My guidebook describes Trabzon as a “love it or leave it” city on the Black Sea. After my weekend there, I definitely fall into the “love it” category. Somewhere between enjoying my first bite of misir kuymagi (a scrumptious local delicacy) and gazing upon the glowing face of Ataturk that illuminates the hillside after dark, Trabzon captured my heart.
We arrived in Trabzon somewhat later than expected, but managed to join the other Fulbrighters we were meeting for a late breakfast. Along with the traditional kahvalti trappings, D.L., the local Fulbrighter and our generous host for the weekend, ordered misir kuymagi, the aforementioned scrumptious local delicacy. Misir kuymagi is essentially cheesy grits, and while I cannot say that I have ever really enjoyed grits before, there is a first time for everything. Leave it to me to embrace my southern roots while in Turkey.
The other famous culinary offerings of Trabzon are hamsi (anchovies) and akcaabat kofte (garlic-y meat balls). We had to substitute mackerel for anchovies since the restaurant where were ate dinner was out of hamsi, but one small fish is as good as another for a girl from landlocked Kansas. Despite the infinite number of tiny bones in the mackerel, it was delicious.
I suppose that I should mention that in addition to food, Trabzon is famous for its distinctive woven silver jewelry and Trabzonspor, which was the first of just two football teams from outside of Istanbul to win the Super Lig (which I guess is like the Turkish Superbowl).
The tourist highlights of Trabzon include the Aya Sofya Church, the Black Sea, and Russian girls. We enjoyed 2 of the 3.
The Aya Sofya Church was built in the 13th century and is a fine example of Byzantine architecture, sporting an impressive dome, New Testament frescoes, and Viking graffiti (seriously). The church has seen many incarnations, from church to Russian weapons depot to museum. Today, it is a working mosque.
We walked back from the Aya Sofya to the city center via the Black Sea coast. In Trabzon, the coastline is rocky, and it reminded me strongly of the coastline along Lake Superior’s North Shore. Despite the gray sky and the cool air, it was a lovely walk.