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Today Trabzon’s pretty red-tiled timber houses have been replaced by concrete hotels; packhorses and persimmon trees have made way for taxis and tarmac. Sir Denis Wright, vice consul here during the Second World War, looks back with affection over his unforgettable years in this once-isolated Black Sea Port. Photographs by Simon Upton
In 1830 the British government, anxious then as now to promote exports, established a consulate in Trabzon. This was their quick response to the opening the previous year of the Turkish Black Sea ports to foreign shipping, under the terms of the Russo-Turkish Treaty of Adrianople (Edirne).
Hitherto British merchants trading with northern Persia had preferred the Georgian Black Sea ports of Redout Kale and Poti for the onward forwarding of their goods via Tiflis to Tabriz, then Persia’s main commercial centre. But the ancient caravan track from Trabzon through Erzurum to Tabriz was considerably shorter than the difficult trans-Caucasian route, and had the additional advantage of running entirely through friendly Ottoman territory at this time of strained Anglo-Russian relations.
Thus it was that in 1830 James Brant, already established as a merchant in Izmir, was appointed vice consul in Trabzon, on a salary of £200 a year and with the declared objective of “the making of Trebizond a depot for the Persian trade”.
Sir Denis Wright died in May 2005
Outside the seraglio, away from the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie, the Turkish interior is a source of inspiration for modern designers: ergonomic, minimalist, refreshingly white-washed.
Beyond the towering Black Sea Mountains lies a hidden landscape rich with forgotten medieval churches. For centuries they were ignored, their ancient glories allowed to crumble to dust. Before new roads reached the Coruh Valley, Brian Sewell had to enlist the help of shepherds on his quest to find these forerunners of Romanesque and Gothic architecture.
In the rain forests of Turkey’s Black Sea Mountains, where jackals howl and the River Firtina (the Storm) crashes towards the Black Sea, live the Hemşinli people, who were here when Jason came in search of the Golden Fleece. In more recent years they prospered as bakers and restaurateurs in Tsarist Russia, returning to their beautiful, haunting country houses hidden in the hills east of Trabzon. Patrica Daunt visits one family and shares their memories of a Chekovian rural life.
Also see Cornucopia 34, Land of a Thousand Mansions
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