We have arrived on the Black Sea coast in Trabzon at around 8 am after an 18 hour bus ride from Istanbul. Inspite of that, we feel fresh as the bus ride has been very comfortable to say the least. 2-3 names of hotels and guest houses have been shortlisted to stay in Trabzon. Ask for help with wifi for directions and one restaurant owner at the Otogar (Bus stand) enables the same.
We start walking in the direction as indicated on google maps. Little tired as its been more than 30 odd hours since we have been on the road (Left for the Delhi airport at 1 am last night) and the cold wind of Trabzon doesn’t help matters either. The sun finally comes in our direction as we spot 2 Lokantasis (local eateries) full of people with the sun streaming through the windows giving it a feel of real warmth.
Enter inside the second lokantasi and are lucky that a table has just become available. There is no menu as such and we ask for vegetarian options, the owner is very helpful and kind and announces to the entire restaurant when we greet him saying we are from Hindistan! He asks us to go to the kitchen and order anything that we like.
Çorba – lentil soup (6 TL per bowl). He orders 2 different types of vegetarian Çorba for us. It is served in huge bowls and is super tasty. Many varieties of freshly baked breads are laid out in a bowl in front of us. We eat to our heart’s content. The lentil soup tastes amazing in the cold weather. We also realise it is a staple for the Turks in the winter months as almost everyone else in the restaurant is having some version of çorba only.
Delicious çay (tea) is served after we are done with eating. The owner doesn’t take money even after we try our best. Thank him graciously for the tasty food and greet everyone in the Lokantasi before leaving.
We continue on our walk to the hotel / guest house in Esentepe Area. Feel much better now with food in our bellies. As we reach close to the Tahir Aga Konagi Guest House, we are pleasantly surprised by the aroma of freshly baked bread. Fresh simit from the oven at a small bakery. Tasty and warm, crispy and yummy for only 1 TL per piece.
Tahir Aga Konagi Guest House in Trabzon
Tahir Aga Konagi is an old family run boutique homestay established in 1890. It is a beautiful heritage building with antiques and other knick-knacks kept as decoration in the common area. We enter the building and ask for the price of a double room at the reception. Staff shows us a room on the top floor, it is bathed in sunshine and has a view of the gorgeous alfresco sitting area. Room is a bit small but comfortable and has all the facilities we need, and is centrally heated as well.
Other rooms at Tahir Aga Konagi are bigger but are located on the other side and therefore even colder. We have already mentioned at the reception that we could like a ucuz (cheap) room! Price quoted 180 TL. We settle for 150 TL including kahvalti (breakfast) that is served in the common area near the reception. Effectively we check-in at around 930 am.
From the main road we can see the Black Sea with snowy mountains in the far distance! Super surprised to see this sight. We chose Tahir Aga Konagi Guest House as it is conveniently located in Trabzon and is not very far from the Otogar. Most of the other options were located on the Black Sea Coast, were away from the town and would have required a mode of transport for us to roam around all the time.
Sleep for 2 odd hours. Centrally heated room, very cosy and fluffy bed and quilt. Have a shower after waking up. Feel nice and fresh after the relaxed sleep. Love the warm water in the taps that comes effortlessly in hotels everywhere across Turkey. After the sleep, when we go to the reception – Staff suggests walking in the opposite direction to the Meydan.
The most important sight in Trabzon – Sumela monastery (built in 386 AD) is closed for restoration. We are sad but happy to know this fact in advance, otherwise Sumela Monastery is at least 1 hour away from Trabzon and would have created a lot of trouble for us to go and find it closed.
As we start walking on the road, we spot autumn colours on the road itself, leaves are in an crimson-orange colour. Head to Uzun Sokak street. Randomly discover the popular Trabzon Pide on seeing a crowd gathered at Ertugrul Pide. Trabzon is well known across Turkey for Ekmek (corn bread) that looks like a huge half football.
Walk inside Ertugrul Pide and get peynir pide recommended. Chef making fresh pide in the stone oven as per the orders. Love the aroma! Upstairs sitting area, 15TL for a freshly baked peynirli pide. So so tasty, made with cheese and butter. Many varieties of pide all freshly made on order, ranging from 15 to 25 TL. Locals having 1 pide each with extra butter given separately and eating with gusto. As it is nearly lunch time, a lot of pide are getting packed as well. Hectic scenario, love it!
