Culture and history info
Trabzon was founded around 756 BC by Greek colonists from Sinope, who hailed from Miletus. They called their new colony Trapezous, ancient Greek for "table", due to the topography of the central hill, squeezed between two rivers with steep cliffs on both sides. Trabzon has been a major trade centre through history—for long, it was a main port-of-call on one of the main routes between Europe and Persia and beyond, which involved taking a ship across the Black Sea from Romania (and later Constantinople). After the Roman conquest, the city was given a new harbor and a paved road towards Persia. The road fostered trade and cultural exchange, and was used for attacks on the Persian Empire during the Roman and Byzantine periods. After a Turkmen attack on the city was repelled by a local force in the 1080s, the city broke relations with the Byzantine Empire and acted as an independent state. The Mongol sack of Baghdad diverted more trade caravans from Tabriz to Trabzon and the city grew in wealth from the taxes it could impose on trade between Europe, Persia and China. The city traded intensely with Genoa and to a lesser extent with Venice during the early renaissance, with some cultural influences going both ways. During this era, Trabzon was visited by many travellers, Marco Polo being among them.
In medieval times, the city served as the capital of the Empire of Trebizond ruled by the Komnenos family, which also provided several emperors to the Byzantine throne in Constantinople. The longest surviving rump Byzantine state, Trabzon was captured by the Ottoman Turks in 1461, almost a decade after the fall of Constantinople.
During the 18th and 19th centuries Europeans wishing to explore the Caucasus, Iran and the eastern domains of the Ottoman Empire used Trabzon as a point of departure or return. The first world war left deep scars in the city; it lost many of its young male Muslims at the battle of Sarıkamış in 1914, its entire Armenian population in the genocide of 1915, and most of its Greek inhabitants during the population exchange of 1923. Closed borders with the Soviet Union meant that the city could only recover culturally and economically in the 1970s. Trabzon today is a city under reconstruction, but offers many historical, cultural and natural sights. The city constitutes the largest urban metropolitan region of Turkey's Black Sea coast, with nearly 1 million inhabitants. Trabzon functions as the cultural capital of the Turkish Black Sea coast, and its inhabitants are very proud of their city and region.
Trabzon has just returned on the tourist radar, and the city is still investing in tourist infrastructure. Like a few other Turkish cities like Istanbul and Izmir, Trabzon is culturally located somewhat in between Anatolia and Eastern Europe. In the case of Trabzon this is due to the Pontic Mountains, which used to form a cultural barrier. Coming from the Anatolian heartland, it feels like one is entering Europe, while coming from the Caucasus, Trabzon comes across as the first city with Middle-Eastern influences. Tourists who visit Trabzon come mostly from a few countries: nearby Georgia, Russia, the Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Azerbaijan and the Gulf states.