Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Not-So-Black Black Sea

This time last week I was in pure awe of the wonderful beauty of the Black Sea region of Turkey.  More specifically, my friends and I were in Trabzon.  Now, if you've been reading my blog, you know that I've traveled at lot in Turkey and I've seen most of the major regions.  I've visited the Aegean Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the Bosphorus, the south east, and central Anatolia.  I've found most of the landscape to be similar in one way or another.  Perhaps similar is the right word, familiar seems a better fit.  However, when our plane landed in Trabzon, my draw dropped. Everywhere I looked was the greens of my west coast Canadian homeland, the skies were the clear bright blue of places like Montana and the Black Sea was the turquoise of the Aegean or the Caribbean, but there were still the familiar signs, mosques, sounds and smells of the rest of Turkey.  It was breath-taking to say the least.

The view of the city and the sea from the Aya Sofya.

Our first day, we were whisked off to see the Aya Sofya (not like the one in Istanbul, this one is much
smaller and from what we could tell the entire interior was all frescoes at one point). It was simply beautiful and the setting of it overlooking the Black Sea was gorgeous.

The Aya Sofya.

We then lunched on the seaside.  Eating super fresh seafood and the kofte (meatballs) that Trabzon is known for.  The mezzes were beyond delicious and the famous Trabzon bread was unreal!
The restaurant where we had lunch.

After lunch we hopped back into our van and headed out to the fabled Sümela Monastery in the Pontic Mountains. The roads up are twisting and narrow. You can ride in a car nearly to the actual entrance of the monastery but not quite.  You will have to walk on some narrow and not altogether safe trails for about 15 minutes.  Generally the trails are okay but there are a couple of spots that aren't for the faint of heart in the sense that they are slick and with nothing to stop you from tumbling down the very steep hill on one side.  The crazy, narrow road, the crossing of wet river roads, the multitude of stairs and the trails are all worth it in the end.  The monastery was simply stunning inside with more frescoes than I'd ever seen in any location.  And knowing that you are standing on a structure built into a cliff side centuries before has a mystical quality to it.  Never mind that you can hear the roar of the river raging over the rocks far below and everywhere you look is green, beautiful trees.  There is something about being at the top of a mountain, in a place that is so reverent towards nature and the Creator.

the mountain views on our way to the monastery
nearly at the entrance
once we got inside, this is what we saw
I was so happy to have made it inside!
some of the frescoes on the exterior of the church
one of the many frescoes on the interior.  As long as no flash was used, pictures were allowed.
The raging river that ran through the gorge below.
The exterior of the monastery as seen from the road below.
Afterwards we stopped for dinner at a restaurant that overlooked the sea and parts of the city.  It was stunning and the food was delicious.

The view from our dinner spot.
The famous cheese/corn meal dish of the region. Delicious!
After dinner we left to stay at a friend's family home high in the hills surrounding Trabzon. We didn't know what to expect but when we woke in the morning, this is what we saw:

Our breakfast view.

I never got tired of looking at this!
It was simply gorgeous and we were spoiled with a breakfast of farm fresh veggies, homemade yogurt, homemade cheese, fruits and tasty savoury pancakes and potatoes. It was amazing.

The tea farms on our way to the lake.
Our last stop for the weekend was to go out to  Uzungöl, which translates to mean long lake.  Now I'm sure we didn't see all of it, but it really wasn't a long lake at all. It was however beautiful to see this little lake surrounded by huge green mountains.  For some reason it make me think of Switzerland, so I began to call the area Turkey's Switzerland.  It was stunning.  We had a walk and some tasty lunch (the best soup I've ever had in Turkey) before rushing back to the airport to catch our afternoon flight back to Ankara.

Yup... didn't feel like Turkey at all, except for the mosque.
I loved this area!

My traveling companions and our caretakers at the house and our guide. 

I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to see this part of Turkey.  It is just so different from all the other spots and is such a special place.


AprilMay said...

Wow...just wow. I seriously have goosebumps. Oh, I cannot WAIT to travel again to see places such as this! You lucky lucky girl!! :)

Desma said...

This is too funny! I went on a very similar tour with my friend just a few months ago: Sumela, Uzungol, Trabzon and Ayder. SUCH a lovely part of Turkey....