For the Westerner in Trabzon the problem is orientation. This ancient Black Sea port, where Xenophon rested after the Anabasis, has nothing classical about it now. Except for the Turkish and Russian signs, you might be in a flyblown French provincial town. And where are the Asiatic Turks? So many passers-by have blond or red hair and blue eyes, with features that are more European than Levantine. You are in an Islamic country and yet you are not. The local mosques are obscured, indeed all but buried, in the profusion of tacky new breeze-block construction. These unfaced red boxes even scar the inland villages, up among the peaks and valleys.
Only a few tourists gather outside the Hotel Usta but they have not come to see Trabzon; buses will take them up into rocky foothills behind the coast where the ruined Byzantine monastery of Sumela clings to a cliffside in the mist. As for the port itself, there is a boom-town air about the place, currents of bustle and dust. People hurry along, preoccupied, mostly ignoring the thin scattering of foreigners.
Meydan Square in the center of town is a concrete expanse with trees, the usual cafe, and a statue of Atatürk. Here the locals relax, do business, and make assignations with the prostitutes who have come down route 20 from Georgia to make money on the fringe of the Western world. Recently Time magazine featured these women in a report on international sex; they are called Natasha Yatasha, from the Turkish yatak, which means bed. (Every Turk I speak to in Trabzon seems to know about this Western spurt of notoriety. Most are sarcastic about it.)