Jane has taken a moment from her travels to communicate with us from Greece.
Visiting Meteora was the reason I booked this tour. Yesterday we travelled from Athens north west through the spine of Greece, a typical Mediterranean landscape, passing through a large valley, the food bowl of the country. Cotton, rice, pulses and vegetables grown here.
It was a long drive, arriving early evening and finally exciting to see the huge rocky outcrops with churches seemingly floating on top.
Meteora, which means suspended in the air, is an area of soaring monoliths more than 400 metres high, which attracted ascetics from the 12th century, seeking a tranquil setting to devote their lives to pray and set about building around 41 monasteries over several centuries, all, perched atop the rocky pillars. 6 remain today and it’s hard to imagine the time and effort required to transport the materials and build these majestic places of worship. I could think of easier places for quiet contemplation!
It would have been a harsh life for the monks, filled with self sacrifice - snowing in winter and hot during the summer. Pulley systems with ropes and baskets conveyed materials, pulled by hand - quite unbelievable. Even today they do the same - now with the aid of motors.
Time was spent not only on prayer, but adding beauty to their churches, which are filled with beautiful frescoes, silver rimmed paintings, gold leafed adorned walls, intricate vestments covered with gold and silver thread, ornate crosses and other religious items.
This is one of the churches inside the monastery which included courtyards and living quarters.
And this image was in the entrance to one of the churches.
I am sure you will all enjoy this glorious icon with silver overlays in intricately carved wooden frames.
The weather is mild and clear as we visited two of the monasteries. The first, Agios Stephanos, now a nunnery, built in the 12th century. Although some of the frescoes in the church date back to this time, many are new or currently in progress - the colours so vibrant, every brushstroke precise - the surfaces of the walls smooth and perfect.
This is the ceiling of the cupola in the nave of the church in Agios Stephanos.
And this photo of Jane's is of the nave in the church at Agios Stephanos
This was in marked contrast to our 2nd visit -Monastery of Varlaam (the one on the right below) - built in the 16th century, where the patina of the frescoes has aged, there is some damage and the walls imperfect, but equally beautiful. I was reminded of the wonderful churches I visited in Cyprus a few years ago. Sadly no photos allowed inside but I did buy a small book.
The remoteness on the cliff tops was also for protection, drawbridges were used, making it impossible to invade or gain uninvited access. Today a convoy of tour coaches snake up the new roads as hundreds of tourists visit - even with the best access, we still had about 150 steps to scale up and back. Our guide, Efi, planned our morning well as we seemed to avoid the worst of the crowds.
These paintings are in the cupola in monastery of Varlaam. The first on the wall.
And this is the ceiling.
Jane was very impressed with the Depiction of the 2nd Coming - it tells the story so well. Christ at the top, with the apostles down the arches to his left and right. Then as you travel down the dragons tongue of fire, the scales depict if the soul is light (pure and will go to heaven) or heavy.
Bottom left is heaven, with Peter knocking on the door of Heaven’s gate and Simon to the left - he helped Christ carry the cross. Then on the left he’ll and filled with those doomed to damnation. I think it’s fabulous. And I agree with Jane. It's fabulous*.
The local town of Kalambaka services the tourist trade, with several hotels, lots of street side tavernas and of course the inevitable tacky tourist gift shops. I was so surprised when at least 10 coaches arrived at our hotel last night, yet check-in, dinner and breakfast was all handled effortlessly. Greece is obviously very popular, even this far away from Athens.
I would have liked to visit some of the other monasteries, but the legs threatened to go on strike and the pool was beckoning. A good chance to rest up as tomorrow is a long driving day to to Olympia, stopping at Delphi on the way.
As we are visiting Greece perhaps you might like to follow this link to enjoy the legendary Joanna Lumley in Greece.
The Hero Image today with Jane floating above the Meteores Valley is from the Students of the World.