Meteora in central Greece on 30 June and 1 July 2013

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July 2nd 2013
Published: July 7th 2013
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Meteora in central Greece on 30 June and 1 July 2013

The Meteora Gardens Park was easy to find, driving from Delphi. It was well signed. The manager of the Park was really friendly and very helpful. The Park was a little run down and the manager said things were tough. The Park used to have a washing machine but they cannot afford to replace it. We could see that things were a little run down.

We decided to have a meal at their restaurant as we had had a big day of driving. Again we had our favourite Greek salad and a tasty chicken dish. We have noticed the Greeks love their food salty and for us, sometimes it is a little too salty but not too bad. We had moderate WiFi in the restaurant.

The next morning we walked around the Park only to discover that it had a swimming pool which we didn’t see the previous day. The Park manager had given us a map of where to see all the monasteries in the Meteora district.

Meteora means ‘suspended rock’ which are a group of extraordinary sandstone towers as part of an impressive mountain range in central Greece. They were formed by the action of the sea that covered the plain of Thessaly around 30 million years ago.

The story behind these monasteries which are all built on top of these towers is that they were used for religious retreats in AD 985 when a hermit named Barnabos occupied a cave here. From then on, a further 23 monasteries and churches were built on top of these towers though most had fallen into ruin by the 19th century. In the 1920s stairs were cut in the rock faces to make the remaining 6 monasteries more accessible and today a religious revival has seen the return of a number of monks and nuns. They were extraordinary.

We drove to the first building the Saint Nikolaos monastery. We also visited Rousanou, Valaam and the larges one, Metamorfosis Monastery. Each cost 3 Euros to enter. Again I will leave the photos to tell their story.

Just a little more history on the 4 we visited:

The Holy Monastery of St Nicholas, built in the 16th century, is a small church. It was decorated by the Cretan painter Theophanis Strelitzas, in 1527.

The Holy Monastery of Rousanou/St. Barbara was founded in the middle of 16th century and decorated in 1560.

The Holy Monastery of Varlaam is the second largest monastery in the Metéora complex. It was built in 1541 and embellished in 1548. A church, dedicated to All Saints, is in the Athonite type (cross-in-square with dome and choirs), with spacious exonerthex (lite) is surrounded by a dome. It was built in 1541/42 and decorated in 1548, while the exonarthex was decorated in 1566. The old refectory is used as a museum while north of the church is the parekklesion of the Three Bishops, built in 1627 and decorated in 1637.

The Holy Monastery of Meteoron - This is the largest of the monasteries located at Metéora. It was erected in the mid-14th century and was the subject of restoration and embellishment projects in 1483 and 1552. The building serves as the main museum for tourists. The main church, consecrated in honour of the Transfiguration of Jesus was erected in the middle of 14th century and 1387/88 and decorated in 1483 and 1552.

The frescos in the churches were ‘interesting’. They depicted the chronic treatment given to those to ‘cleanse the sole’. Beheading, cutting off arms and legs or feet and hands, squashing people with large presses where all included in these frescos. It was horrific. They had nuns and other people in the churches making sure that no one took photos of the frescos.

We were pleased we were there on Monday because they were all open. We saw on the gates of each that one was closed on Tuesday, others on the other week days so we were a bit lucky.

We did a lot of climbing and walking up each of these towers to see the churches, and some of the buildings that are lived in again. Each of these sets of buildings is now in very good condition after being restored. 4 Monasteries was enough to visit though. We were very impressed.

And after 3 weeks our visit to Greece was coming to an end. We have thoroughly enjoyed the mixed experiences and we take a wealth of new knowledge away with us about Greece, why they are in financial strife, but besides that they have a wealth of history, arts and culture which is impressive.

We are now off to Albania driving through Ioannina and Doliana on highway E853.

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