The wonders of Meteora and onwards to Thessaloniki(hereafter called plain ole T )


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June 1st 2013
Published: June 4th 2013
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Gelato now seems to be a thing of the past but I will report again once we reach gelato area again.

Breakfast this morning was included in our room rate and a very good Greek style breakfast it was too with creamy yogurt and a half cooked peach,egg,salami,beetroot etc.

The day was fine and sunny and it had the feeling it was going to get very warm as the day progressed.

The unusual sandstone 'hills'were formed 60 million years ago and are quite extraordinary as we have seen nothing else like them in our travels around Greece either this time or before.

What is more remarkable about this World Heritage site is that on the tops of the 'hills' six monasteries have been built to follow the teachings of the Greek Orthodox church.The first was built in the 1400's and just how this construction was achieved is a marvel because of the location of the buildings(see photos).The six monasteries are clustered in a relatively small area and all are served by a winding road which thankfully this morning wasn't too busy.

We had read that you really needed all day to visit them all as to actually get to the buildings themselves there were various climbs up from the roadway.We thought that a visit to one would give us a good overview and we had read that 3 or 4 of them were similar in how the interior looked and what they contained.

We chose the first we came to and although it was small in size the frescoes and decoration were certainly very beautiful and well maintained.We should add that all the monasteries are in use.St Nicholas was built in the 16th century and has had a couple of modern additions to it one of which was a lift system which would have made bringing supplies in for the monks that live and worship there so much easier.

The views from the terraced area to the other pillar shaped 'hills' were excellent and on an adjacent one without a monastery there were a number of people scaling the smooth sandstone wall heading for the top.We thought our way of walking up the path and then the steps up the outside of the monastery was still the easiest way of getting to the top.

There was a guy taking €3 each for admission and with him another guy who was interested in where we were from.He wanted to know if there was plenty of work in NZ(he was a fruit stall vendor)and how easy was it to get into the country.He obviously had read a bit about NZ and wasn't too unaware that it was always hard to get into NZ without the right paper work.We didn't dare say that Erin worked for NZ Immigration as he might have thought we could somehow help him into the country.

We drove the rest of the way up amongst the monastery's which include two that are for women only while the other four are men only.We were glad we did the first one we came to as the ones further up the hill had the most cars and buses stopped near them and we could imagine it would have been a tight squeeze with all those people in a fairly confined space.

With the morning just about gone we headed off to find the A2 motorway that would speed up our progress to T or otherwise it was going to work out to be a longer day than we wanted it to be.

First though the road from Meteora wandered about over a 500 metre pass and then ran along the ridge high above a valley.The road was windy and reasonably narrow and it became more interesting when we started to meet what seemed like a competitive cycle race although there was a wide range of ages taking part.The cyclists had all the gear on and looked intent on what they were doing.They were spread out over a huge distance as they were still passing us when we stopped for lunch just before we joined the A2.

There was almost no other traffic on the A2 in either direction which runs from the west coast near the border with Albania where we crossed a week ago all the way across the country through T and onto the far east and the border with Turkey.We found this quite astounding considering just how good the road was cutting through the countryside with very easy gradients and for a great part toll free.Perhaps it was because it was Saturday,who knows,but we had the road almost exclusively to ourselves for many kilometres.

Before we turned off to an attraction we wanted to visit in the mid afternoon at Vergina(yes I have spelt the name of the town correctly)we achieved another little milestone on the BBA V2 and that was at 8170km travelled we had finally got our average speed up to 50kph with the aid of some motorway driving at speeds up to 130kph.Now to maintain it and perhaps improve on it a bit more.The target of 4.5litres per 100 kilometres is still in our sights and was currently at 4.6.

Our reason to turn off the A2 for a short while and travel the 10km to Vergina was to visit the museum that was created after the burial tombs of the kings of Macedon including Philip II,the father of Alexander the Great considered to be one of the most successful army commanders of all time never having being beaten in battle.

In 1977 a Greek archaeologist named Andronikos discovered the never before discovered tombs from the third century BC.Included in the tombs were some amazing and intact artefacts including exquisite gold wreaths which were on display along with many other items that had been buried with the bodies that had been found in the diggings.

What made the site so interesting was the museum is underground and has been built around where the tombs were found so that the actual site is well preserved.

There were very few people at the World Heritage site and after we passed two men sitting at the entrance to the museum we had the feeling that one of them was following us although we didn't put two and two together.We hadn't noticed any signs saying no photos or video and initially we thought the light was too dim inside the museum to take photos without flash which we don't like to do where there are very old items on display.However,as I got to the tomb location itself the light was brighter and I switched the video on and was quickly reprimanded by the man who had been following us.All was revealed,we were under surveillance just in case we erred on taking photos and video.We still didn't see any signs when we emerged into the daylight after taking in all the exhibits.

It had been a very worthwhile side trip and we returned to the A2 but not before buying 1kg of cherries for a ridiculous price of €2 and they were the sweetest ever!

After we joined the A2 again we began to notice orchards of peach trees that went on for many kilometres running down to the sea side of the gulf on which T is at the head.

The traffic volumes finally picked up to the levels we had expected earlier as we saw T ahead of us,a mass of white(the predominant colour of the buildings)against the brown hillsides behind Greece's second largest city.We hadn't intended to visit any of the historical points of interest in T and we had expected Vicky to take us around the city on a ring road.However she had other ideas and she took us through the centre of the city although it didn't turn out to be a problem as it was late Saturday afternoon and the city traffic was relatively light.

Our hotel was located near the airport about 12km out of the city on the eastern side and had looked a very good deal on Gala Hotels at €30 for a room in what looked like a plush hotel.Finding it was a bit of a challenge because it didn't have a street address and it became clear why when we finally did spot a sign leading to the hotel up a very narrow lane so insignificant to ever be called a street or a road.The hotel though did look smart on the outside and we bolled on up to the reception desk to check in.

Then it became clear where our 'cheap'room was.Called an Eco room it was downstairs and half buried underground so that the window we had was small and opened at grass level.As it turned out it was comfortable and large enough and did have a wall attachment for the shower head over the bath.It seems now all our hotels will be ranked as to the shower!

With tomorrow being Sunday and our experience last week of shops being closed we headed out to a mall we had spotted on the way to the hotel.Much to our pleasure there was an Ikea store there and for the first time we were able to go inside and check out what they had in their lines.To us it resembled a big Warehouse or Mitre10.It was clearly popular with the Greeks as there were dozens of cars lined up with their owners hauling away boxes of all sizes to take home and assemble into furniture etc.

We were able to settle Gretchen's curiosity as well with a visit to Jumbos,a store we have seen a couple of times on our travels in Greece but had not been inside to see what they actually sold.As we half expected it turned out to be a toy store and once she was satisfied we looked to go out the entrance we came in through.No go though!We had to troup around corner after corner going through every department(they also sold hardware etc)until we got to the checkout level which as it turned out was next to but below the entry door,and were able to exit for there,curiosity satisfied.

We kept our dinner simple and went to Goody's for a burger and toasted sandwiches sitting outside at after 8pm with the temperature still at around 30C and so didn't end our meals out in Greece with our favourites Greek salad and gyros.


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