Sumela Monastery

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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.

IMG_2110 IMG_2114 IMG_2121 IMG_2124 IMG_2133We 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.

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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.

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