Friday, July 16, 2010


Next stop, Trabzon, Turkey. You've heard of it, right? Neither had I. However, our visit to Trabzon added to our new-found love for Turkey. The second part of the day was so wonderful that I gave it its own post, coming up in a few days.

Remember Mustafa Ataturk from an earlier post on Istanbul? (Read about him in the 4th paragraph of that post.) We started our day at his summer villa. The house was built in 1903 for a wealthy banker and was given to Ataturk when he visited the city once in 1924. (I wish someone would give me a house when I visited.) For all the love it gets from the native people, you'd think Ataturk still lives in the house. In actuality, he hardly ever came here.
There is always, always a souvenir stand--just like in Washington, D.C. The customers here, however, are Turks:
This is Ataturk himself, done up in gold leaf:

On our way to our next stop, we had a view through the bus window of Trabzon Castle in the center of Old Town. Doesn't it look like something that might be in the British Isles?

Our next destination of the morning was the Hagia Sophia, not the huge, famous one in Istanbul, but her little sister in Trabzon. (By the way, "Hagia Sophia," from the Greek spelling, or "Aya Sophia," as it is in Turkish, is not named after a special woman named Sophia. The words actually mean "Holy Wisdom.") Just like her sister in Istanbul, this structure, built in the 13th century, was originally an Orthodox church, then was converted into an Islamic mosque when Turkey was conquered the 15th century, and now is being restored as a museum. The frescoes that the Ottoman conquerors plastered over are being gradually uncovered, and a sense of both rich traditions is present inside.

Fresco of the miracle of the wedding wine:

The Last Supper. Note John the Beloved leaning on Jesus on the far left:

For me, this was a beautiful building, but somewhat spiritless. I missed the feel of it being a place of actual worship, either Christian or Muslim.

In fact, the exterior felt more spiritual for me than the interior. Trabzon's Hagia Sophia is on a bluff overlooking the Black Sea. The view was peaceful and perfect.
There is also a magnificent bell tower that actually never had bells; only the one in Istanbul did. Instead, monks would strike wooden blocks called semantra to call Christian worshipers to prayer. During its time as a mosque, I assume it had a muezzin who sang the call to prayer from the upper windows. I tried to get Bob to do that, but he thought he might get in trouble.

I told a quilter friend that I would like her to create a pattern for me from this gorgeous block of tiles that was in the courtyard. She said she thought I'd better find fabric that looks like it. Isn't it stunning? The blues and greens with a touch of red mimic the surrounding colors perfectly.

On our way back to the bus, I noticed these women with their unwieldy burdens. Women always have burdens, don't they? And yet, they carry them with such fortitude.

This man brought back memories of my German grandmother, who used to embarrass me by sweeping the street in front of our house when she visited. None of my friends' grandmas did that. (I wonder if Oma ever missed her cobblestones? Suprisingly, there were none in front of our house. You'd think my mom could have seen to that.)

We loved this statue of the bold sultan, rather like Lawrence of Arabia on his rearing steed:

Just before lunch we made one last stop at the Ortahisar Buyuk Fatih Mosque, the main mosque of Trabzon, which also began its life as a Christian church. It was so crowded by other city buildings that I couldn't get an outside shot, but the interior was refreshingly quiet. This may be the only mosque we saw that was not covered with ornate tile, which I missed, but I also loved the simplicity.

Close-up of the top right window in the picture above. If I'm remembering what my niece Lisa taught me on our trip in Spain together, I think this stained glass window below is the Arabic script for the word "Allah." You see these same symbols everywhere, particularly the "w" shape followed by the vertical line. (In fact, scroll up to the second photo posted for the Hagia Sophia Church and find it at the beginning of the writing.)
This is the front of the room, where I'm guessing the imam stands to lead the prayer. Anything seem slightly out of place here? Perhaps that grandfather clock on the left? Maybe one of their past imams was long-winded, and this was a subtle hint given to him by the worshipers.

The best part of this simple mosque, however, was the friendly children. They were very anxious to pose for us . . .
. . . and WITH us!

Trabzon, Part 2, is about the Sumela Monastery, one of the most spectacular sites (along with Ephesus and the Acropolis) of our trip. Check back in a few days.


  1. I so enjoy being "transported" back to this land when I read your posts. Thanks.

  2. Fun to re-live it. The best part of the morning were the cute, friendly, Muslim girls. Kids are kids wherever you are.