Despite its long and turbulent history, SAMSUN has few remaining historical or scenic attractions, and even its tourist office now lies defunct. A thoroughly modern city with a population knocking on one million, it’s laid out on a grid plan, with endless unruly suburbs stretching 30km along the east–west coast road. It’s a busy port and centre for the processing of local agricultural produce and tobacco.
Because of its strategic location, Samsun changed hands frequently over the centuries. It was besieged, captured (and usually sacked) by the Pontic kings, Romans, Byzantines, several tribes of Turks and the Genoese, who had a major trading station here until 1425, when they torched the town rather than hand it over to Ottoman control. When the advent of the railway facilitated the transport of tobacco to Ankara and beyond, Samsun’s flagging fortunes revived, and by 1910 it was a thriving city of 40,000 inhabitants. The port city gained a place in Turkish folklore when then Mustafa Kemal, under the guise of “Inspector General of the Ottoman forces in Anatolia”, arrived in 1919 by steamship from İstanbul and quietly began to sow the seeds of independence among the local Turk population.
Nowadays, any spare time in Samsun may well weigh heavy on a traveller’s hands, but it holds a couple of hours’ worth of interesting sights, plus a fair amount to offer in terms of food and lodgings should you need to spend the night. The main square in the city centre, Cumhuriyet Meydanı, boasts a statue of Atatürk on horseback. Kazımpaşa Caddesi and Cumhuriyet Caddesi run north and south of the square respectively, while 19 Mayis Bulvarı, which runs both east and west, meets Fuar Caddesi, the main coastal road, at its far eastern end.