Cities of all seasons
Tied down with a busy day in our newsroom, I received a call informing me about a trip to Turkey organised by Salam Air for which I had to apply for a visa immediately. Thanks to the online application system, I was able to get one within five minutes, following which Salam Air sent me an itinerary for the media fam trip to Trabzon, a city I had never been to. I was going to be among the first fliers on Salam Air’s just launched service from Muscat to Trabzon in the coastal region of the Eastern Black Sea.
Oman’s only budget carrier now flies to Trabzon directly from Muscat four times a week.
A cursory look at the itinerary made it clear that it was going to be a short trip – two days at the most. But I love adventure and travelling is my passion. So even if on short notice, I went for it with much excitement.
We were a group of ten; we met at the airport where I was handed the programme for our stay in Turkey from the time we arrived there till we departed. The airline staff members were caring and friendly, making the three and a half hour flight to Trabzon comfortable.
I have been mesmerised by cities like Istanbul and Ankara for many years but trust me, the first sight of Trabzon as our flight flew in to land was like a dream. Even more so considering the soaring mercury in Muscat where we were flying in from. Trabzon basks in cool, fresh breeze blowing in from the Black Sea.
From the airport, we headed out for Rize, an hour’s drive from Trabzon. A city set in the lap of nature, its stunning shades of green take your breath away. As we drove into town, a light drizzle even as rays of the sun pierced through the clouds made me feel blessed.
Rize – Quaint and green
The welcome we received at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Rize quickly helped me realise that not only is the city blessed with scenic beauty but also residents who are kind and friendly.
It was 5am when I settled into my room after plans were set to meet five hours later to start our brief adventure in Rize.
I had a light breakfast prepared right in front of me – the hotel takes its policy of 'what you see is what you get' seriously. Thereafter, our group was taken around the city for a tour. I loved the fact that the city is not congested; there is no traffic or pollution. At seemed like a city in no rush with its residents going about their lives at their own pace.
Highlights of our tour of the city were a visit to the Palovit Water Falls and lunch at Doga Restaurant in Ayder atop a mountain with a spectacular view of the falls and the tea plantations of Rize.
Art of tea
In Turkey, it is all about tea. More often than not, it’s sipped from small transparent glasses allowing the drinker to admire what they are enjoying. The natives’ lives revolve around tea. After every step you take, a drink of beautiful reddish tea awaits you.
Every facet of Turkish life involves tea; I lost count of how many cups of tea I had that day. There was a cup of tea after every ten minutes.
It had been a long day and I was worn out by evening when we headed back to the hotel to freshen up for a barbecue dinner of Turkish mixed grills. The Turks know how to enjoy food. And, of course, no meal is complete without a cup of tea at the very end.
Uzungol, Trabzon – Picture perfect
The next morning, I skipped breakfast. I chose sleep over food as I wanted more shut-eye to take me through the day until our departure from Trabzon. I checked out from the hotel in Rize and headed to Trabzon, a charming city with great hospitality.
It was a shame we had so little time in the city to explore when clearly a few days spent at a leisurely pace would be the ideal way to see Trabzon.
Trabzon isn’t as popular as other tourist destinations in Turkey but it can serve as a base camp from where one can head out for sightseeing and exploring the Eastern Black Sea region. Currently, few western tourists go in that direction but Middle Eastern tourists are a common sight.
About 40 minutes away from Trabzon city is Uzungol. It has a lakeside mosque and picture postcard forested mountains that one would be forgiven for mistaking for Switzerland. The 'hidden valley' of Uzungol is idyllic with over 2,000 hotel rooms catering to a growing number of visitors from the Middle East.
Summer weekends get very busy, so try visiting during the week. It offers views that are breathtaking with perfect weather in every season throughout the year. It is a place worth visiting at least once in a lifetime.
While at Uzungol, we were taken up a lush green hill where - again - I had a cup of tea as I enjoyed the sights and scenes, followed by a hearty lunch at Ada Restaurant, one of the finest in the city, before heading back to Trabzon airport to catch our flight to Muscat.
When we travel, in most cases we focus on the capitals and bigger cities, but given the opportunity, explore the smaller towns and cities in any country. You won’t regret it.