Meteora, the world above the earth, beneath the clouds, overlooking the plain of Thessaly
The last day of my road trip to Greece came so fast that I could not believe that the eight days allocated for it already passed. We left Lefkada pretty early, not before having my coffee on the terrace watching the sea thou. We had a long trip ahead of us, 405 km to Thessaloniki where we were supposed to spend the last night before leaving Greece. I kept looking at the amazingly blue colour of the sea and although I was sad for leaving I was happy for the time spent in its vicinity. I will be back! I know I will!
On the today agenda was a detour to Meteora. I thought that since I have been so many times in Greece maybe I should see Meteora although I wasn’t very enthusiastic about the idea. I would have preferred to spend another day close to the sea if possible. In my mind, I had an idea of what I might see there, or at least I thought I knew what I might see there. Again I realise how wrong I was. What I found there was beyond my expectations.
From Lefkada to Meteora are 250 km and since we wanted to see more of the mountain region, we decided to take E951 till we reached Ioannina. From Ioannina, we took E92 to Metsovo and from there E92 to Kalambaka where Meteora is. Although I felt sorry for leaving the seaside soon my attention was drawn to the amazing landscape we were driving through. Soon I forgot about the mountains and while looking out the window I kept thinking that “Here is a place I would like to do some hiking!!!“ or “ Oh, my God, is so beautiful!!!“. In my mind, I was already making plans where I will go and what I will do on my next road trip to Greece.
The code word indicating that I want to take a picture “butiful“ was heard numerous times. Although it was too sunny to take some dramatic pictures, few clouds were much needed it, we still stopped to admire the view. Every time we stopped I felt so inebriated by the sweet scent of Cytisus adorning the road on both sides that I could just stay there like a statue looking at that valley for hours.
In those moments I was thinking that probably this will be the highlight of the day. I loved the scenery and I thought to myself that ok, at Meteora probably I will see some monasteries built on a cliff. Big deal! I have seen better! But this part of the road was absolutely divine.
We were getting close and some big boulders were rising in front of us. Till now, nothing extraordinary. It did not seem to get me and I was already thinking that definitely, we are not staying here for too long and in my mind, I was looking for the alternatives. Where can we go?
At the foothills lies the village of Kastraki, yes, I know, funny name, probably traditional for the plain of Thessaly. The boulders were much bigger now becoming more impressive, but still not enough to sweep me off my feet. But then a sign with UNESCO World Heritage Site appeared and we entered a totally different world, It was like stepping through a gate between words. Because from now on I was amazed…
When I stepped into Meteora I felt an eerie sensation. The civilisation the way I knew it was left, somewhere behind those pillars. Here, it was a different world. A world I haven’t seen before. I was looking in awe at those monasteries buiLt on top of the pillars wondering myself “How did they do it?“, “How is it possible?“ Since I am not religious, my first thought was that I stepped into a fairyland. Although those monasteries were far from looking like a castle my imagination was already associating everything with The Lord of the rings movie.
I was surprised to see how different everything looked like when I was in the core of Meteora. If from far everything looked like a gathering of oddly shaped sandstone pillars, from where I was standing it looked like a magical world. I could now understand why for centuries hermits chose this place to retreat away from the world. Although it is said that the first monastery appeared in the 11th century, hermits were present in these parts centuries earlier. Driven by the need for safety people were dwelling on this parts since Neolithic.
Made of sandstone, these columns to the sky were easier to carve ensuring its dweller’s safety. According to the geologist, these boulders were formed of deposits of stone, sand and mud from streams flowing into a delta at the edge of a lake, over millions of years. The huge rock pillars were weathered by waters, winds and changing temperatures. This is the most plausible and accepted explanations, although it is hard to explain why such formation appeared in an area surrounded by mountains
Fascinating it is an understatement. Meteora it is beyond fascination. Not only the spectacular view wich takes your breath away. nor the religious experience some may have when being there, but the feeling that there is more than meets the eye. That natural raw beauty holds some keys. The interesting thing being that for each and every one of us that place holds a different key meant to open something…inside us.
Meteora is one of the largest complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries and second as importance after Mount Athos. Nowadays there are only 6 remaining functional monasteries. Centuries back the only way to be reached out was through a system of ladders or ropes but lately were carved stairs into rock and now are more accessible. Are open to the public until 5 pm, but since we arrived exactly at 5 pm we could not visit any of them.
Meteora is not the kind of place that can be seen in few hours and think that you might have seen and understood everything there is to be seen or understood. A network of hiking paths are waiting to be discovered as well and even a solar clock is placed on a pillar north from the complex.
The caves found in the vicinity of Meteora were inhabited continuously between 50000 to 5000 years ago which proves that the fascination for the pillars reaching for the sky is deeply rooted in the human history. The remains found in the cave of Theopetra holds information about the transition from Neanderthals to Homo Sapiens, The cave is 4 km from Meteora and it is open to the public.
Meteora which in Greek means “suspended in the air“ made me realise that every place I visited till now helped me add a new piece to the puzzle I keep solving in my mind. I always knew that there is the right time for everything but once again I was stunned how things tend to arrange in my life. I was happy I choose to see Meteora although I admit I was not very enthusiastic abut it.
The sun was descending marking the end of my journey through Greece. This is the land of my ancestors and still holds so many secrets. I was up on one of the pillars looking at the sun. The golden light was again surrounding me, It was the end of the day and the end of my trip, but not the end of my journeys through Greece. I will be back. There are still too many questions running through my head without an answer. There are still so many places I want to see. This reason is good enough for me to keep returning to Greece. One day, I will have all my answers…Till then, I will keep on walking…keep on travelling…