Mostly male customers in the entire seating area, very surprised to notice that. A woman serving tea and taking orders in the restaurant. An English speaking Turkish man on the next table tells us the right way of eating the pide is while sipping chai. Order çay too! For a change, çay is not complimentary and is charged at some 2 TL for a big cup. Enjoy the conversation with him, finish the pide, use the free WC and head out for walks in Trabzon.
Kestane (roasted chestnuts) on the street, 5 TL for 100 grams. Half price of what we get in Istanbul and the quality is even better! We are on Uzun Sokak street which is like a shopping street. Since it is our 1st destination in Turkey, check sim card shops TurkCell, Turk Telekom etc but see that the cost is coming to more than 250 TL for 18 days. Sim card cost 110 TL. Decide to not buy any sim card and rely on freely available wifi.
Go to Koton store on Uzun Sokak Street. Buy 1 sweat shirt for 50 TL. Have carried minimal clothes from India and figure that the space of oranges can be used for keeping clothes. Meet cool sales people at a nearby cosmetic shop. Bollywood and Hindi movies, they love it! Indirim on Clinique products if the bill is over 300 TL, 100 TL indirim (discount). Great offer. They understand and speak perfect English so I show them my research about Trabzon.
They recommend eateries etc and confirm that Sumela monastery is definitely closed and that it didn’t make sense for us to go there. Walk around the Uzun Sokak Street, very lively and fashionable maybe because of Christmas approaching. Almost every shop has an indirim sign.
Beton Helva – Dondurma (milk flavour recommended) 2.5 TL, Helva Classic (10TL) & Turk Kahvesi (7TL). Seating upstairs in a nicely designed café space. Cute cup and tray with table. Beautiful setting and some old ladies also eating helva. Good dondurma for the price, helva is ok because the quantity is a lot and the server has given us only one flavour although we had asked for a mix of the 5-6 different flavours on offer. Seemed like a mix of tahini and almond flavour, and tasted similar to soan papdi in India at Haldirams.
Could only finish half the helva (funnily enough ate the last bite of it in Delhi after coming back) as it was tucked away in some corner of the day pack and we thought it was over! Saw big sale indirim signboard at LC Waikiki, locals going crazy. Turkey has excellent quality fashionable clothes at very reasonable prices and from our past visit we were very happy with the clothes brought at LC Waikiki.
In an inexplicable turn of events, we went crazy and shopped for 2 hours! We don’t even realise when it is already evening! Buy 7 items and get a tax free bill that would enable to get us around 4-5 percent return at the airport. Dark when we get out of the LC Waikiki store.
Surprised at our own behaviour of buying things to carry back to India from the first city that we visit on this 18 day Turkey trip. Decide to be a bit more practical from now on. The collection at stores in Trabzon is really good though and we are happy to buy these clothes at reasonable prices.
Ask locals for recommendation on where to eat? Directed to CemilUsta, best eatery in the entire Meydan area and has a convenient location too. Interior seating and outdoor seating as well. Bit of a fine dine place, 2-3 floors, meshur, right in market centre. Eat Akçaabat Kebap or kofte (famous locally) and salad. Bit expensive but still reasonable compared to a fine dine in Istanbul or any other bigger city.
The server is a happy and polite gentleman, welcomes us when we tell we are from Hindistan. Rice and bread comes complimentary. Very very happy with the food. Tasty and quantity also excellent. Around 25-30 TL total bill. The staff doesn’t ask for complimentary çay, and we also forget!
Walk back to the hotel, glad at our choice of Tahir Aga Konagi Guest House. Around 10 minute walk. Remember our way from the morning, even though the area is almost dark now with no crowds. Cold breeze blowing. Quite tired, long day for sure. Go to the open air garden at the Guest House to chill for a bit. Nice lights and setting. Magic of small heritage places to stay.
The Guest House is a family run sort of place with 2-3 staff. Autumn leaves are blowing and the aroma of wood being burnt is present since the area is a residential colony. Fill our water bottles from the filter and go back to our room. Write diary entry for the day and sleep like little babies. Warm and cozy, heated room. So we keep a small part of the window open so that it doesn’t become too hot.
