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Published: August 30th 2009
Amazing Meteora!This has been long overdue. I may have taken comfort in the many notes I have taken while doing this visit that I blogged about my more recent trips to China and Taiwan before working on this one. It has been nearly 6 months since Greece, and I beg you to indulge me.
Back in 1996, this was the highlight of my trip to Greece. I just knew I had to bring Shelly here.
A Second Time Around in Greece.......
It has been 13 years. The first time I visited Greece was back in 1996. I was not exactly alone then, as I joined a travel group for a 38 day trip around the area. We then covered Athens, Delphi, Thessaloniki, Meteora/Kalampaka, even Nessebar on our way out to Istanbul. Many fond memories. I remember going back to Athens after every "major trip", where we relaxed, did our laundry and enjoyed shopping and dining at the Plaka.
Some things never change. When Shelly and I arrived in Athens, there was dear Jean to welcome us. And dear Jean to take care of our hotel bookings, out of town trip to Meteora, cruise bookings and our laundry!!!! Since it was still early and checking in at our Hotel Athenais would
Took this photo from the hill across, soon after we climbed down from the Acropolis.
have to wait till noon, we decided to go to the highlight of any trip to Athens. Shelly being a first-timer here, was all agog about touring around the Acropolis. After all, any history on Greece would be remiss without stories on Athena, the great Acropolis, the Erechtheion, the many Greek gods and goddesses, the many odeons and amphitheatres, the original Olympic games, and many more. Shelly had her fill that morning. As we climbed up to the Parthenon, she had a fine introduction viewing the odeon and Theater of Dionysus, the Temple of Athena Nike, the colossal Parthenon, etc. But she was blown away by the beauty of the Erechtheion's Caryatids. We were lucky to get a good shot on that clear sunny day. The clouds were out, the tourist crowds were well-behaved, the children were not wailing, and there was just enough cool breeze to dry the sweat off our foreheads. By the time we were done, it was way past lunch time so we decided to proceed to our hotel to check in and freshen up.
From the hotel, we did more touristy stuff like those stopovers at the Olympics 2004 site,
Yes, it was a clear day!
The Caryatids were just as I remembered it, and the sunny weather was a bonus!
the Parliament, the modern Olympic stadium. Then we made our way to Plaka. With Shelly's shopping skills honed in the many bazaars in Turkey, Plaka was not all that challenging for her. We decided we should do Plaka again before we finally leave Greece, careful not to load up so much as we still had the cruise to do in the coming days. So back to the hotel for some needed rest. After all, we started very early today for our morning flight from Istanbul to Athens. And we plan to leave midnight for an overland trip to Kalambaka/Meteora. So, time to recharge!
Out at 2 AM, to reach Meteora by 8 AM
Our earlier-scheduled Meteora tour was cancelled. And the next one won't be until April. Too late, as we plan to join our cruise end of this March. Our dear Jean had other ideas. She organized her own tour!!!! An entire motorcoach was rented for the day. There were 43 of us, including at least 3 kids, who mercifully slept through the entire journey to Meteora. Many brought thermo flasks filled with coffee. And we even made a
You can't do the monasteries in pants.... so you either use the filthy skirts available there, or IMPROVISE. Good thing my shawl is big enough as a wrap around skirt.
stopover in some cafe that must have served many tour buses. The problem with drinking coffee is that you're good for just 2 hours till you start lining up to pee. I was tempted to drink more than a cup, but stopped myself. In that 6 hour journey, I lined up to pee only twice. In between, I managed to doze off. I woke up just when we were entering Kalampaka (or Kalambaka)........and the sunrise was quite a sight as the light touched off the rock monasteries and hills scattered in that area.
First off was the Great Meteoron Monastery. My lavender shawl made for a good wrap around skirt. I remember back in 1996 being told that women can't enter the monasteries wearing shorts or pants. There were skirts available at the gate, but you can imagine all those tourists having tried them on, and the gatekeepers not wasting their time to put those filthy skirts up for laundry for some time. It was cool and breezy here early this morning. And after sitting it out for the last 6 hours, we were all prepped up for the climb. One of the young fathers
The Monasteries of Meteora
We only visited 3 this afternoon. But we certainly made good use of these visits.....Oh, my knees!!! All that climbing.
climbed up right ahead of me , with his daughter on his back. As I struggled to climb up, I only had to look at this young fellow take 2 steps at a time, all in stride, while chatting up his daughter . Then I looked back. The others stopped to catch their breath. Hmmm, I wasn't doing badly after all.
The icons inside the monasteries were just as I remembered them, more than 20 years ago. The views from the top make the climb worthwhile. The "net" used to pull up the monks in olden times was still there. In my earlier blog on Greece (No Senior Moments, I remember Greece 1996), I mentioned how those monks must have prayed real hard inside those nets, while the other monks pulled them up several stories high. One false move, and it's goodbye. The altar inside was quite a sight, but no photos are allowed.
There were 2 other monasteries to visit, and one is St. Stephen's. This one is easier to manage. No uphill climb. More icons. More photo opps. More panoramic views. Shelly found something to buy in the museum store inside, while I sat
I Love This Shot!
A young lad took this photo......and Shelly had the nerve to ask him to do it a second time! The second shot did it.
it out in one corner watching busloads after busloads of noisy, unruly schoolchildren visiting the monasteries. A pity I couldn't understand what they were talking about. Well, you bet they were talking Greek! But there was obviously a great debate going on among these youngsters as young men and women talked at the top of their voices while weaving through the monastery's dark rooms. I wonder.
By the time we recouped for the bus ride back to Athens, we were all tired and ready to doze off. We reached the capital around 9 pm . We were out for a good 18 hours. But it was all worth it. I knew I just had to make this 2nd visit to Meteora, and that I just had to bring Shelly here. Many tourists just stay in Athens or nearby Delphi, perhaps do a 3 island tour for a day, or even go further to one of those hotspot islands like Mykonos or Santorini. But Meteora is truly something. I will recommend it to anyone visiting Greece. 😊
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