Greece Day 5: Monasteries of Meteora

Greece Day 5: Monasteries of Meteora

For whatever reason, I couldn’t sleep this morning. I woke up at 3am and passed the time by reading and exercising. Around 5:50am, my parents woke up as well to find a good place to watch the sunrise at 6:05am, and I decided to go for an early morning run in a foreign place.

I ran straight down the road, being careful not to take too many turns lest I get hopelessly lost and not be able to trace my way back. The road forward turned into a dirt path which looked a lot like a hiking trail. I followed it for a little while, curious about where it led, until I remembered a passing warning from yesterday’s tour guide regarding wildlife (lions and tigers and bears, oh my!) and decided to turn back since exploring the trail alone seemed imprudent. On my way back, however, I ran into my parents who had decided to walk in the same direction. Feeling more confidence in numbers (and recognizing that I’d only have to outrun the slowest member of our group, not a bear :P), I turned around and hiked with them up the trail.

The trail took us up to an old road then across that old road to another trail, this one a little less well-kept. At this point, my parents wanted to turn around, but I urged them on to go just 10 minutes further. As we walked, we crossed an interesting stone staircase/bridge and continued to wind our way up into the mountains. I imagined that maybe this path would lead us to one of the monasteries we had been to yesterday—I half joking thought since I had been under the impression that those were quite a ways up and not so close to the town. Yet as we walked, and the view got higher and higher and we approached the tops of the lowest rock formations, my excitement grew.

Again, my parents wanted to go back but I convinced them to keep going. A little further and we looked up and, lo and behold, not more than 200 meters above us, was one of the monasteries. At this point I could not be convinced to turn around until I saw what was at the end of this path. As we kept walking the path began to be better and better kept, and I realized that we must be close to the end. As we grew closer to the monasteries, we also started hearing a low humming noise. It took us a little while to recognize that this was actually the chantings of the monks high above us!

When we finally made it to the top, we found ourselves on a little landing below one of the monasteries. We had visited this exact same landing the day before and I recognized it as the area where they brought building materials to be hoisted up into the monastery via a great net connected to a rope. Now satisfied with my pre-breakfast adventure, we turned around and started the hike back down the mountain. Kristen was still soundly asleep when we returned.

A tour guide drove us once again up the winding mountain roads to the monasteries, this time giving us a chance to stop and look inside. We visited several monasteries today. The insides are typically rather austere—wooden floors, stone walls, minimal decoration except in the chapel, which is covered in paintings—but with beautiful and well-kept gardens. Though the exteriors are extraordinarily grand and their placement in the mountains is spectacular to behold, the insides of the monasteries felt very monotone after the first couple we visited. Some monasteries had winding stairways with many steps to their entrances. Other monasteries had museums (one had a war museum featuring soldier’s uniforms, swords, and pistols). One monastery had an ostiary—a room full of skulls and bones. When we asked our tour guide about this he said that it is tradition to exhume the bones of the monks after a few years, once the decay is complete. Greek Orthodox Christians believe that when Christ comes and resurrects the dead, there must be something of them still remaining to be resurrected. Thus, Greek Orthodox Christians don’t believe in cremation and, presumably, the monasteries keep the haunting remains of their dead in a small room. With the exception of a nun here or there manning (womaning?) the gift shop register, we hardly ran into a single monk or nun during our visits to the monasteries.

Feeling like we had seen everything to be seen in the mountains, we descended to the town to rest before our train to Delphi. We stopped for coffee and I ordered a freddo cappuccino, a cold coffee drink with a large cream foam head that Kristen and I had kept seeing at other cafes and restaurants.

Rested a little more, we departed for the train station where we boarded the same train that had taken us to Meteora and pushed away to Delphi.

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