Today we had an off bike day and a lovely lay in….didn’t get out of bed until around half past eight….very luxurious! We had a simple village breakfast – to be honest getting a bit past it all ……would kill for some bacon and eggs, toast and tea!
We had booked a tour through Eyce Tours for 30 TL each, to go to the Sumela Monastery, and they were due to collect us at 10.00am. A bus did arrive but it wasn’t ours ….not speaking Turkish makes things very confusing to work out what’s what and few people here speak English. At 10.20am a man came in saying “Sumela” and we figured that was us and followed him up the narrow cobbled road to where a bus was parked….it couldn’t get down the road due to a traffic jam….common place here as they really have no idea how to drive and no one gives an inch!
It was about a 46km drive and we soon found ourselves lined up in a row of traffic waiting to pay the entry fee for the Park. Luckily Vince had thought earlier to bring our Museum Cards …as the entry to the actual Monastery was not covered in our tour…way to go Vince I knew there was a reason I married him!
We struggled up the mountain in our bus…. as there were many traffic “incidents”blocking our way….. and in the end our bus stopped and we had to get out and walk the remainder of the way….this was worse on the way back where we had to go even further on foot (about 4 km) to get to the restaurant lower down and dodge both oncoming and cars approaching from the rear…..it was crazy and at times I thought we were done for they came so close and fast….unbelievable! NOT HAPPY JAN!!!!!!!
The Sumela Monastery is a 1600 year old Greek Orthodox church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It is built into a steep cliff at 1200m (3900ft) on the Western Slope of the Altindere Valley within the Altindere National Park. It is within the Trabzon provincial borders (Macka) near the Eastern Black Sea Region. The monastery is constructed on rocks reached by a path through the forest…(see pics)….. but the 18th Century frescoes on the walls and ceiling of the Rock Church were very impressive and well worth the steep hike up to see them…as was the sacred water spring.
The site was abandoned as a monastery in 1923 and became a museum….it’s a very popular tourist attraction…it was packed today…with people pushing and shoving in front of you, cars blocking the road 4 abreast in some places….it was total chaos. It eventually got to the point I decided that if you can’t beat them join them, and took to mimicking their “bulldozer behaviour” to get through the crowds……politeness and taking turns have no meaning here!……I have to say it did detract somewhat from the actual experience of seeing the Monastery. We had a harrowing ride in the bus back to Trabzon…..Vince thought it was all hillarious….but I could have well done without it….thank goodness I have blood pressure medication…..the traffic here is trying to kill us!
[Vince’s addition – the traffic out of the Sumela Monastery was crazy to the point of ridiculous. There’s one road in, barely wide enough for one car in places, but generally two cars wide in most places. This was all fine when we drove up the steep mountain road in the morning to get to the monastery, but leaving in the afternoon was a completely different story. The surge of visitors through the day had resulted in the road verges being used for car parking, narrowing the road. Added to this mix was a constant stream of cars coming up the hill, and our tour bus was trying to squeeze through the narrow gaps going down the hill. And whenever we got blocked by oncoming traffic, additional cars would just join the queue below and make it even harder to unravel. Rather than help themselves and other drivers, everyone just seemed hellbent on adding to the mayhem by joining the traffic jam, unwilling to not participate in the farce. Eventually however some pedestrians intervened and started directing the traffic, shouting at drivers to reverse down the hill and let the bus move forwards. I wish I could have seen the traffic jam behind us, as I’m sure it was being repeated over and over again.]