Meteora: Between the Earth & Sky

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July 7th 2019
Published: July 8th 2019
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The Splendor of MeteoraThe Splendor of MeteoraThe Splendor of Meteora

How did nature form these stones? How did medieval monks build these architectural wonders?
"There's one!" I'm bursting with excitement. "There's another one," I exclaim as we approach the 'Stone Forest,' dozens of vertical rocks, each as tall as a small mountain. As we get closer, I can begin to make out the Orthodox monasteries atop several of these pinnacles. From photos I thought there were maybe 3 or 4 of these, but I later discover that 24 were built, some of them inside caves. Hermits started moving into the caves in the 9th century, and in the 1300's the first formal monastery was built.

Allan's tired from the drive and it's hot from the African winds blowing north--44C/118F, so he lies down for a nap. I take the car from our hotel in Kalambaka, and drive to the top of the road--a couple of the monasteries are reachable this way. The late afternoon sun has lit these architectural wonders so that they gleam atop the gray formations. Questions arise about who these monks were, and how they got building supplies and later food and furnishings, up these forbidding precipices. I climb around, exploring and taking photos, saving my questions for tomorrow's tour. We usually prefer to do our own thing, but with only
Up close and personalUp close and personalUp close and personal

Featured in James Bond: For Your Eyes Only. This movie brought Meteora to the attention of the world in the 1980's.
a one night stay, I wanted to experience as much as possible.

Thank goodness we did. Not only is it hotter than Hades (the Greek god of the underworld; we are in Greece after all!), but we have to climb hundreds of steps to visit each of the 3 monasteries we get to tour. Thankfully, the bus goes right to the entrance, not in the parking lots hundreds of meters away, saving a few sweltering steps. We learn that 6 of the 24 monasteries are still inhabited by monks or nuns, who sell souvenirs, wine, jams, and honey to supplement their income. In the early days, ladders were built to climb the pinnacles, or visitors and supplies were hauled up in nets via a rope and pulley, only replaced when one broke (you can imagine the outcome for what was being hauled up). The stairs were only added to a handful of them in the 1920's. The others, in ruin, challenge hikers and rock climbers to visit.

Each monastery has beautiful gardens, a chapel painted brightly with Byzantine saints, kitchen, dining, and sleeping quarters. They're actually quite spacious!

The name, Meteora, has several translations, but the idea
Time for a ClimbTime for a ClimbTime for a Climb

Each monastery offers challenges to access. If it's in use, there are hundreds of stairs. If it's in ruins, you can climb ladders, trails, or footholds.
is that these architectural wonders are suspended between the earth and sky. Some interpret that they are floating, others that they exist in a spiritual dimension, and there are other perspectives.

The stone spires aren't volcanic, as I had assumed. They were formed in a lake 60 million years ago, as the ground was pushed up and fault lines began to weather away. It's a very unusual geological wonder. Between Mother Nature's miraculous creation, and that of determined spiritual seekers who built on two dozen of the rocks, I see this place as a Medieval Macchu Pichu.

We saw scarves and flags flapping inside a cave above Kastraki, one of a couple of villages spread out below the Stone Forest. Every year after Easter, the day of the celebration of St. George, villagers climb to the cave via rocks, to take down last years scarves and replace with new ones. Then there’s a feast with dancing and singing in the village. According to legend, during the Ottoman occupation, a Muslim woman prayed to St. George to heal her injured husband, leaving her most prized possession, her hijab. He was healed, and now villagers repeat the tradition, offering scarves
In the DistanceIn the DistanceIn the Distance

As you drive nearer, the formations peek out from above the vineyards and orchards. How many monasteries can you see on these rocks?
with prayers, and saving the old ones as talismans.

What an amazing faith and fortitude these people had, and I guess they still do to live this way for 700 years. When you go, I'd recommend cool weather; if you go in October there will be fewer people and more comfortable weather. If you're an adventurer, stay a few days to climb and hike. If you're older or your time is limited, take a half day tour to see and do the most in a short time.