Wake up to a warm sunny day after a fabulous sleep. Have tea and coffee in the room from the mixes provided. Another point about even the simplest hotels in Turkey is that tea, coffee, kettle and cups are always provided in the room. Also, usually there will be a separate kettle for Turkish tea in the reception area from where you can take your fill of çay throughout the day.
Go for breakfast in common area. Have olives, oranges, eggs, varieties of jam, breads, choco hazelnut, çay and Turkish coffee as well. If there were more guests, the breakfast spread would have been larger. We head to the open air area and just chill for a bit. Have a bath, pack, check out from the room and leave our bags at the hotel to be picked up in the evening. Our plan is to catch a bus to Van (around 8-9 pm).
Walk to Dolmus point near Meydan to ask about the shared taxi to Aya Sofya Muzesi and spot the Metro Turizm bus company office. Kamil Koc, Ulusoy and other bus companies etc don’t run buses to Van. So Metro bus seems like the only choice that we have. They have a 2+1 bus at 9 pm and seats are available. 150TL is the quoted price, and we settle for 140TL – pick-up is free from the booking office to the Otogar. So that saves us a fair bit of walking with our backpacks and we can conveniently have dinner before leaving.
Dolmus 2.5 TL for Aya Sofya Muzesi, dropped at the right place near crossroad of Cami (mosque). Dolmus passes through beautiful parks, autumn colour leaves, stunning views of the black sea on a clear sunny day. Spot a local fruit and vegetable market on the way to Aya Sofya Muzesi.
Love checking and tasting the excellent quality fresh vegetables and fruits, honey, sirke, dry fruit sellers, breads etc from many regions. Buy dry anjeer (10TL for 200 grams) – huge size and very tasty, shehtoot (mulberry) 4.20 TL(for 200 gram box), and walnuts (7TL for 100 grams) from 1-2 local vendors.
Buy Oranges 1kg for 2 TL. Taste multiple dry fruits. Finally after our perusal of the market is over, head to Aya Sofya Muzesi. 13th Century and very historic. Shut due to restoration. Little disappointed.
Aya Sofya Müzesi – Aya Sofya Müzesi (Museum) is the most important historical building in Trabzon. It was a former Greek Orthodox church that dates back to the 13th century and was converted to a mosque in 1584. It is located close to the Black Sea, and is considered a beautiful example of Byzantine architecture.
Not sure what to do, so sit and enjoy the views of the exterior from the museum cafe in the outdoors. Blue tiles on the walls and views of the Black Sea, autumn colours, sunshine and breeze, Turkish çay. Also free WC. Start walking back. Glad we spent some time browsing through the products at the local street market.
See a Tekel (alcohol) shop and buy dry red wine bottle for 35 TL (quoted 40 TL for the same), old uncle gives. Notice that the prices for wine in Turkey have increased around 8-10 TL per bottle since the last trip in 2018. Ask for dolmus point for Uzun Sokak street. It is around 1230 pm and since it is the only address we know – makes sense to head there itself and enjoy lunch at another recommended place. Find dolmus and grab the front seats.
Lunch at Çardak Pide, most famous restaurant for pide in Trabzon – recommended as the best pide in town! Sit in the alfresco area, cloudy sky now and a little cold but don’t want to sit in the heated interiors. Servers are young, one guy sends a girl employee who likes watching Hindi soaps and bollywood movies etc! Interact with her and order a mix pide – half veg and half non-veg, comes with ample butter!
Amazing taste. People smoking Nargile (sheesha). It is a hectic place and almost everyone is having 1 pide each. It is quite heavy on the tummy and we wonder how is everyone able to eat an entire pide! Some pide are round ones. Çardak Pide is full of locals dining, old men and families playing cards on the table etc. Gave the serving lady masala chai that we had carried from India. Served delicious complimentary çay after asking for bill! 21TL only!
Go back to the market. Recommended Laz Boregi at Helvacilar shop. Tell from Hindistan so the owner makes us taste 2 types of baklava that was yum (for free)! Laz Boregi 5TL for a piece and tasted ok ok, not great. Saw a local hamami and asked the price for a full hamam treatment (oil massage, soap massage and bathing) for 90-100 TL. Much much cheaper than Istanbul. Instagram calligraphy shop in Trabzon market, really pretty stuff. Think about buying but decide not to buy because don’t want to get into space constraints. Amazing diaries with calligraphy covers.
