NOTE FROM CATIE: Michael is a long time friend! It is crazy to think we met one another over 10 years ago now! He is also the one who encouraged me to give up my heavily flavored cream (with a bit of coffee) and to ‘just drink it black.’ It took me a few years longer than he probably would have liked, but now I am a very proud black coffee drinker! Now on to the article…
The best-informed travel guide just might be the person making your coffee. The role of barista has long gone beyond the role of “bartender” like the original Italian might suggest. Baristas are cultural critics, political wonks, and amateur music historians. They know where the best Banh Mi is (which by the way, Catie cutting in here, is a Vietnamese sandwich). They’re probably eating it on their lunch break.
Your barista very likely has a liberal arts degree if not an MFA. Their band has appeared on public radio and opened for some nationally known acts. But more importantly for you, they’ve learned how to craft a perfect cappuccino, and that attention to detail has attracted the city’s top chefs, museum curators, and journalists to their café.
In short, they know people.
(Of course, this is contingent on being in a good, independent coffee shop. I cofounded thecoffeecompass.com to help people find the best cafés around the world.)
Barista knows where the hidden gems are.
They know which sights are overrated, which restaurants are past their prime, and where the queue is too long to make it worthwhile. They’ve already been to the up-and-coming place no one has written about yet.
Lucky for you, your barista will more than likely share a few tips with you— provided you’re a friendly customer and they’re not slammed making drinks.* (Do not— I repeat— do not ask for a travel recommendation in the middle of the morning rush!)
The technique here is very simple.
1. Order a coffee. If appropriate in local culture, leave a tip.
2. Drink said coffee.
3. After you finish your coffee, thank the barista.
4. Mention you are visiting from out of town, and ask if there are any restaurants/bars/museums/ etc you should see while you’re in town.
Mosts of baristas love their cities, and can’t resist showing it off to out-of-towners. More than once, a barista recommendation has had a waiter or bartended asking me, “How did you find us? We don’t get many tourists here.”
NOTE from Catie: I am so happy to have Kelsey guest post about Trabzon, Turkey! I met Kelsey when she was living in Izmir and immediately loved her! She has so much good information about Turkey since she lived here for 5 years! And Trabzon… it’s one of my favorite places! It’s perfect that this lovely gal is writing about a favorite place!
The Black Sea region in Turkey is home to some of the most beautiful coastline and mountains in the country. The Black Sea region of Turkey is home to the Turkish dish pide and Turkish dessert sütlaç. Along this coastline is the city of Trabzon, which both borders the coast and spans deep into the mountains. This article will serve as your ultimate travel guide to Trabzon, Turkey, covering topics such as:
Culture & Geography
Seasons/Weather (i.e. Best time to visit)
Things to Do in Trabzon
Brief Review of our Hotel
Specialty Foods & Desserts
Trabzon Culture and Geography
Trabzon is located in northeastern Turkey along the Black Sea. Black Sea in Turkish means Karadeniz, and Trabzon really has its own culture. The Turks from this region have their own accent, dress and lifestyle. Across the sea from Trabzon are the countries Georgia and Russia.
The culture in the Black Sea region is a conservative one. Turkey is over 99% Muslim and most of the women are covered. Trabzon has seen a rise in Arab tourists lately, so it is common to see women wearing a black burqa with only their eyes or face exposed. However, I did see one lady at the airport wearing flip-flop shoes with her burqa! The Turkish women in Trabzon are covered with a hijab, or a head scarf, but still dress with a variety of color and style. I find the varying degrees of Islamic fashion pretty intriguing.
Transportation in Trabzon
Transportation in Trabzon is relatively easy, as long as you have access to your own vehicle. Flying into Trabzon’s airport, known in Turkish as the Trabzon Havalimanı, is a sight to behold. The runway is parallel to the Black Sea, so you get an amazing view of the city and the sea as you arrive. If you are already in Turkey, you could consider driving but if you are coming from abroad, flying in is the way to go. You will get to road-trip plenty once you arrive, since most of the activities are very spread out from each other!