Additional photos below
Photos: 22, Displayed: 22


Dwarfed Dwarfed

These monasteries are amazing. And as you look around, they are dwarfed by dozens more of these pinnacles.
Church in TownChurch in Town
Church in Town

In Kalastri, where we stayed
The Stone ForestThe Stone Forest
The Stone Forest

How many monasteries can you find?
Tourists Snapping PhotosTourists Snapping Photos
Tourists Snapping Photos

With a Monastery in the background
It's All RelativeIt's All Relative
It's All Relative

The rock and monastery both look huge until you see it next to the background of more pinnacles and monasteries.
Two Up TopTwo Up Top
Two Up Top

On the biggest mountain, there are a couple monasteries you can drive to.
From the TopFrom the Top
From the Top

It looks easy to get to, But Varlaam monastery is still several hundred stairs away!
Monasteries at the TopMonasteries at the Top
Monasteries at the Top

Grand Meteora is on the main mountain. Just below, on the next pinnacle is Monastery of Varlaam.

These monasteries are amazing. And as you look around, they are dwarfed by dozens more of these pinnacles.

How do they get the building supplies, humans, and food up there?
Gardens and ChurchGardens and Church
Gardens and Church

Each monastery has it's own church and gardens

I think this is my favorite view, above the forests.
Scarves in the CaveScarves in the Cave
Scarves in the Cave

There's a legend about a Muslim woman who offers her most prized possession for her husband's healing. Villagers re-create the offering every year right after Easter during the feast of St George.
Modern MuralModern Mural
Modern Mural

Byzantine style saints line the exterior wall as you enter a church.
Yes, we made it!Yes, we made it!
Yes, we made it!

Toward the end of our climbs.

8th July 2019

The amazing "heavenward" cathedrals of Mateora, Greece!
I rate ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ for Maribeth Theisen's travel blog of her experience in these amazing "heavenward" cathedrals of Mateora, Greece! She gave such a vivid picture of these truly world wonders, that I'm longing to visit to see for myself!
8th July 2019

Great writing is coupled with stunning photography to give us all the facts and recommendations from an inquisitive and colorful traveler. Easy read....I look forward to more!
8th July 2019

I really enjoyed reading this article. Our history never ceases to amaze me no matter what it is or where in the world it is. Many monasteries are built atop inaccessible mountains ddI they do this for safety or did they want to be totally detached from others? Was water access a common problem or did they have storage tanks for water collection from rain or melted snow. I would have likes to see some more photos of the interior of the monasteries to gain an insight into how they lived etc. Enough already suffice to say that I look forward to further reading of your wandering.
8th July 2019

Good point
Thank you. I do have some interior photos—including a couple of the largest wooden keg you’ve ever seen. They used it to store water, but could have turned it into a bedroom it’s so massive
8th July 2019

Great job!
You definitely have a talent for this Maribeth! A very enjoyable read with fascinating stories. ❤️B
8th July 2019

These are wonderful and detailed descriptions of the history along with your personal anecdotes. I enjoyed reading your descriptions and thought the photos were very picturesque and intriguing. Thank you for sharing your
tips and what appears to be a great experience.
9th July 2019

What I THOUGHT I Knew About Greece...
You have blown my mind with this post. And, ignited my curiosity. Greece has never been on my bucket list, at least near the top. You are changing my mind, one blog and photo series at a time. Thanks for sharing—and for expanding my ideas and travel itinerary in the process.
9th July 2019

What I THOUGHT I Knew About Greece...
You have blown my mind with this post. And, ignited my curiosity. Greece has never been on my bucket list, at least near the top. You are changing my mind, one blog and photo series at a time. Thanks for sharing—and for expanding my ideas and travel itinerary in the process.
10th July 2019

Maribeth should show the terrific photos she took in Vietnam. She was 12 and I (her first cousin) was a 25 year old army draftee in 1968 Saigon.
Maribeth is a genuine "renaissance lady". A beautiful singer, musician, professional counselor, and much more. Very engaging individual.

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