Friday, October 08, 2010

Meteora, Greece

My morning tea house.

After my long haul, I only had 40km to get to Meteora in the morning. However, first I needed to warm up. It had been a cold night and I don't think my body had enough food in it to get warm. I stopped in at the only cafe I could find. It seemed like it used to be a house. The kitchen was not any different from a regular one. It was brilliant. Anyway, I don't know what this guy did, but he did it well. His tea was great. Yum, yum. We didn't speak a lick of each other's languages, but that didn't stop him from being helpful and me from being gratious. It set the tone for a great day.

Greek farmland.

The cliffs of Meteora.

Meteora has one of the largest collections of Eastern Orthodox monestaries. Each monestary is built on a sandstone pillar. At one time the monestaries were deliberately difficult to access via long rope ladders and nets. It required a leap of faith to visit the monestary because the ropes were only replaced when they broke. Today, the monestaries are accessed via bridges and steep stair cases cut into the rocks. At one time, there were over 30 monestaries. Now, there are only six, five inhabited by men, one by women.

The old carpenter's workshop in one of the clifftop monestaries.

A monestary.

The ride up the hill to the monestaries was great. My legs were holding up great and the ride was beautiful. It reminded me a little bit of Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs with these crazy rock formations sticking up everywhere, but these were much bigger. As I rode up, I skipped visiting the first two monestaries. I wanted to get my hill riding done for the day and the better ones were supposed to be up top. I locked my bike up and headed into the first monestary. Beautiful. I was more taken with the views than the history, but such is life. At 2 euros it is a steal, whatever you go for. The monestary felt like a maze. I was never quite sure if I knew where I was. We had almost full access to the place because the monestaries have unfortunately become more of a tourist attraction than anything else. A maximum of ten people live in any single monestary.

Varlaam monestary

Roussanou monestary

As I was visiting the first monestary, it got much, much busier. The tour buses had arrived. With the tour buses came a bunch of black SUVs that had ads all over them like Ewan McGregor's SUVs in Long Way Down. The group was driving the old Silk Road. That has to be an incredible journey. The increased population put a damper on my visit to the second monastery. It just wasn't as quiet and I definitely liked having the first monestary to myself and a few other early birds. Oh well. It was still cool, especially since they were replacing the slate roof and throwing the old ones plummeting down the cliff side with a sudden crash when they hit. The one neat thing about this monestary was that they had a net for access.

Agios Nikolaos monestary

Knive scapel cut cliff.

After visiting the second monestary, I biked toward the last two monestaries. On the way, I met a German couple that I chatted with for a while. I was feeling monestaried out, but they suggested I visit the nunnery because it was much different than the rest. This couple travels each year to Greece in their camper van. They were fantastic and nothing I can say about them will do the experience of talking with them justice. They gave me some dried pears from their garden and the old man gave me a push start on my bike when I finally left. I would be lucky to run into them again.

Video panaroma of Meteora, Greece

Farmland on the way to the bus.

Unfortunately, the nunnery was closed for the afternoon meal or praying by the time I arrived. I just had a quick look at the outside of the last two before heading onward to Delfi. I wasn't sure if I would bike it or bus it. I was behind schedule so decided that if I found the bus station, I would take it. As luck would have it, I had to sprint cycle to the station to catch the last bus for the evening. On to central Greece!


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