The airport is located right next to the sea, but most of the things to do in Trabzon are located about 30 kilometers inland. The best option for transportation in Trabzon is to rent a car from the airport. As a foreigner, you can utilize websites like economycarrentals.com or rentalcars.com to book in advance.
Seasons/Weather in Trabzon
The weather in Trabzon varies as the seasons change. The best time to visit is during the spring and fall to avoid the summertime humidity and wintertime cold. Realistically, to be able to see and do everything fully, any season other than winter is a good option. It just depends on your preference for temperature and weather conditions.
Summer (June-August) is humid and warm with temperatures around 26° C. You can definitely explore outdoors during this season.
Fall (September-November) sees a lot more rain and the temperature ranges from 10-20° C. Depending on rainfall, some activities might be less accessible, but it is still a beautiful time of year to go. We went in early October for our anniversary and were very happy with our trip.
Winter (December-February) are cold and wet with a good amount of snowfall. The snow may make some of the roads more difficult to drive on, but it will look like a winter wonderland. Temperatures can drop below 0° C, but average around 5° C during the day.
Spring (March-May) This season fluctuates a bit as winter transitions to summer but you can expect temperatures of 14-19° C and the highest number of clear days.
So, When is the Best Time to Go to Trabzon?
Verdict: For good weather conditions and freedom to explore all that Trabzon has to offer, May is the best month to visit Trabzon.
Things to do in Trabzon
Hagia Sophia Mosque
Visiting the Hagia Sophia Mosque is one of the quickest and best things you can do in Trabzon, because it is an amazing piece of history and has an incredible view. It is easy to get to and doesn’t take more than thirty minutes to explore. The Hagia Sophia Mosque (Camii) is west from the airport and located next to the Black Sea. It was initially built as a church in the 13th century but once the Ottoman Empire was established in the region, this structure was converted into a mosque. It is still open as a mosque today.
Like many Byzantine structures, it has a high dome in the center and is shaped like a cross if you looked at it aerially. There are many frescoes still visible on the ceiling of the Hagia Sophia Mosque depicting stories from the bible. In order to enter the mosque, out of respect, women should cover their hair using one of the complimentary scarves found for guests at the entrance.
There is a small garden behind the mosque which has an incredible panoramic view of the Black Sea. It is a peaceful place to sit and walk around, with a café located nearby to enjoy a glass of Turkish tea.
You cannot have a list of things to do in Trabzon without including Sumela Monastery. Sumela Monastery is a Greek Orthodox Monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is one of the most iconic tourist attractions of the region. Sumela Monastery is located in the Macka district of Trabzon and is about an hour drive from the airport. The drive is lovely as you watch lush green mountain after mountain, eventually seeing rivers and streams as you get closer to Macka.
The day we went to see the monastery was a very misty and cloudy one. We got to the entrance of the national park, which has an 11 TL entrance fee, and made it up the mountain to the entrance of the monastery. There was so much mist that it was not visible! We were a bit bummed, as this was our only opportunity on our trip to see the monastery, but we still enjoyed the national park and thought the mist was cool to see as it sat on top of the mountains.
There is a rest facility and bungalows within the national park at the foot of the mountain where the monastery is located, so there is the option to stay overnight. There is a photo studio that will take your picture in traditional Ottoman garments. We decided to take advantage of the opportunity and for 20 Turkish Liras purchased this photograph.
If you come anytime between May-September, it is likely the monastery will be visible. Since we came in October, there was a good amount of rainfall already and the precipitation was very high. We are excited to return again one day to see Sumela Monastery on a clearer, sunnier day!
Ataturk Köşkü (Ataturk’s Pavilion)
The Ataturk Köşkü, also known as the Ataturk Pavilion, is probably one of the most beautiful museums in Trabzon. We did not have enough time to visit this location, but if we had more time this was next on our list. I want to add it to the list of things to do in Trabzon, because it is a beautiful structure and for a time belonged to the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
This mansion was gifted to Ataturk from the Trabzon Municipality in 1930, but then he donated it back to the Trabzon municipality seven years later, stating no man needed to have so many houses. After his death, it was opened as a museum and is still open to the public today. There are many pictures and belongings of Ataturk still there for tourists to observe. The building is reminiscent of French chateaus and has a beautiful garden around the premises.
