From the ancient Turkish port of Trabzon (formerly Trebizond), we traveled up into the hills to visit the monastery at Sumela. Built into the cliff, with dramatic views of the gorge below, the group received a lively and engaging explanation by curator Helen Evans of the monastery's wall frescoes dating from the sixteenth century. From Turkey, our group sailed to Batumi, Georgia—a rapidly growing city—before traveling inland to Kutaisi to visit a monastery and cathedral dating back to the tenth and eleventh centuries, respectively. Both are UNESCO World Heritage sites, although the recent and controversial restoration of the cathedral has placed it on a watch list, which may result in removal of the designation by UNESCO.
Next stop, Russia!