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PART 9: Lady of the Mountains, Panagia Sumela, Trabzon

Sumela monastery Macka trabzon matsouka travel panagia soumela


In setting and appearance, the gutted remains of Sumela are among the most unforgettable sights of Turkey and compare with the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu in their power to inspire and awe.


The site is reached from the town of Maçka by a newly paved 23 kilometer road that follows the tumultuous Değirmenderesi Stream along a luxuriantly wooded valley. Pines begin to be dominant around an altitude of 1000 meters. At the deepest point of the forest, a bend in the road reveals the fantastic sight: an enormous, seven-storey high white facade plastered on a straight drop of basalt rock 250 meters above one's head.
Getting to the building itself requires a hard climb of 40 minutes on a forest path sprinkled with an international collection of tourists in various stages of exhaustion and somehow friendlier because of it. At the top, the astounding view over the valley contributes to the feeling of breathlessness.


The main part of the monastery is actually built on a narrow ledge at the bottom of a concavity in the cliff. The outer wall drops several stories below the ledge, joining the rock at a very narrow angle which gives. the effect of defying the laws of gravity.Near the entrance is the cave church that formed the original nucleus of the monastery. Every nook and cranny of its interior, including the rough rock surface, are covered in frescoes that are in part two or even three layers deep. The bottom layer goes back to the 14th century and evinces the best artistry. The layers of 1710 and 1740 are rather crude and that of 1860 borders on the banal. All have been vandalized to an infuriating degree.


The rest of the complex includes four smaller chapels, a mostly ruined library, the kitchen and scores of monks' cells. The canopied top floor of the farthest part of the building was once reserved for the accomodation of guests and travelers. One can only imagine what it would feel like to have been a traveler at a time before the the arrival of the paved road and tourist huses, waking to the sound of the liturgy in a simple cell suspended in the morning mist.
Back down at the base one has the choice of joining the crowds at the little lunch stand or walking a short distance upstream to a delightful chain of cascades and pools where one can bathe or fish for trout. An unpaved road continues from here on to the yaylas of' Meryemana (Mother Mary) where the predominantly Greek-speaking villagers of the ar
ea stage bacchanalian revels in early summer.

 

ART 1: Imagined Empire
PART 2:
The Main Square
PART 3:
A Long Walk
PART 4:
Atatürk House
PART 5:
Bazaar District
PART 6:
Hagia Sophia
PART 7:
Boztepe
PART 8:
Rising Above
PART 9:
Lady of the Mountains
PART 10:
Obscure Monasteries
PART 11:
The Way to the Pass
PART 12:
Gümüşhane


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