Thursday, September 30, 2010

Meteora - the clifftop monasteries of Greece

Until my sister and I started planning our Greece adventure earlier this year, I'd never even heard of Meteora. Whenever I think of Greece, whitewashed buildings and crystal clear water came to mind - islands, certainly not mainland Greece. The clifftop monasteries of Meteora were our reason for heading further north and into the mountains before hitting the islands. Perched high in the sky on rock pillars, I can see why the Greek translation means "suspended in the air". These clifftop beauties certainly didn't disappoint and after a couple of days relaxing in this peaceful location, I would now highly recommend other travelers to Greece to spend some time in this special spot.

Choosing to avoid the rather ugly town of Kalampaka (it had ok shopping though, great sandals!), we stayed in Kastraki - a smaller town, higher up in the mountains. Our hotel was right on the outskirts of town, on the one road leading up to the monasteries and so we were lucky enough to have these fantastic, uninterrupted views of the rocks, a monastery or two, the occasional rock climber and the 'holy hankies', as the kids dubbed them. These colourful little handkerchiefs are strung high up on a rock and once a year, adventurous locals climb to fetch them in a death defying race - no rock climbing harnesses involved in this one...

As well as kicking back with a Mythos in the shade outside our hotel and admiring the views, we also spent some time on the windy mountain road doing some monastery spotting and took a visit inside two of them. The Holy Monastery of St Stephen (a nunnery) was by far my favourite out of the two. As well as having friendly Greek nuns, one of which chatted away to us (or, mostly the kids) in Greek for awhile, the chapels here were amazing. When I think of monks & nuns I think of simplicity - simple clothing, stark rooms with a threadbare mattress, well worn bible and lit only by candlelight... The main chapel at St Stephens totally threw all my previous ideas of a monastery in an instant. No photos were allowed so it's hard to give you an idea of what it was like - but imagine an incense filled room that was so ornately decorated it made you think you were in the Popes private chapel. The walls were carefully painted with bible scenes and there was an abundance of gold - chandeliers, figurines, everything decorated in gold and precious stones. There was also a body, a skeleton in fact, laying in some kind of shrine with rosary beads - couldn't quite figure out the significance of that one but it gave me the creeps...

Meteora really was a special place and these ancient monasteries, high in the sky, became even more spectacular at sunset....

1 comment:

  1. Thankyou Lulu, very interesting, would like to visit the monasteries myself:Mark Ingham


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