Conquering my fear at Sümela monastery/Turkey

I must say it upfront: had I known what lay ahead, I might not have gone on today’s trip to one of the most emblematic sites in all of Turkey: the Sümela monastery, clinging to a sheer rock cliff some 70km south/east of Trabzon, at  an altitude of 1200m.

As it is, I am glad I went and proud of myself that I conquered my fear on the way down. I made it in one piece, although not without the help of three ‘travel angels’ who were on the tour and made the descent with me.

We set out at 10am and reached the parking lot of the monastery some two hours later. The sight from below was already breathtaking and well worth the trip. From there it is a hike of about 200m to the entrance proper and from there countless steps up and up and up until one reaches the inner courtyard. 200m doesn’t sound like much, but when they have to be  managed at a 45o angle, over rocks, slippery patches and protruding tree roots, it isn’t so easy.

The site where the monastery is perched


Don’t ask how I got that shot!

The cliff side is covered with forest and streams run along down below. It’s cool but by the time you reach the courtyard, you are hot enough. Anyway, the 200m were a piece of cake compared with what lay ahead. Because, you see, our driver announced cheerfully, that he would now turn the car around and wait for us at the restaurant down below. We were to enjoy the downhill walk of some 3km (!!!) through the forest. One look down and I knew enough. However, there was no way I could chicken out, so I put on a brave face.

The world was still in order


Getting closer to the entrance

Not being that much interested in Byzantine art and culture – the Suemela monastery was founded in 386 under the reign of Emperor Theodosius I – I remained at the foot of the final stairs to make the descent with my new found friends. I had a great time though, listening to the music of this man playing the typical fiddle and enjoying some girls breaking into a spontaneous dance.

The friendly lone musician


Of course I had to make a fool of myself


The dancing girls

When my friends returned, we started on our way down and I can tell you, it was hard. The path down from Suemela monastery was extremely steep, narrow, slippery, rocky and bent back on itself all the time. But…never have I had so much fun. We held on to each other, took pictures at the most impossible places, of ourselves and the receding monastery at the danger of going over the edge at any moment. We made fun of our increasingly wobbly knees and all of a sudden, we could smell the scent of sizzling köfte from the restaurant below and we had arrived. Never has food and drink tasted so good.

Two of my travel angels


And the third


Can someone rescue me please???


The longed for restaurant

I consider myself reasonably fit, walking and swimming every day, but I am afraid of falling and breaking a bone. I have had enough of those to last me a life time. I also have difficult to keep my balance if there is nothing to hold on. But, the travel God had made sure I had company and a hand or a shoulder was always within reach.

Thank you, my lovely travel companions. I hope we’ll keep in touch.

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11 replies
  1. Waegook Tom
    Waegook Tom says:

    YES, you go! I have a pretty crippling fear of heights, so reading this gave me the heebie-jeebies – I’m not sure I could have done what you did (I’ve seen pictures of Sumela before and thought, “NO WAY!”) However, I applaud you for doing this and for conquering your fear – oh, and that second pic is making me dizzy!
    Waegook Tom recently posted..Feeling Like A Loser On A Mountain

    • inka
      inka says:

      Your own blog post ties in so nicely with mine. Thanks for your comment, it’s good to see that I’m not alone with my phobia.

  2. Maureen
    Maureen says:

    Well done I knew you would make it even if you had to get down on your backside the swimming and walking paid off after all and the salmon (protine). the pic are just great

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