Many of the photos that I have posted on my blog do not do justice to the real thing. And here is where it is the truest of all: Meteora (Mehteh-ora).
This crowning glory of Central Greece is located in the Plain of Thessaly. These natural pillars and rock formations were formed 60 million years ago as the earth pushed through a lake; natural elements formed the boulders over the years to what they look like today. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must see for everyone!
Worth the Drive
We exit the main road coming up from Ioannina, and begin a downward drive curving around a mountain. Each time we get to a straight road we think we have arrived but no!… another climb up another mountain, through twisting roads where each bend takes up and around once more. This happens over and over again. It takes about 45 minutes before we hit the main town at the base of Meteora. Beautiful scenery, true – but those roads are so narrow, we traveled slowly because you never knew what was coming around the corner. Whatever it might be, it may not be small enough for both of us to pass each other at the same time!
Before you enter the town of Kalambaka, you see Meteora in the distance and as you get closer and closer, the towering formations look over the city, standing guard over it with its magnificent presence. This good size town offers great hotels, shops and restaurants; three central squares form the Kentro (the center) and you have endless choices for a snack, a kaffe or a meal. And, no matter where you go, where you sit, where you walk, the rock formations are in full view and they are spell binding. Photo ops galore! Just stop anywhere and you are guaranteed a magnificent sight of the pillars and the monasteries built on top of them.
Of the original twenty-four monasteries existing in the sixteenth century to serve the Eastern Orthodox Church, only six are functioning today housing about 50 monks and nuns. Most of them are open to the public and we booked a tour to get up there and visit them. You can certainly drive up there yourself and enter the monasteries that are open on any given day, but we wanted a tour to give us a break from diving and more importantly, to tell us more of the history of Meteora.
We visited three monasteries; the first one required a climb of over 300 steps in various configurations to climb up and then climb done. I hesitated at first, but then figured “when am I going to do this again?” so I set out and did it! Naturally, it was slow moving for me – but people were kind and moved around me and some also offered help when I stopped to take a breather. Once up there, I was grateful that I made it – so much to see and absorb about monastic life both in ancient times and life for them today. The most fascinating site was the window with the pulley. This was used up until not so long ago to hoist up the monks and the packages brought back to the monastery. This prevented not only the enemy from coming up but any curious person as well. Looking down from this window, you see just how high up you are and realize that being hoisted up in a basket was not for the faint hearted!
No Looking Back
Folklore, myth or true story – nobody is really sure. Women were never allowed to climb the rocks and certainly not allowed in any of the monasteries. But, back, a few centuries ago, one of the major monasteries and its entire pillar caught on fire. Most of the men of Kalambaka were out in the surrounding fields, kilometers away; some were away from the town itself serving in the army or taking care of other necessities. The women began a water brigade, from the water source in the town all the way up the rocks and into the monastery – when the fire was put out, it was too late. Once they let them in, they could never not let them in again! One can never underestimate the power of women – then and now. 😊
I’ve posted several photos here – they do not adequately reflect the majestic beauty of this area. You must see this place in person to experience the spectacular and striking views of Meteora!
Take out your bucket list and add this site right now!
Retire well, Helene
All Photos of Meteora From the Personal Collection of Helene and Zaf
For additional information about Greece, please visit: www.greektravel.com