“Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.”
-Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
…is such sweet sorrow.
After 3 days in Istanbul, I departed for my residency in India, and Sarah for her program in Hungary. We spent our last night drawing dueling portraits among the lively crowds in Kumkapi. Sarah, I’ll see you this summer in some undetermined place…lets keep the adventures coming for years to come my friend.
Due to some visa confussion, Sarah and I had to reroute our journey back down South to Ankara. I was leaving for India in less than a week and the Embassy still had my passport! I could go into this stressful side story that involves leaving Sarah at the bus station, jumping into a cab and speeding to the Indian Embassy minutes before it closes, dodging cars as I make my way to the embassy across the street while my taxi driver somehow convinces them to let me in after business hours…..and after all of that, I did make it back in time to catch the bus, but my passport and visa had to be sent to me later on.
This was all a major inconvenience. However, because we were so close to Kapadokya, I ended up taking Sarah back to Babayan where we spent 2 blissful days. We loved our time on the Black Sea, but felt as though something was missing. We had fallen in love with the unrivaled hospitality of central Turkey on previous adventures, and though it had been fascinating to visit a new part of the country, we missed the warm heartedness of Anatolia. In Ibrahimpaşa, we were reminded of why we return to this country again and again.
We spent our short time in the village visiting friends I had made during my residency, getting invited into homes for tea and sweets, taking walks with the resident donkey, sketching as the sun went down, having dinner with artists, and attending an open studio at BCH. Time went so fast and before I knew it, we had to be on our way to Istanbul. Though it was short, I was so grateful to share this special place with my dear dear friend from home…and nothing can replace it.
After returning our car in Trabzon and riding a very scary night bus, we arrived in Sinop around 6am. Our Pension was almost too good to be true…20 lira for the night, a beautiful view, and the first beds we had slept on in days! Oh, and we could also use a shower that wasn’t at a rest stop or camp site.
We found a camping spot late at night and curled up in our car, Sarah in the front seat and me in the back. The night was colder than anticipated, and because we didn’t have blankets, pillows, or any other camping necessity, we covered ourselves on T-shirts, tank tops, skirts, and whatever else we found at the top of our bags. It was the best camping spot we had found on the trip, and the worst nights sleep. In the middle of the night, a camp ground neighbor knocked on our window and asked politely why we were afraid to sleep outside in a tent. We explained that we had no tent, or sleeping bags. He looked confused and receded back into his warm camping accommodations. Yes, two girls sleeping in their car at a camp sight must have looked strange, but what else are we to do on such a spontaneous adventure? Sometimes making due with what you have is more fun anyway, especially because it makes a good story to write about.
After shivering under thin layers of clothing for the entire night, we woke with the warm sun pounding its way through the windshield. We had a home cooked breakfast, made by our lovely campground owners, packed up our makeshift sleeping arrangements and headed up into the mountains once more….this time to see Sumela Monastery.
We could just catch a glimpse of Sumela from where we parked the car. A magnificent structure, clinging to the cliffside of Melá Mountain and surrounded by lush forest. Though it was originally founded in the 4th Century, Sulema fell into ruin and was reconstructed several times. According to legend, a miraculous icon of the virgin Mary was discovered in a nearby cave by two priests, and thus inspired them to create the monastery. Its present form was established in the 1200s, and after it was abounded in 1923 due to the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, Sumela became a museum.
The path was roped with tree roots, and when we could see through out the thick forsest, the view was breath taking. I was lucky enough to get a few shots of the path without the crowd of visitors walking to or from the site. After dodging tourists on the trail and walking up many steep stone steps, we entered the monastery.
Behind the stone facade of Sumela, we wandered amoung the crowds of tourists, exploring chapels, kitchens, monks’ quarters and the main church which is carved directly into the cliffside. The walls inside the church were painted fantastically with biblical stories, saints, angels, lions, and images of the virgin Mary and Christ.
We processed the experience with a Turkish coffee from the museum cafe. Gazing out over the intoxicating view, we discussed where our little araba should take us next.