When we finally arrived in Meteora, we took a cab to Saint Georgio’s Villa, a small bed-and-breakfast-like establishment on the edge of a village called Kastraki, which lies at the bottom of the mountains in Meteora. Kastraki is the smaller of two villages at the base of the mountains; the other is called Kalambaka.
Last minute, we were able to get ourselves a couple of spots on a sunset tour of Meteora. In fact, we turned out to be the only people on the tour and, since it was a very cloudy day, viewing the sunset was unlikely.
As I learned on the tour, Meteora, which roughly translates to “floating in the air,” is famous for its mountainous rock formations and for the Greek Orthodox Christian monasteries that sit atop them. The best modern theories say that the entirety of Meteora was under water, the bottom of a sea. The mountains stand where the delta of a river used to be, as evidenced by the composite of materials in the sandstone deposits that form the mountains. Of course, the Greeks have their own mythological tale of how these mountains came to be: long ago, the Gods of Mount Olympus fought a terrible war against their forebears, the Titans. The fight flattened the earth, creating the large level plane that is the valley in which Kastraki and Kalambaka sit. As is written in the mythology, the Titans lost the battle and many of the fallen Titans turned into stone. The mountains at Meteora are thus the fossils of ancient Titans.
Our tour took us high into mountains to view the monasteries and nunneries built there. There are 6 of them that can be visited, and one of them has as few as 3 monks inside. The view from the top of the mountains is incredible—you can see out for many, many miles and here, unlike, Athens, the rooftops are quite beautiful. There seems to be some sort of village ordinance requiring people to build their houses only so high and to have a distinct red roof that looks very Spanish, but which must be Greek. The monasteries and nunneries themselves are made of course stone, but are build almost as extensions of the mountains themselves. The tour guide told informed us that building materials for the monasteries used to be carried by mule or on foot from across the valley. Some of these monasteries took more than a hundred years to build.
Since we got into Meteora so late, only one nunnery was still open for visiting hours. Unfortunately I cannot remember its name. Upon entering a monastery or nunnery, women are expected to dress modestly so they give out shawls and skirts at the entrance. Women must wear a skirt even if they are wearing long pants. Men, on the other hand, can walk in wearing a T-shirt and shorts… rather sexist and nonsensical if you ask me, but I don’t make the rules.
One of the monasteries, which we didn’t get to visit the inside of today, is called The Holy Trinity. Apparently this monastery was used to film parts of James Bond For Your Eyes Only (which, I can’t remember having seen before). This monastery sits out alone on a rock that looks very much like an island. Apparently there are steps that snake down the side of one rock several stories and back up the other. The entire climb just to get to the monastery is supposed to take over an hour.
We stopped for many photos along the way, and had a chance to see most of the monasteries from the outside. Tomorrow, when they’re open, we’ll likely see many of them from the inside as well. As expected, there was no real sunset because of the clouds, but we nevertheless hung out on a nice rocky outcrop which would have had a nice view of the sunset. Mom got it in her head that she was on top of the world, and wanted to stop and meditate for a little while.
Having given up on the sunset, we went to dinner in the town at a quaint little restaurant called Restaurant Meteora which was recommended by our tour guide. “It’s been owned and run by the same family for 4 generations!” he had said, proudly. The food wasn’t half bad, either! I ordered some sort of lamb roast that came with baked potatoes. I also asked our waiter what his favorite Greek beer on the menu was and ordered an Alfa beer. Lamb was tasty, beer was just alright—kind of like the Greek version of Heineken.
Off to an early bed tonight, and on to the insides of the monasteries tomorrow before we take the train to Delphi!