August 2, 2014

Three Bicyclists on an 1800km Journey to Venerate the Virgin Mary in Soumela

From Soumela in Vermio to Soumela in Trebizond.

A few hours before the giant undertaking, Pantelis Tzertzevelis speaks with about a journey of life on two wheels.

Georgia Vorylla
July 28, 2014

Some travel to experience other cultures, others to live a few days "differently", and others to be in places they have only seen through the eyes of their grandparents. Whatever the reason, sometimes journeys can be simply classified as a "journey of life".

For Pontians, Panagia Soumela in Trebizond is not just a destination. It is one of those journey's of life, and when finally realized it is a journey of memory and emotion.

Pantelis Tzertzevelis (47 years old) is not a Pontian. His place of origin is in Asia Minor, and this year Panagia Soumela will be his destination. Together with two other cyclists, Panagiotis Sotiriadis (67 years old) and Vasilis Giosmas (41 years old), and without the involvement of Vasilis Karyofyllidis who cycled to Soumela two years ago, they will depart at Panagia Soumela Monastery in Vermio and unite it with Panagia Soumela in Trebizond. And they will do this on bicycles.

The Vow

The journey of the three, with the participation of John Kyfonidis in an accompanying vehicle and Christos Boukoros who has the role of photographer, will depart on Wednesday from Vermio. The aim of the team is that after 16 days, the day of the Dormition on August 15th, they will be at Panagia Soumela in Trebizond.

"In 2011 I was in Pontus as part of a journalistic mission do bring live coverage of the Divine Liturgy. From a few days prior I came into contact with the people and my heart jumped for joy as we learned more and more about the history of the Monastery and the emigration of its wonderworking icon", said Pantelis Tzertzevelis to

The difficulties spent in the subsequent years in his professional field as well as a health scare then brought to the mind of Pantelis images of Pontus and Soumela. "The third time it came to me I made a vow: My Panagia, heal me and I will come with a bike to be near you", he says.

And just like that something was "born" in his mind to journey 1,800 kilometers to fulfill a vow and light a candle for all of Greece. Indeed there were not only a few who also asked to cycle with the team and carry their own vows to Soumela.


Such a long and arduous journey requires hard and intensive preparation. For six months the team of three trained daily. "And preparing the bike was extremely difficult, as we tried many different components until we arrived at what was the most appropriate for this trip," explains Pantelis Tzertzevelis.

The team didn't even find rest at night. In preparation they had to glean information about the areas they will cross and material to project the image Greece. "We want to leave enough 'Greek character' wherever we pass", he says.

The final days become the final "rehearsals" in regards to loading the bicycles on the escorting car as well as all the equipment in it.

The Challenges

The team of bikers know they have ahead of them many and difficult miles. The high temperatures in August is expected to be one of the challenges.

"Our goal is to start very early in the morning after at least a 9-hour rest", says Pantelis. Factors to take into account is the fact that after the end of Ramadan several immigrants from European countries will be returning, so the roads will not ever be "at peace"!

For the normal fatigue that is expected in the last six days of travel, the team examined some alternative scenarios for the route which starts from Vermio, continues in Thessaloniki, Kavala, Komotini and Kipoi. From there, the cyclists will continue to Raidesto, Constantinople, Nicodemea and Erenler. In the original plan it was to be done through Amisos, Samsounta, Kotyora and Tripoli, with the final destination being Trebizond.

Translated by John Sanidopoulos.