GREECE: A trip to the monasteries “suspended in the air”, Meteora!

After learning a ton about the Sanctuary of Delphi and taking dozens of breath-taking photos, we headed towards the second destination of the private tour: Meteora. The name speaks for itself. It means “suspended in the air” or “middle of the sky”. It is one of the largest complex of Greek Orthodox monasteries, built on top of sandstone rock pillars and are challenging to reach. According to the tour guide, there used to be 12 monasteries in Meteora, but only 6 of them made it to today, lucky to have survived the world wars. They used to be all occupied by monks, but recently, some of them were converted to convents or nunneries.

So, all excited, we endured 5 hours of travel by bus across the Thessalian plains, the so-called “granary of Greece”. I have to say that the Greeks did a good job when it comes to the roadways connecting the city to the provinces. It was a super smooth drive, and we got to see some of the Greek plantations. Crops like tobacco, olive trees, rice, corn, grains and cereals are cultivated in the area. Here’s a short film I took while crossing the Thessalian plains:

At around 8pm, we reached the town nearest to Meteora, Kalambaka. And boy, did we stay in a really awesome hotel! Or maybe it was just because I was traveling solo.. The room they assigned for me was big and really comfy! Wish I stayed there for more than just one night. As I said, the tour was all-inclusive, so we enjoyed dinner and breakfast buffet. 🙂

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Early the following day, we left the hotel to visit the monasteries. The view was really spectacular! The monks used retractable ladders or nets to transport food from below to the monasteries on top of the sandstone pillars. First stop: the Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas built in the 16th century. It has a small church inside with beautiful paintings created by Theopanes of Crete in the 1500s.

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Seriously, how do you explain this geological phenomenon of rock pillars and how do you explain the monks’ creativity in building their solitary spaces on top? My legs and back was hurting from the climb, but seriously, I wouldn’t miss the view on top for the world! And it didn’t disappoint. 😉

We passed by the Holy Monastery of the Great Meteoron (the largest), the Holy Monastery of Varlaam, the Monastery of the Holy Trinity (the most famous one because of the James Bond film), and the Holy Monastery of Rousanou. We tried to get away from too much crowd, so our wonderful tour guide just chose two to enter from the 6 monasteries. For me, it was fine…. One day is not enough to climb all those stairs! 😀

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See the tiny people climbing up the Great Meteoron? haha 😀 We also stopped on a perfect photo-op spot!

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More twists and turns and finally, we entered the last monastery, the Holy Monastery of St. Stephen, which was taken over by nuns after the WWII. The monatery was lovely, but I have to say that I met the most serious (or perhaps solemn is the more appropriate word?) group of people in the world – the nuns. Of course, they let visitors in for a certain fee to help maintain the place. They also have a souvenir shop, where I bought a really nice hand-made necklace and my now-missing-ring.

And oh, I had to wear a ‘sarong’ because pants or shorts are not allowed, which I understood why perfectly. 😛

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The trip in Meteora is something I will never ever forget for sure! It wasn’t for the faint-hearted though, because it can be literally sitting “in the middle of the sky”, as seen from these short videos of the roads:

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Meteora

After the amazing experience, we headed back to Athens, a trip that lasted about4-5 hours.  We had an amazing late lunch stopover in the coastal town of Thermopylae, where the battle between the Spartans and Persians occurred. 😀

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Late lunch

There you have it! It was an amazing, surreal experience to be in Meteora, in Delphi, across the Greek mountains! I felt like I was on top of the world. 😉 I learned a lot, and I feel super blessed to have visited these places I only saw in books in the past. :’-)  I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. I wish I could explore the country more in the future, but for now, Delphi and Meteora (and Athens and Sounon) are enough to keep me happy. 🙂 Up next, my last couple of days in Athens spent with hospitable locals in a local beach and a trip to the south, to the Temple of Poseidon! Cheers! ❤

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Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas in Meteora

 

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