Trabzon III: Sumela Monastery And Bats Out Of Hell

The next day, my goal was to go on tour to Sumela Monastery then find a bus to get back to Batumi. I had a fear of getting stuck in Trabzon because I had missed the buses. So I wanted to secure that information before I did the tour. I went down to check out of my room. This is where I found out the price of my room and haggled them down a little. He said that the price for the tour was 30 TL. In my research, I believe that the prices they were quoting was 15 TL. So I balked at that a little, too. He wouldn’t budge, so I accepted it. I was not NOT going to go see the monastery. I had a little time to go try to find a bus to Batumi or the main bus terminal. I found a Turkish bus company that was also doing tours to Sumela monastery.

First off, he said he only went to Batumi every other Saturday. We’ll, that was not even an option, but when I tried to ask if he knew of any other bus companies or how to get to the main station, he could not comprehend what I was saying. I asked about the prices for the Sumela tour and he said 15. I felt scammed by the Benli hotel clerk. So I went over and got a refund. I came back to the bus company and he then said, “Oh, no…. 15 Dollars= 30 Turkish Lira. I still kind of think they were in cahoots with one another. Whatever. Oh, I didn’t find a way to Batumi as I had hoped.

The ride up to Sumela Monastery was beautiful and shorter than I thought it would be. Not very many people on the trip. The monastery is in a National Park. We continued up this windy path until the end. From where we stopped we couldn’t see the monastery. Even when we got to the entrance of the monastery you couldn’t really “see” it. Only from one bend in the road up did we get a glimpse of the incredible façade.

Sumela was built in the 4th century as a Greek Orthodox Monastery. It was abandoned in 1923 and reopened as a museum. Most of the monastery is still under renovations. We only got to see the ‘non-living quarters’, but the visit was still very impressive. The cost of the museum was 15TL.

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Once again I can’t comprehend the thought process that went into deciding to build this thing or other monasteries where they are. “Is this far enough away from people AND hard to bring materials to build things AND high on a mountain top AND across treacherous waterfalls?” Yes, but put it on a cliff, too. Thanks and God Bless.

Sumela Monastery

Sumela Monastery

Once back in Trabzon, finding a bus to Batumi wasn’t as difficult as I had thought it would be. I saw a bus station en route to the start point of the tour. Another couple asked to be dropped off at a hotel there, and I just hopped out, too. As I was searching for a bus terminal going to Batumi, a sales rep. popped out of a store and asked to help me in English! Yes please! They were indeed doing trips to Batumi. I could take the regular bus, which departed an hour from then, or the Express bus leaving two hours later, but taking a fraction of the time as the first bus. Express Bus, please! I even got some Turkish tea while I waited.

The “express bus” wasn’t a Turkish bus with that company. Instead it was a freelance Georgian marshrutka parked in a back ally, cramped seats and all. Off we went.

I think the driver was over excited to drive on paved roads for long stretches at a time. When I say he ‘sped’, that is an understatement. I ALWAYS felt the backwards trust of the engine. From the time he pushed the gas pedal at green lights until he had to stop for a red lights that didn’t come soon enough.

When we got to the border, I again committed to my hussle routine. There were some Germans on the bus that seemed perplexed that we were getting off on the Turkish side of the border. As the driver was trying to explain the process, I got my bag and fast walked to the first passport checkpoint to battle with elbow throwing bebias (old Georgian grandmas. And don’t feel bad for them, they can hold their own, thank you very much.)

I got to the Georgian side of the border and oddly, the bus was already there. I got on with other random people. But then we just shut the door and pulled out! We didn’t have ANY of the passengers from the Turkish side of the border!!! We left people! I was a witness. It is no longer a myth or rumor, folks. If you snooze at the border, they will leave your ass. Lesson learned.

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“If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.” – A League of Their Own.

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