Introduction to Meteora, 10 Sept 2019

Sept 10 2019, Meteora Greece

We arrived by train … had a hot lunch and a walk about town. I had a quick swim in the pool. At 345 pm we were ready for pick up in the van and off to explore Meteora. This is the highlight of the tour for me. I was not disappointed. This is a place that should be on the traveller’s bucket list!

A few people I met on the train this morning were coming in for the day, 5 hours on train both ways with a few hours to see some sights. For us, two glorious days to explore. A choice of van tour or walking tour, tonight we all agreed to sunset tour, about 4 hours visiting one monastery, Byzantine church, and sunset rock to get a spectacular view of 5 of the 6 monasteries on this site. Wow.

Eva was our tour guide,Dimos was the bus driver to Meteora site. Both very knowledgeable, friendly, professional and great to spend the time with. Very strong Greek accent and good English understanding and speaking. Very fun, story telling, Eva was delightful

In about the 9th century hermit monks came to live in caves in this area. Monks later came to build and live in the monasteries. The huge rock formations are dotted with evidence of their existence, then and now. Only six monasteries remain, four for male monks, two occupied by female nuns exclusively. There once were 24 in total built around 16th century. We saw all six remaining.

The first Story we heard, on 23 April, every year there is a ceremony for St. George. We drove by and photographed the stone wall where it is said that a Muslim woman dedicated her head scarf to pray to save husband. He had been injured. A Christian man was moved by the gesture, took the head scarf to the cave dedicated to St George and the husband’s life was saved. Every year since the locals bring up colorful scarves and dedicate to St George. Story behind colorful scarves annually is touching and we see the evidence.

In order to keep these monasteries in working order, some of them produce their own wine, sell for income. In 1988 the monasteries of Meteora became unesco World Heritage sight.

In many of the remaining monasteries, many we will see tomorrow, there are very old art paintings on walls, frescoes and more. In 16th century artists from Crete were invited to come to paint in the monasteries. This art still exists.

In the monastery of St Nicholas, built in the 14th century, two monks only live here. They do all the work of this huge facility. In some monasteries there are staff paid to assist with the tourists and upkeep, and drive up daily as their employment. Only the monks or nuns actually live in the sacred sights. Over time the monasteries have been somewhat modernized for convenience with lifts (elevators) and some with cable cars.

We stop at the Nunnery of St. Steven. We walk through the garden, and see the views from the walls. It is beautifully maintained. 30 nuns live there. There are massive chains still in the stone, from the retractable wooden bridge that once was protection. Now is stone bridge to cross over the cavern below. In the second world war this site was almost destroyed.

One story is that it took 22 years to lift only building materials up from the ground, for one monastery and then only one month to construct the building. Water gathering was an issue at the time they were built, 12,000 litre of water barrel construction to hold the rain water for use.

When built there were some 500 monks residing in the 24 monasteries, in 16th century. Now there are 60 people total, 46 nuns and 14 monks. Since 1960 women nuns conquered empty monasteries x 2 and forever changed history. It is wild and moving to be part of this history.

“For your eyes only” was a James Bond movie starring Roger Moore and scenes were filmed in Meteora. In fun they call it monastery of St. James Bond. One monk only lives there. He is a scientist. Monastery of holy trinity, it is the Hardest to reach. 1936 carved steps in rock, they are Carved by hand. We see the steps from where we are in the van. Wow, what a sight! Imagine the labour involved!

Many wild goats living in the area, we see them in the grasses, and some wander out on the road so we drive around. Less goats these days so there are young forests in the area.

Highest of the monasteries is built 630 meters above sea level. Some frescoes remain and Water cisterns. Many of the construction materials to rebuild the last remaining six monasteries were taken from the sights of the previously abandoned sights.

12000 pop Kalambaka. 2.5 million tourists per year

Byzantine church we visit was built upon the original sight Temple of Apollo 4000 BC. On the Same spot 4000 AD was built this first Orthodox Church. 11 century rebuilt again using same marble and columns from the original temple. We touch the ancient stones and listen to stories.

Amazing place to be part of. Looking forward to more tomorrow. Wow.

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