Wednesday, October 24th, 2007 The Hanging rope baskets of Meteora….
I woke up about 7 am and checked on the Internet as we probably won’t have it tonight. Jim got up at eight and we were down to the breakfast room before 9 am. By 9:30 am we were in the car and on the road. A beautiful sunshine filled day for our short drive further north to the
This area is so named because of the very tall rocks that have served as a place of shelter for those seeking a peaceful haven from societies’ problems since the 11th century. The earliest inhabitants were mostly monks and they slept in the natural caves in the rocks and reached them by climbing removable ladders. Over the years they began to build Monasteries on the very tops of these sandstone rocks that are so tall they are like mountains. Later, windlasses were used so monks could be hauled up in nets. These days the monasteries are accessed by steps hewn into the rocks in the 1920’s. Originally there were twenty-four monasteries but today there are only six of them remaining that have been restored and are still in use and also available for tourists to visit. And visit they do by the busload!
An interesting note is that shorts and sleeveless shirts are not allowed. Also, women are required to wear a skirt or dress below the knee. They provide wrap around and/or elastic waist skirts for all the women who arrive in pants.
We arrived in Meteora about 10 am and found a cute little hotel at the very reasonable price of 45 euros for the night. We have a bathroom and one electrical outlet…good thing I brought the extension cord for charging the electronic items. And, no, we do not have Internet or telephones but for two nights it’s great. Dropped off the luggage and headed up the mountains to see the monasteries.
Our first one is named Moni Megalou Meteorou (The Grand Meteora Monastery). This is the largest and grandest of all of them because of a Serbian emperor who turned all his wealth over to the monastery when he became a monk. It was very beautiful and had many exquisite pieces in the museum inside the monastery. It was a long hike down and then back up to reach the Monastery from the parking lot; but well worth the journey. I did notice that they had many cats of all colors and sizes wandering around who were very friendly. And yes, I was required to wear the skirt.
Our second one is named Moni Agiou Stefanaou (St. Stephen). One of the special pieces of art in this one was a large embroidered piece showing Christ on his bier and surrounded by tabloids of important events in his life. Very beautiful and I’m sure priceless.
Our third one is named Moni Agias Triados (Holy Trinity). This one is very famous as it was used in a James Bond movie called “For Your Eyes Only”. We had a very long walk down and then a long climb up to reach this Monastery. They have a cable car that takes them over now. Originally they used the rope baskets and it still exists and that was featured in the movie.
Our fourth and last one is named Moni Agias Varvaras Rousanou (St. Barbara). We walked down from up above through a beautiful wooded section on a path with 225 steps made with railroad ties. (Yes, I counted them on the way back to the car.) Then up a short distance before crossing a bridge to enter the Monastery that is also a nunnery and run by the sisters. Not too much to see here except that the view was wonderful, they had well tended gardens and it’s hard for Jim to say “no” to anything named Barbara…that’s his sister’s name. We lit candles and said prayers at all four of the Monasteries that we visited today for our siblings.
On the way down the mountain we spotted a very large cave in the side of one of the rocks that was left over from hundreds of years ago. It is remarkably well preserved and made a great Kodak moment for our last experience.
Arrived back at the hotel just after 3 pm for some rest and then we walked to town for dinner at a very nice Traverna. We shared a meal of stuffed zucchini, lamb and potatoes; washed down with Mythos, a Greek beer, and fried cheese on the side. Looks like it might rain tonight but that’s ok; we had a great day today visiting a most extraordinary place, and one of the most visited in all of Greece (per the guide book). The weather is cool (about 50 degrees); so we’ve added our sweatshirts under our windbreakers tonight for warmth. Tomorrow we head further west.