Eastern Turkey beckons once again and we land in Trabzon ready to start our trek south following the borders. Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Iraq and Syria all share Turkey’s eastern border and stretch out before us for the next fourteen days. The Black Sea laps at the city’s shore along the ribbon of new highway spanning the north coast of Turkey.
Although Trabzon is familiar to me from previous visits sadly on this visit there is one site that we will not be visiting. The church of Aya Sophia of Trabzon has been recently converted from a museum to a mosque. This 13th c structure is a wonderful example of Byzantine architecture. With eighty-two thousand mosques already in existence in Turkey I remain somewhat at a loss as to what was in fact the impetus for this ‘conversion’ but be it sufficient to say I deeply miss being able to see the lovely interior and the Christian frescoes. On a brighter note at least the frescoes have only been draped to obscure the images as opposed to having been removed completely. I had previously read one perspective in this article on the rational and process behind this decision. Here are some images photographed on a previous trip. I am very pleased to have access to these photos that do document the beauty of the church and it’s frescoes and glorious tiled floor.
We have moved on from Trabzon and are now nearby visiting the mountain village of Uzungol (Long Lake). En route to the village we stopped at Sumela Monastery and were able to climb up to the mountainside retreat. My imagination is always alight when visiting these sites. On this visit the weather is unseasonably cold and there was snow on the trees only a couple of hundred meters above the monastery. One can only imagine how difficult and cold life would have been for the monks who made this their home. The frescos that are at the monastery show damage from vandalism but what remains are powerful images that refer strongly to the religious traditions of the Christian community that was there. This site remains a wonderful document of the life and traditions of the Greek Orthodox believers.