Lake Tana and the Ura-Kidane Mereth Church

Trip Start Oct 11, 2012
Trip End Nov 19, 2012

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Where I stayed
Blue Nile Resort Hotel
What I did
Ura-Kidane Mereth - Church and Monastery

Flag of Ethiopia  ,
Tuesday, October 30, 2012

It seems ages ago that we got up to Sian's alarm at 4:30 am, packed up, went down to breakfast, and boarded the bus this morning at 5:15 am.  We got our bags and ourselves into the terminal, Kibrom gave us our boarding passes after we negotiated the first security check, and then we had to go through another security check (with shoes off) to get to the gate.  Finally we were off for our 45 min flight to Bahar Dar, a resort city and capital of the Amhara region.  The trip notes said the flight was spectacular but the morning was cloudy and we were too high to see anything over the clouds.

After checking into our hotel, we were assigned a room on the 1st level, but we do have a view of the lake through our window and the room is nicely decorated and laid out.  One interesting feature is a sliding panel with a woven rug that covers the window at night.  The lighting situation is a bit dim though.  This must have been the first of the government-run hotel chain that we encountered; we were to see a very similar room design and decor in several hotels to come.

We joined Kate and Dan for a walk around town and had coffees (both Kate and Sian are coffee fanatics) at a lakeside cafe.  Then we walked around town to look for a restaurant - none of the Lonely Planet recommendations appeared - so we returned to the hotel.  We did see a number of interesting things - a place that looked as if it made donuts, some internet businesses, some furniture stores, et al.  Once back at the hotel, we ordered lunch on the terrace and both Sian and I had fish.  It was quite good.  Kate and Dan had injera with a spicy meat sauce and they seemed to enjoy it.

At 1:30 pm we left from the hotel for our boat ride on Lake Tana and trip to the Ura-Kidane Mereth monastery with the most beautiful church on Lake Tana - there are over 30 churches to pick from (but not all allow women to enter).  We had a walk uphill over lots of rocks and roots and past stalls of souvenirs.  Kibrom explained the construction of the church and its paintings.  I forgot how old the church is but it still is constructed of bamboo and mud.  There are huge wooden-beamed doors in the circular building and it has the required 3 parts - outer, inner and most inner holy of holies.  It was amazing - large and colorful with all the paintings.  The inner circular wall is covered with paintings starting from pre-Gondar (before the 16th C), Gondar (16th & 17th C), and 18th & 19th C.  The colors -yellow for gold, green for God, blue for water and Mary, and red for Christ's blood predominate.   There were scenes from the Old and New Testaments and from other books from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.  Kibrom told us a lot more but I can't seem to remember.  Oh, yes, the walls were covered in the fine cotton cloth woven in Ethiopia and glued on with a paste of wheat flour and water.  The colors are all natural dyes and are still very bright.  It was quite extraordinary and I think everyone loved it.

On our way back down to the dock, we had to pass the stalls of little models of the traditional papyrus boats of the area, bags of roasted coffee beans, religious wares such as necklace crosses and hand crosses, and woven scarves among other things.  There were cute little children asking for pens or candy and vendors trying very hard to sell their wares.  At first, no one from our group seemed interested - then some people began to buy a few little things so I broke down and bought one item as well.  I bargained hard ...for me...but I think I may still have paid more than the going rate.  Oh, well.

We returned after our boat ride back across the lake by 5:30 pm and Sian, Aga and I were hungry so we decided to eat early again - at 6 pm.  We were joined by Jacinta - from Ireland and named for one of the children of Our Lady of Fatima fame.  Then we were joined by Nadine and John.  I ate another whole meal despite my vow to eat light for dinner.

Now it is still early and Sian looks as if she is ready for bed.  Should I upload some photos without plugging in the computer tonight?

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