Go to Bedesten – old covered market. Nice old stuff but some shops felt out of place and a little touristy. Copper utensil maker, prices are quite reasonable for the fine quality stuff. Amazing cafe with antique collection – Bezmigah. Turkish music playing, locals and tourists chilling over cups of Turkish çay and Turk Kahvesi (Turkish coffee), pretty kilims hanging on walls! Love the interiors, think about sitting and check the menu. Super expensive!
From Bedesten, enter a different area of the market, coffee beans crusher is very cute and small, made of copper. Pretty and at 5-7 TL is a steal. 60 TL for coffee set with a tray etc. Reasonably priced but we have already decided to not buy anything. Cute stools, wish we can carry back to India for the balcony at home!
Meet Hasan, dry fruit shop owner. He is fascinated with Hindistan. Offers chai, we gladly accept. He is a cool guy, owner of a dry-fruit shop and staff also comes to chat with us. Share stories from India and Turkey travel with him and laugh over the incidents. Cold weather now, sort of evening at 3-4 pm and breeze blowing. Taste dry fruits from shop and discuss prices so that we know the right price to buy before leaving for India.
Çarši Cami (Mosque) in old market. Stunning roof design. Spot another proper local hamam for Bay (men) next to the mosque. The man at the Hamami – Google translates Turkish to English and quotes 75 TL for the entire hamam experience! So reasonable. Want to experience it but time is limited, we dont have a hotel room now and a bus to catch to Van in the night. Decide to experience a local Hamam in the latter part of the trip when our bodies are tired.
Walk past carpet shops and enquire about prices. Kasmir Hali, very big carpet shop. The best woven carpets priced as high as 40000 TL. Some nice ones at 4000 TL. 5-6 pm. Walk back to the main square of Uzun Sokak and back to Tahir Aga Konagi to pick our luggage. Try to find the Lokantasi where we had our first breakfast right after arriving in Trabzon – to give 2 masala chai packets to him as a thank you note, but unable to find it. Maybe it is closed in the evening. 🙁
At the Guest House, ask if we can sit in the garden and for wine glasses. Staff is ok with it! Enjoy a lot and relax too. 1 glass red wine each and pack the remaining bottle in our day pack. Take our bags, thank the staff and walk to Metro Turizm Office, pick up van will come at 815 pm, we keep our bags there and tell him we will be back at the office by 8.
Decide to head back to CemilUsta for dinner. Speak to the same staff and greet him, the guy is very happy to see us and makes us meet the manager! Offers complimentary tea and 4 pieces of complimentary baklava. Comparatively less crowded today.
Don’t want to have heavy dinner since its an overnight bus journey. Recommended Kuymak (1 dish among the 2 of us – cheese with cornflour for 20 TL). Served with bread and complimentary pilav. Delicious and perfect for 2 of us as it is quite heavy on the palate. Very thankful to the manager.
Notable facts about Trabzon
Trabzon is Turkey’s leading grower and exporter of hazelnuts. For football enthusiasts, Trabzon is home to the famous football team Trabzonspor.
A must-try local dish is kuymak, it is a sort of cheese fondue made with butter and cornflour. Eaten with bread, this dish is of moorish origin.
Laz Boregi, a dessert with layers of filo pastry is locally popular – of the indigenous Laz people of Trabzon.
Black cabbage grows in abundance around Trabzon and is widely used in salads and soups.
Pide is a national dish eaten all over Turkey. The Trabzon version is topped with an egg and is undoubtedly the best pide in Turkey.
Walk back to metro office and relax there itself. Shuttle bus comes at 820 pm for pick up and drop to Trabzon Otogar. Board 9 pm bus to Van. Trabzon-Erzurum-Van written on the bus signboard. Very excited.
Bus guys smoking in moving bus. Difficult night, not a good experience with Metro Turizm bus. Multiple tunnel crossings. Road not as good as usual roads in Turkey. Got only tea, no snacks in the bus. Erzurum Otogar stop in night, frozen cold. Brrr cold, snow on the road. Start of barren landscape. (2 am).