Hamsiköy is a small village located in the Maçka district. It has beautiful scenery and is home to the traditional Turkish dessert sütlaç. You will really experience what life in a Turkish village looks like when you visit. Sütlaç is like a rice pudding that is often served with cinnamon or crushed hazelnuts on top. Do you know the Mexican dessert arroz con leche? It is essentially the same thing, so delicious.
Where can you eat this delicious sütlaç in Hamsiköy? At Osman Usta’nın Yeri, who has been in business since 1972. The secret to this delicious sütlaç is that it is cooked for a long time and made from organic, fatty cow milk. Sadly, we did not make it to Hamsikoy, either, but we read such great things about it that we wanted to include it in our list.
Uzungöl rivals Sumela Monastery, as far as best things to do in Trabzon goes. Uzungöl means “long lake” in Turkish and it truly is a long beautiful lake wedged between tall mountains. It is about 1 kilometer long, with a circumference of about 7 kilometers.
This is not located near the other places on the list of things to do in Trabzon. It is about an hour and a half drive, or 100 kilometers, from Trabzon’s city center. It is located in the Çaykara district.
We arrived at night, so we couldn’t see much of the lake, but it was an incredible view to wake up to in the morning. Uzungol has many Arab tourists, which is good to be aware of before arriving. A majority of the women will be modestly dressed. Their cultural norms are quite different than westerners, so behaving respectfully is important, as well.
There are many things to do that revolve around the lake. Firstly, you can enjoy a walk around the lake. If you don’t prefer to walk, you can also rent bikes and bike around the lake. There are many shops, cafes and restaurants spread out around the lake which you can sit at to enjoy some coffee or tea. There is also paddle-boarding on the lake which would be a fun activity as a group or couple.
Hotels in Trabzon
Ilhan Kardesler Apart Otel
This small hotel in Trabzon is located just behind the mosque, which you see upon arriving to Uzungöl. It is quaint, the service is excellent, and the view of the lake from our balcony was lovely. We had a small kitchenette in our room, which was nice. The hotel was clean and had a modern interior design. The bed was very comfortable, which is so important! In the morning, we enjoyed the complimentary breakfast. Complimentary meals are always a great way to save on your food budget while travelling. We often try to book places where breakfast is included.
Specialty Foods & Desserts
We mentioned this delicious Turkish dessert already, as it popularly originates from Hamsiköy in the Trabzon region. Sütlaç is a baked rice pudding made mostly from cow’s milk, sugar, and cream, with just a few additional ingredients. This is a dessert you must try when you visit. You can find it anywhere in the Black Sea region.
Pide is a traditional Turkish food that originates from the black sea region. The pide dough is hand-made, topped with butter, cheese and any variety of ingredients you want. I often just prefer cheese, while my husband enjoys ground beef, cheese, egg and onions on top of his. In the Black Sea region, they really loaded on the butter!
I hope that this travel guide to Trabzon, Turkey inspires your next adventure! Like this post? Save it for later!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Hi there! My name is Kelsey Cetin and I am an American girl from California. I live in Sacramento, CA with my husband, Oguzhan and our dog, Bambi. I was an expat in Izmir, Turkey for about 5 years, where I met and married my husband. We had a big Turkish wedding and my life forever changed once I became a gelin. Although we have relocated to California, Turkey still holds a very dear place in my heart. I love to travel to new places, but going to Turkey will always feel like going home to me.
My hobbies include photography, exercising, spending time with family, and of course, traveling! I love visiting new places, trying local cuisine, and making sweet memories. I recently earned my Masters degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and my “day job” is in Human Resources. I am passionate about creating healthy work environments through organizational development. I am a follower of Jesus Christ and have an intimate relationship with God. This is really the foundation for everything in my life.
I met Jason and Catie in Turkey and absolutely loved Catie’s mission with her blog, YouTube channel and podcast. It inspired me to start, too, and share all the wonder that Turkey has to offer with the world. It is an honor to be featured on her blog now!