Turkey 36: Sumela Monastery and Ayasofya Museum

So, in all truth, this post could be labelled “Trabzon”, but I didn’t see too much of the actual city today.  Instead, I saw its two biggest sights, each of which are outside of the centre.

Actually, to say Sumela is outside of the centre is an understatement.  It’s about 50 km outside of town and on a giant cliff.  Like, carved into a giant cliff.  It’s existed since the 4th century, when it was constructed by two Athenian priests.  The best part of the monastery is the approach, as it really does cut a fine figure in the rock.  What could be even more impressive, though, are all the frescoes inside the main chapel (and a few on the outside).  Unfortunately, a lot of them are completely wrecked after years of vandalism by, well, everybody.  After WWI and population exchanges with Greece, the monastery fell into disuse and it seems like most languages are represented in the various scratchmarks.  Fortunately, the frescoes on high have retained their look, but it just sucks how people will indiscriminately destroy beautiful things for the sake of their own ego. 

In much better shape, however, were the frescoes in the Ayasofia, a Byzantine church from the 13th century that requires a short dolmus ride to get to.  Almost missed the best part, as some of the church is used as a mosque.  I had made my way to the church with some German girls I met at the monastery and, while they were ushered away after accidentally walking into the men’s prayer section, I noticed other tourists walking along a small, stone path next to the prayer carpets.  We walked in, looked up and saw more of the beautiful frescoes.

After some Turkish coffee and a stroll back to the centrum, I tried figuring out what tomorrow might bring.  The company that got us to Sumela ran tours to Batumi, Georgia and a lake town called Uzungol, but neither of them ran on weekdays.  Ulusoy had a tour to Batumi, but it didn’t get back into Trabzon until 10 and, considering how slow the Black Sea road was at points on the way to Trabzon, I didn’t want to risk the short turnover time. 

So, I’ll take my time checking out some of the city tomorrow, maybe get a haircut and a shave, go to a hamam, do some shopping…  Light on sights, long on time.  It’ll get figured out.

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