Meteora, Greece

What I remembered from the Greeks was that they are big, grabby (as in actually grabbing me, lots), and loud; so I wasn’t looking forward to being back but the boys had their hearts set on visiting the Acropolis. We couldn’t stomach another furgon ride to the Albanian border so instead we took a ferry from Sarandë to Corfu [9am, 10:30am & 1:30pm]

20130808-075612.jpgnot knowing how we were going to continue from there. As soon as we arrived at the port, we inquired about continuing to mainland Greece. The attendant at the port was horrid. “I’ve been in your country for five minutes and you’re already screaming at me?”, Fernando complained which prompted the guy to stop screaming and throw a schedule at us (this was an improvement on his behavior). Yep, no mistake about it, we’re in Greece.

We were lucky, we caught another ferry to Igoumenitsa within 20 minutes

20130808-075816.jpgthen a bus to Ioannina within an hour and another bus to Kalambaka all in succession. It was a long and boring day of travel but we made it all the way to our destination.

We had wanted to visit Meteora for a long time but it had been just too complicated to get there. This time we were arriving from the north so it fit right in.

Getting there involves driving thru mountainous terrain with curve after curve after curve after… We had a very cautious driver, as well as a supply of Dramamine, but I still got so sick I had to ask someone riding in front to let me sit with her in order to watch the road and keep from throwing up. At some point the driver looked back and said something unrecognizable. A couple minutes later, doubt crept into my mind. “Kalambaka?” I asked. He screeched to a stop and let us off by the side of the road. We had passed Kalambaka a few minutes ago and thus he deposited us unceremoniously at 10pm on the darkened highway and pointed back. We strapped our packs on and walked in the direction he had pointed. We came to a fork in the road and decided to ask which way to go at a hotel set there. Big mistake! Fernando’s leg was hurting badly (he’s got a titanium rod in his right femur) and I was still green with nausea so when the boys took one look at the swimming pool, all was lost. They made the saddest puppy eyes and we didn’t have the stamina to resist.

20130809-144605.jpgDon’t make the mistake we made, keep walking uphill. There are literally hundreds of rooms for rent and hotels to boot. At the very end of the road, there is a campground with a swimming pool and you don’t even have to camp: they also have rooms.

Did you know that the word “Meteora” means “suspended in the air”? Meteora used to have 24 monasteries built on the cliffs; they do seem to be suspended in the air.

20130809-145736.jpgOnly six of them remain today. The monasteries were built by monks wishing to escape the world in the 1300’s and used to be accesible by ropes which would be replaced only when “the Lord let them break”. Must have taken a lot of faith to get on those ropes. Today they are accesible by stairs, lots of them. Entrance is €3 each.

The receptionist at the hotel had told us that the bus going up to Meteora would leave at 1:30pm. It doesn’t. It leaves at 9am and we missed it. Walking 7km uphill didn’t seem enticing so we splurged for a “Sunset Tour” by private minibus. They took us to three of the monasteries: “Great Meteora”, “Varlaam”, and “St.Stephen”.

20130809-150241.jpgThe inside of the monasteries is decorated in impressive frescoes, some depicting hell in great detail. No pictures allowed though. While the monasteries heavily advertise that no knees must be showing, everyone including our guide was wearing shorts; no one was stopped from going in. Wrap-around skirts are lent to the women at the entrance to each monastery.

20130809-151055.jpgWe also toured an old Byzantine church, “Church of the Assumption of the Virgin”, believed to date from the 9th century and still in use.

20130809-151348.jpgThe church was constructed at the site of an Apollo temple and still has the carvings to show.

20130809-151507.jpgWe then climbed back to enjoy the magical site while the sun went down behind the cliffs.

20130809-151749.jpgWe had to stay another night since the train to Athens leaves at 5:30pm and we weren’t back in time to catch it but we liked Kalambaka at night quite a bit. While during the day it resembles a ghost town

20130809-152517.jpg it comes alive at night when the fountains turn on and people seem to suddenly spring everywhere.

Categories: Albania, Europe, Greece, UNESCO site | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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