Trip Start May 02, 2006
113Trip End Mar 02, 2007
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Firstly let us say that Sumela Monastery is probably one of the most magical settings we're ever likely to encounter in our lifetime.
Founded in Byzantine times the monastery clings to a sheer rock wall high above evergreen forests and a rushing mountain stream both with the now obligatory rubbish everywhere. The climb up through the forest is a winding trail that sees you ascend about 250 metres in roughly 45 minutes. Quite breathtaking from a scenery and exercise point of view. We really thought that have a certain level of fitness but when you have to do a sharp climb like that in 40 degree heat you really feel the pain.
Anyway, if you're lucky you make it to the top without any serious injury and are greeted by quite an amazing sight. The place truly is a marvel to behold from the outside.
From the inside it's not such a marvel however as it seems they're still renovating the place after 10 years and only a small portion is open. How they can still have the hide to charge the full entrance fee is beyond me. But we're used to it now, in fact if we go to a site of some importance and it isn't covered in scaffolding we walk around in disarray until we find some scaffolding to photograph.
So, the main attraction of the place (other than it's setting) is the main chapel cut into the rock. It's covered inside and out with frescoes which date from the 9th century. Sadly they have been mostly damaged beyond recognition by bored shepherds and Turkish tourists keen to scratch their mark. Simply astounding but like the constant litter problem we're getting used to it.
All in all it was definitely worth the visit (gripes about the scaffolding aside). It's good to see the Turkish authorities doing their best to ensure one of their main tourist attractions remains intact for generations to come.
And that's that.
Next pod, Erzurum - Turkey.
Nath and Kat.