houses a museum.
But most of all, I loved just wandering among the sights and smells of the historic bazaar, hunting out ancient mosques among towering old city walls, and soaking up the timeless calls to prayer and the succulent kebabs!