Understanding In Greek
Greece comes under the European Union. Euro is their currency. Greece could be entered with the Schengen Visa which is also used for entering many other European countries. Yet, the reality is that Greece is excluded out of all popular European tour packages. Probably due to its financial crisis as well as route difficulties. But Greece, in fact, powerfully dominates every other country literally in Europe by its diversity in the beauty that it holds. Travellers passing through here usually fall in love with the breathtaking islands, with Mykonos, Creta, Corfu, Santorini being some among them to choose from. But what astonished us were the isolated Meteora hills at the heart of mainland Greece.
Witnessing Monasteries That Hung From the SkyIn Greek, Meteora stands for “hanging from the sky”. Situated at the top of the hills, six Christian monasteries stand accounted for this name. These monasteries stand at the edge of steep rocks. Meteora is 350 Kilometers away from the capital city of Athens. As far as transportation is concerned, there’s a train running from Athens to Kalambaka, a town at the bottom of the hills. Departing at 8:30 AM it reaches by 1:30 PM at Kalambaka, while the train departs at 5:30 PM and arrives by 10:30 PM. Usually, travellers would stay a night at Kalambaka and after a day of adventurous sightseeing, return.
Our Very Own Book Of Adventure Kalambaka is a town with sufficient hotels as well as hostel dormitories. We were taken in by Mama Dora’s Greco hostel. As the name suggests, she was a kind soul treating all her guests as her very own children. Conversing with her while having delicious pizza and coffee made by her, we were informed that she had received a doctorate in English Literature from Cambridge University. She was also the Principal of her very own school but was forced to shut down the school due to the recent financial crisis that struck Greece. She was cultivating her own food supplies rather than directly buying them from outside. The bell peppers, tomatoes and onions in the pizza itself were from her own backyard.
After a wonderful breakfast, we got dressed up and headed over to the top of the mountains. Starting at 9 AM, there is a bus heading back and forth every two hours, till 3 PM to go to the monasteries from Kalambaka. But we chose to go in a car arranged by Dora so we could stop and see the perfect viewpoints on the road. Dimitri, who assisted Mama Dora was our driver for the day. Dimitri was a postgraduate who after facing unemployment in Greece joined along with Mama Dora in hopes of a livelihood. Back to the journey, we’d been peaking up the mountains. Meteora is filled with round-shaped, glistening rocks.
The METEORA BackstoryOver thousands of years ago, this place was believed to have been submerged underwater. The flows of tides have caused the smooth glistening texture on the rocks. It is also said that a bunch of earthquakes that occurred a long time ago have formed huge cracks on the ground which drained the water, thus making these hills protrude out. Since the 11th century, Christian monasteries have started to appear on top of the hills. It is believed that this was done so that the recluse monks could live closer to God and heaven. There were about 24 monasteries initially built, out of which only six remain – Anapausas, Rousanou, Megalometeoron, Varlam, Holy Trinity and Stephanos, each of which requires over a hundred steps to be climbed upon.
These monasteries shot to fame because of the James Bond film, “For your eyes only”, in which Roger Moore portrayed the iconic character. The Meteora Hills was the prime location in that movie. The most beautiful and the biggest of all the six monasteries is the Megalometeoron monastery which was founded by St Athanasious Meteoritus. The monastery is named after him. In a passage of time, the whole of these hills inhabited by the monks gradually came to be called as Meteora. We could reach the entrance of Megalometeoron after climbing over 150 steps and having paid three Euros per visitor. On our way to getting the entrance pass, we came across a room that held various belongings including utensils, wine barriers, ropes, ornaments of Bishops, etc.
Exploring the Chapels in GreeceNext, we moved to visit the prayer area in Megalometeoron, which was a small chapel consisting of two rooms. Since photography was prohibited in this particular room, we had to go in with closed cameras. Taking three steps in, we almost froze seeing that the room was filled with spectacularly painted murals. Pictures depicted the life, death and resurrection of Lord Jesus. The room was beautifully lit from above, displaying how amazing the murals looked. The whole room was extremely calm, reminding me of the Sistine Chapel of Vatican.
The Sunset RockExiting this monastery, we moved onto the beautiful and breathtaking sunset rock of Meteora. This place was famous for providing a panoramic view of four out of six monasteries packed elegantly in a single frame. Anapausas, Rousanou, Megalometeoron and Varlaam are the places which could be viewed from here, out of which Anapausas was the smallest. The sunset rock’s bottom held Rousanou, while either side at a distance apart were the Megalomiotron and Varlaam monasteries. As the end of September neared, the surrounding trees changed their colour into red and yellow could very well be observed, that marked the dawn of Autumn. After having spent some time there, we then moved onto the other side of Meteora to visit the two remaining monasteries.
Holy Trinity Monastery in MeteoraOn arriving at Holy Trinity, we realized it was situated on top of a huge rock that gave an image of an enormous pillar sticking out from the surface. Holy Trinity was the most intriguing of the six monasteries in terms of external appearance. After having to go all the way down the hill, steps spiralling upwards had to be conquered before actually reaching the monastery gates. The insides of Holy Trinity lacked the grandeur of Megalometeoron monastery, and was a small one but also gave us the complete view of the town of Kalambaka from above. Since it was getting late already, we took our exit.
By the time we got to the entrance of Stephanos, it was almost dusk. This one was the only nun monastery in Meteora, run solely by women. This was also the easiest one to get to. There was a bridge built right from the roadside leading our way straight to the rock, thus making it the easiest route. We decided to spend our time outside, watching the sunset. At times the clouds would give way to the sun which shone with all its raw glory; at that point, the whole place would appear in golden. While taking in all its natural beauty, the clouds will cover-up and the site would get dark again. We loved these amazing moments at Meteora before darkness swallowed the hills completely.