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MAÇKA

MackaNestling at the foot of the mountains beside a river, the small Black Sea town of Maçka, southeast of Trabzon, should be beautiful but isn't. Instead, it's a rather familiar string of concrete apartment blocks designed with no regard for the surrounding environment.

Why would you come here?

No reason really, except that it's home to two hotels and a pension that make possible alternative bases for people wanting to visit the Sumela Monastery without staying in Trabzon. You can also hire taxis here to explore the surrounding countryside, including the ruins of the two lesser-known monasteries of Kuştul and Vazelon and of the abandoned village of Santa (roads to these sites may be poor especially after rain)

Unfortunately, the road from Trabzon to Maçka is no more inspiring despite occasional mentions of the İpek Yolu (Silk Road) on signs. It follows a fast-flowing river but the only fleeting signs of beauty are a single graceful humpbacked bridge to the left of the road and the strange rock formations, vaguely reminiscent of the Giant's Causeway in Ireland just to the right of the entrance to Maçka Tunnel and damaged in the process of building it.

Otherwise, the fact that one of the factories along the way is decorated in Trabzonspor football club's popular blue and maroon livery hardly makes up for the industrial dereliction.

Sleeping

Prices are not much lower than in Trabzon but at least you get some mountain air thrown in.

Hotel Büyük Sumela. Tel: 0462-512 3541, www.sumelaotel.com

Maçkam Otel. Tel: 0462-512 3641, www.mackamotel.com

Pansiyon Vazelon. Tel: 0462-512 3680

Transport info

Regular dolmuşes leave Trabzon's eastern dolmuş terminal on the waterfront to make the run to Maçka (30km).

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