While it retains the slightly seedy character peculiar to port towns, most of Trabzon is far too caught up in its own whirl of activity to worry about visitors, and if there’s one impression of the place that people can agree on, it’s the crazy-busy bustle of the fast-paced, hectic city centre, packed solid with cars, taxis, minibuses, idlers, police, parents and pedestrians throughout the day. The buzz can be infectious after enough village calm’n’charm, but if you haven’t yet had your quota of coastal relaxation Trabzon may well make you feel it’s long overdue.
It’s not just the streets that are busy, either: Trabzon is the largest port along the eastern coast, handling and dispatching goods for Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Iran. Russian tourists are also a major import, gradually replacing the swarms of traders and ‘natashas’ (prostitutes) who arrived after the collapse of the Soviet Union. You’ll hear Russian spoken about town and see some shop signs in Cyrillic script.
Most people come to Trabzon to visit the medieval church of Aya Sofya, poke around in the old town, visit Atatürk’s lovely villa on the outskirts, and to make an excursion to Sumela, a dramatic Byzantine monastery carved out of a sheer rock cliff. With good transport connections and plenty of life, it’s a prime stopover for anyone heading east or west.