LETTER xxsv ARMENIAN RUINS 389
wide streets lined by well-built houses with projecting
upper stories, and well-supplied and busy markets, in
which an enormous quantity of mutton is exposed for sale,
are among the chief features of this very striking town.
A domiciliary visit from a courteous chief of police, who
assured me that an escort was not needed, and re-sealed my
passports, was my only contact with Turkish officialism
between Erzerum and Trebizond.
After leaving Baiburt I diverged a little, in spite of
very deep snow, to visit the ruined Armenian ecclesiastical
edifices at Varzahan, a village from which a mountain
road to Trebizond passing near the Greek monastery of
Sumelas branches from- the main road. The most
interesting and best - preserved of these buildings is
an octagonal chapel of a very elaborate design, with
remains of a circle of slender shafts, a very fine west
window, round arches, and some curious designs in fresco.
In another a pointed arch, and a fragment of a blind
arcade with niches on its outer face, remain, along with
some very carefully-executed cable and twisted moulding.
It was truly refreshing to come upon such very beautiful
relics of Christian art in so wild a country. These
edifices are attributed to the eleventh or twelfth century.
In an ancient and adjacent. cemetery there are several
monumental stone rams, very much like the stone lions
of the Bakhtiari country.
I quite broke down on that march, and was obliged to
bribe the Turkish occupants of a most miserable hovel to
vacate it for me, and on the following day was only able
to ride three hours to Getchid. The sky was grim and
threatening, and the snow deep, and when after a long
ascent we descended into a really magnificent defile, so
narrow that for a long distance the, whole roadway is
blasted out of the rock, a violent snowstorm came on,
with heavy gusts of wind. There were high mountains