The rain caught up with me on my second day in Trabzon. While sipping tea at Aya Sofya, a former church/mosque/hospital, temperature quickly dropped and rain started streaming down. I wanted to sit it out, but after some 90 minutes, the rain only had gotten worse. Soaked when I got back to the hotel.
I had wanted to visit the Sumela monastery, some 65 kilometres out of Trabzon and had arranged a tour the previous day, but when it was time to pick me up, I got a call saying that, since I was the only one on the tour, they couldn't do it. Stuck for the day in Trabzon.
In the evening, the city was treated to a fireworks display from the roof of what seemed like the city's most luxurious hotel. Meanwhile, cars were honking their horns loudly as if their lives depended on it. It was the 83rd anniversary of the proclamation of the republic by everyone's favourite Turk, Mustafa Kemal, Ataturk.
On my last day in Trabzon, I still had no luck on getting on a tour to Sumela. The tour needed at least three participants, at 15 lira each. So when I offered to pay 40, a non negotiable counter offer of 50 lira was directed back to me. I left the tourist agency and resigned to not seeing Sumela on this trip.
On to an internet cafe, doubling as a car rental agency. Some haggling later, I left with a car for less than I'd have the tourist agency. Still, that was without factoring in the rather expensive fuel costs.
The monastery is in one of the most spectacular locations I've ever seen. It's built against a sheer rock face, high above alpine forests and mountains. The past few years have been spent on renovating/restoring/rebuilding the monastery and now, nearing completion, has been returned to its original glory of a small village hanging on to impressive rocks, in the middle of nowhere.
Built from as early as the fourth century, how on earth does one decide to start living in a place like this? I at least had the benefits of a car and a tarred road.
The drive from Trabzon to Sumela through Macka showed how similar this part of Turkey is to regions in Bulgaria or Bosnia. And even a town like Macka felt as European, or more, than tucked away towns in Bulgaria or Romania.
But then again, countries like Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are considered to be in Europe, and they're even further east than Turkey!