In the ‘Zon

Trabzon is a city on the Black Sea Coast in north eastern Turkey, not far from the border with Georgia. This was our first stop in a two week jaunt around Turkey. We are focusing on seeing a few of the many important Christian sites in the central and eastern parts of the country.

It’s also been an interesting time to be here because Turkey has been in the news with protests happening in Istanbul and other big cities. If you turned on any major news network earlier in the week you probably saw some images of this. I was reading CNN.com and at the top of each article there was a link saying something like, ‘ARE YOU IN TURKEY? GIVE US YOUR FEEDBACK.’ This was the first time I’d been in a place where they were looking for MY feedback about breaking news. Sadly, though, I don’t think my observations would have been CNN newsworthy: in the crowded main square of Trabzon, people were mostly holding ice cream cones instead of throwing rocks, strolling with friends rather than running from police.

Sumela Monastery was the first site we wanted to visit. It’s a spectacular setting with whole complex hanging on the edge of a cliff in a forested gorge. Christians have been congregating at the site since the late 4th century and the building complex was constructed in the 13th century. It was abandoned in the 1920’s but is now being restored for its touristic value. The frescoes have suffered from graffiti over the centuries but they are being repaired as well. One aspect of our time at Sumela that we didn’t expect was that for most visitors this monastery was not a sacred place. For us that was a big shift after being in Georgia and Armenia where visiting a church often has some devotional element for most people.

I don’t say this on the blog often enough: THANK YOU Luther Seminary and the donors of the fellowship for the chance to experience places of faith like this.

Inside the monastery complex

Frescoes within arms reach usually look like this

Inside the main rock chapel carved out of the cliff wall.

The outside of the same rock chapel

We also enjoyed the city of Trabzon itself. There are a lot of winding streets and nice views around town. Check it out.

Shoe Shiners around town. Get Rhythm

View from our hotel with the Black Sea in the background

Raw meat called cigkofte is delicious (not sure if this was raw meat, though. Rumors are that in public restaurants they use ground walnuts instead)

Trabzon has its own Hagia Sophia church. Word is that it will be converted back into a mosque. It was quiet and I worked on reading some of the inscriptions on the ceiling

This is one of the more interesting John the Baptist depictions I have seen. Baptism of Jesus fresco.

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One response to “In the ‘Zon”

  1. Deborah Polzin says :

    What wonders there are to see if only we could all travel as you have. You have certainly picked areas that are fascinating and unknown to the majority of readers. Thank you for the photos and sharing your travel stories with us.

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