Mark Twain

Mark Twain

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

To Trabzon and Sümela

The overnight train from Tbilisi to Batumi was crowded.  Even though I was in first class, I had to share the compartment.  It was stuffy as well, so I didn't sleep all that well.  I think it was not quite dawn when the train arrived at Makhinjauri station, which is actually about 5km north of Batumi.  First I had to get to the center of Batumi, and I found the marshrutka to get me there.  In a few minutes I found another marshrutka that was going Sarpi, the Georgian border town about 15km further south.  I was sure that I was on the right one, because several of the passengers were busily concealing cigarettes    (I believe that, like booze, they are much more heavily taxed in Turkey).

By this time, I reached the border the sun was up, but after crossing the border it was two hours earlier.  The border checkpoint is right on the Black Sea coast.  You can hear the waves crashing onto the beach while walking into the Georgian checkpoint.

Once on the Turkish side I started looking for some sort of way to get to Hopa, the first town in Turkey of any size.   The idea was to get to the bus station in Hopa and get a bus the rest of the way to Trabzon.  There was a lone taxi trying to get my business.  I looked around for a dolmuş headed to Hopa and did not find one.  They all pointed me back to the taxi.  The taxi driver said that if others also wanted to go to Hopa, we could split the fare he wanted to charge (40TL, about US$18).  I waited around maybe half an hour to find someone willing to share.  There was some guy who also wanted to go to Hopa but he didn't have any money.  I even offered to subsidize him so that I would pay 30TL and he would pay 10TL, just to reduce my costs a little.  I last saw him trying to hitch a ride on a truck.  So I got a taxi to the bus station in Hopa.

I got there about 10 minutes before a bus was leaving and bought a ticket.  For about the first half of the trip, I think the bus stopped in every little town along the coast.  I was afraid it was going to take all day.  But, we made it to Trabzon in about three and a half hours.  We traveled along a really beautiful coastal highway the whole way, except when we got off the highway to go into towns and pick up / drop off passengers.

As the bus was heading into the city center, I saw a hotel that didn't look too bad (from the outside).  I decided I was going to stay there if they had a room and it was halfway reasonably priced, because I was desperate to brush my teeth and take a shower, and I was really tired.  I managed to negotiate their price down to something more or less reasonable.  I slept much of the afternoon.

Black Sea coast at Trabzon

Ships out in the Black Sea

People hanging out on the jetty

The docks at Trabzon

The city center

All the political parties are out campaigning ahead of the local elections at the end of the month.

This morning I went to Sümela Monastery, which is supposed to be one of the must-see things on the Black Sea coast.  During the summer season, you can take a bus directly from Trabzon to Sümela.  At other times there is a dolmuş that goes there from Trabzon.   The Lonely Planet guide told me where to go to find it, but the place it sent me did not look like a dolmuş stop.  I eventually found a dolmuş to Maçka, the nearest town to Sümela.  From there I was able to find another one to take me to Sümela and also back to Trabzon.

Sümela is way up in the mountains.  The roads going up there have sheer drop-offs on the sides and either nonexistent or flimsy wooden railing.  The driver was driving fast and half the time was on the phone as well, both going and coming.

I spent about an hour and a half at Sümela.  It's too bad that I wasn't able to get a shot of it from across the valley.  It's also too bad that there has been so much vandalism of the frescos, a lot of it more than 100 years old.  There was a guard watching it like a hawk to make sure there wasn't any more vandalism.

The mountains seen from Sümela.

The library.

 Tomorrow I am heading along the coast to Samsun.

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