Sümela Monastery is in Middle Earth

Last weekend, prior to the discovery of our fabulous new dog-friendly digs, Kenny and I were feeling pretty blue so we decided to get the hell outta dodge and explore a new area. We drove about two hours down the eastern coast to Trabzon, a larger city complete with a giant mall and a movie theater showing all the movies in English. Not to mention a beautiful 3rd century Greek Orthodox monastery built into a mountainside. Sümela Monastery was founded in honor of the Virgin Mary and stands on the Karadaglar Mountains (Black Mountains) in the region of Maçka about 30 minutes outside the city of Trabzon. The ride to Maçka was very entertaining. We were driving for about 20 minutes when we came across a parade.

Normal stuff

Normal stuff

A sheep parade! Sheep to the left, sheep to the right, baby sheep, horned sheep, everywhere a sheep, sheep. These guys were just walking at our car like business as usual.


“‘scuse us”

It was weird and awesome. Anyway, moving right along… we get to the foot of the mountain and there was a quaint little restaurant and tourist shop. Also, we met a dog.


Here’s a quick not-so-fun fact for you. In Turkey, they have feral dogs everywhere; it is pretty depressing and I am pretty sure my sister is crying somewhere as she’s reading this. Apparently, they do not have dog shelters here, so they tag the dogs, give them their shots, feed them, and then send them on their way. Liz, don’t start crying… The dogs always seem happy and are always friendly. It is just difficult to think of a dog as a wild animal.

So, after petting the dog and shopping around we sat for soup, dolmas, kofte, and a lamb kebab.

DSC_0893Also, I tried Turkish coffee and I hate it.DSC_0891

I'm smiling because I hate it.

I’m smiling because I hate it.

After yummy food and an order of çay (Turkish Tea) to wash down the mud I just drank… we were ready to begin our ascent. One can choose to drive up the mountain or walk. Naturally, being the athletes we are, Kenny and I agreed that cars are for pansies, so we headed to the path.


“Cars are for pansies”


“I hope this isn’t a mistake”

The path was beautiful. I felt one with nature. Also, quite like I was in Middle Earth. I saw a few possible hobbit houses and a Gollum dwelling. It was all looking rather majestic.


Meanwhile, poor Kenny had just played a game the night before, and was having a rough time with the steep incline. Shockingly, my Christmas carol singing was not helping.


“I’m right behind you”

Though he did find “KF” initials during the struggle…



Tired legs face

“My legs are on fire.”

We ended up taking more then a few breaks. Luckily we had lovely weather and the views were magnificent.

"Break Time, gimme that camera"

“Break Time, gimme that camera”

Kenny fancies himself a photographer. Sometimes he’s right.





Most times he’s not…


^^^Classic Kenny photo montage.


Sümela Monastery and Kenny

With the monastery in sight we were reinvigorated. Though we still had quite a ways to go. The Christmas singing turned into the two of us disagreeing on when the milk maids were given in the 12 days of Christmas song. That argument carried us near up the mountain. Spoiler: it’s eight maids a milking (I was right, Kenny thought it was six.)

*Side note: typically on outings such as this I take as many photos of my darling husband as I can before he starts giving me the “really, another photo?” face. I was able to snap this gem right before we reached the monastery entrance.

Handsome Kenny and some snowy mountain tops

Handsome Kenny and some snowy mountain tops



“I guess blurriness is fine, Kenny”


Great news, when we made it to the entryway we were able to find a nice young chap to take our photo. He did quite well…



After we made our way up the beautiful stone steps we were pleased to find an information board in English. I will post it here if you’re interested because it is, in fact, interesting and that’s just a lot of typing.


As we were about to go in we noticed some people with hard hats on. We figured we’d dabble…

DSC_0985 DSC_0984

DSC_0987 DSC_0986

We decided to forgo the hard hats. Although, the fact that they were provided at all was mildly disconcerting. The monastery was very beautiful in a primative “take me back in time” sort of way. Also the manner in which it is built right into the mountainside is incredible.



Each room was labeled as to it’s former use, although Kenny and I are thinking they just make them up. They labeled “Bake Room” “Kitchen Room” “Priest Room” and “Long Room” to name a few. My favorite room was the “Worship Room”. It was covered in beautiful wall to ceiling murals depicting different times in biblical history. DSC_0961 DSC_0966 DSC_0967 DSC_0971 DSC_0972

Interestingly enough every other room besides the Worship Room was extremely small.


Definitely for Hobbits

DSC_0955 DSC_0956


Not made for Kennys

And there were random death doors to nowhere…


Second story death door

Also, I could see that I was getting close to my acceptable picture limit here in the “Study Room”…


“No, I will not smile next to this tiny fireplace.”

There was a significant portion of the monastery blocked off. I assumed it was due to instability (hard hats?) or possibly preservation. So the grand tour ended up being short and sweet.


However, the journey down the mountain was neither of those things. That is not to say it wasn’t a good time! It was one of those situations where we just went for it and hoped for the best. In all honesty, we ended up considering the pansy route and went in search of a taxi. So we walked towards the general direction of the road.

To Osgiliath

To a road hopefully… but possibly Osgiliath…

Also, I’m pretty sure we ran into Old Man Willow on this path…

*Tread lightly*

*Tread lightly”


“That’s probably enough pictures now”

When we made it to the road there was another little shop. According to the shopkeeper we could either wait for the shuttle or take the short cut and walk. So, in the spirit of adventure we asked for directions. The directions were vague but he made it sound like no trouble at all. The first right at the end of the path and then follow that down to to the road, easy. So, we got to the end of the path and the way to the right was a steep drop into a wooded area and to the left another path started back up. We chalked it up to a language barrier and headed to the sensible left side pathway where we ran into a lovely sort of watch tower and a giant rock, but also a dead end.

"Cool tower. Where's the road?"

“Cool tower. Where’s the road?”

Giant Rock

Giant Rock

Clearly, our shopkeeper friend knew what he was talking about so we back tracked and headed down the ridiculous non-path to the right.


“Looks legit, let’s go.”

So we half walked, half scooted down the hill together. It was pretty hilarious. We were not entirely sure we weren’t getting ourselves lost in the middle of a forest. Though, once the hill leveled out a little we managed to locate a path-ish type thing and ventured down that a ways in hopes of finding civilization.


“This is probably right”

After about 20 minutes of sliding our feet around rocks and grabbing trees and branches for stability, we ran into a nice little stream that turned into a really excellent little waterfall. Here we found some empty beer cans and took that as a sign we were on the right track.

DSC_0996 DSC_1007 DSC_1005

We followed the little stream down and finally met the road.




Sümela Monastery


Sümela Monastery zoomed out a little

We followed the fabulously paved road for another 10 to 15 minutes and made it back to the car. We pet the dog, bought some souvenirs and went on our merry way.

Luckily we ran into the parade again on our way back to our hotel…



The monastery was a wonderful experience and worth the struggle. Neither of us had ever seen anything so ancient before. Also, Trabzon was a decent sized city with English speakers and a giant, westernized shopping center if we (I) ever need a familiar setting. Also, our dog-friendly hotel was quite lovely too, good thing poor Ted thought so because he spent most of the day there…




We will definitely be going back!

Lastly, exciting news! We move to our new place tomorrow! Obviously it will be a bit hectic this week, so my next post will be written cozy in our new apartment with all of our stuff that is hopefully not broken or damaged at all… Wish us luck and thanks for reading:) Cheers!



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