This past week was Spring Break for our children. We had decided awhile back to use some of those days to visit Trabzon, on the Black Sea Coast.The landscape is very different from what you see in Istanbul. Trabzon is a much smaller city and it’s set right against the mountains that border the Black Sea.
We arrived in Trabzon on Monday afternoon. Our plan was to visit Sumela monastery on Tuesday and then do another tour of the area on Wednesday, leaving us with Thursday to explore the city of Trabzon. That’s what Stephanie arranged with the people at the front desk of our hotel, Novotel.
Tuesday morning we received a phone call confirming we were going to Uzungol. No, we’re going to Sumela. OK.
Then another call a little later saying we didn’t have to be down there at 10am. We would be picked up at 10:20am. OK.
When we got down to the reception area we were told that our tours were being flipped. We would go the monastery tomorrow but go to Uzungol today and that the van wouldn’t be coming until 10:30am.
I was thinking it was all very Turkish.
We got on the van with several couples: a young Turkish couple who sat in the front with the driver, then two couples with the women wearing niqabs, and one with a woman wearing a headscarf. I make note of this only because I could count on one hand the number of women (including my wife) who were not wearing niqabs or headscarves. For those of who who don’t know, niqabs cover every part of a women with the exception of the eyes and hands. It’s a popular form of Islamic dress in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arabian peninsula. In fact, there were a lot of women staying at our hotel wearing niqabs.
Our first stop on the tour was this knife shop. No explanation.
I didn’t buy a knife. Then back in the van we went for a ride.
We stopped at the Ozcay Koop. We were given complimentary tea. It was good tea.
Next to the entrance was this window filled with tour company labels.
Just as I was finishing my tea it looked like a tour of the plant was commencing. So I finished my tea and the four of us joined the group on a tour of the tea-processing plant. It looks defunct. It probably is. I couldn’t tell you anything about the place because the tour was conducted in Turkish and Arabic.
This is apparently a very important part of the tea-making process.
Oh, and this, too.
We boarded the bus after the incomprehensible tour and rode awhile where we stopped at a small bridge (Kiremit Bridge) to take pictures.
Then we stopped at this nice lake to take some pictures.
Then back on the bus to the tiny town of Uzungol. I have no idea why this town is important and has tour buses shuttling tourists to it every day. It’s not so much a town as a construction site.
It’s set in the mountains with a small lake. After we got off the bus and headed to a restaurant to eat, Stephanie motioned to the young Turkish couple walking away from the group and said, “So much for our guide.” The young man had been the one who, after speaking with the driver, would tell everyone in English how many minutes we had at each stop.
“That’s not our guide,” I said.
“No. We don’t have a guide. He just speaks enough English to tell us when to get out and for how long.”
We ate lunch at a restaurant outside next to the lake. This was our view. It’s a very pretty setting for a town.
Afterwards we looked into renting bikes but the ones they had for the kids were too small and they didn’t have any tandem bikes. So we explored a little bit, finding a waterfall.
Henry covered his ears when we took his picture because the waterfall was so “loud.” He’s a very silly kid.
Meredith didn’t want her picture taken in front of the waterfall. But she did find a flower.
When we returned to the hotel Stephanie called the Trabzon Tourist Agency, asking about a tour of Sumela. After talking for a few minutes we had a tour organized for the next day that would take us to the monastery and back. No extra stops, but no English-speaking guide. Why no guide? Because it’s the off-season and there aren’t any English-speaking guides around. Which explains why we did not have a guide for our tour.