Sunday, October 01, 2006

More Churches

Despite the Ottoman Empire (with present-day Turkey at its core) being the seat of the Caliphate, and therefore the centre of temporal Muslim orthodoxy, for over 400 years the Islamic monuments in the east of the country are no great shakes. Most Ottoman era mosques owe their designs to Byzantine churches and are little more than domed boxes with a missile-shaped minaret or two. I'm therefore on the trail of Christian remains remains that point to more tolerant times when the two faiths coexisted side by side. From the Greek Orthodox Aya Sofya perched by the sea in Trabzon, to the overgrown ruins of the Georgian nunnery at Dordkelise hidden in the scenic Kachkar mountains close to Yusufeli. The walk to the nunnery was fascinating in itself as I got to see the local villagers harvesting the rice crop, and I got to munch on the wild figs, pomegranates, brambles and walnuts that line the roads here (as long as nobody was looking). I also discovered what is really meant by the term "rolling thunder" when lightning struck a few kilometres down the narrow valley I was walking along. After the first peal of thunder hit me, and almost knocked me over, it took over 10 seconds for the last rumblings to escape the confines of the mountains walls, continuously reverberating from one side to the other. Truly awe-inspiring. Now, if someone could just stop the rain...

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