Maria had arranged for Giorgios the taxi driver to pick us up at 10.00am from our hotel. He’s a very friendly chap and is happy to take us the 400km round trip. He has visited many times before but hasn’t been for a while so he will enjoy the trip also.
After all the faffing around trying to find organised tours to Meteora it is such a relief to now be going – I just don’t care about the expense. Today the sun is shining so we don’t ask for anything more!
The drive further into mainland Greece is fantastic. Although my passion has always been the Greek Islands I can feel a yearning to explore mainland Greece about to erupt within! The landscape is so rich and verdant – the rain is clearly a contributing factor to its beauty as those of who live in the North of the UK know!
After a couple of hours of driving the landscape begins to change. In the distance I can see what I think is Meteora. Like a child on a school trip I point and ask Giorgios if the rocky outcrop in the distance is Meteora – he tells me that it is. Words can’t describe the feeling and the realisation that this trip that had been at the top of my bucket list for so long was minutes away. We approach the village of Kalambaka before making our ascent. Can you imagine what it must be like to live in shadow of Meteora?
You can already see how photogenic Meteora is. As we begin the gradual climb upwards, an amazing view is offered to us around every bend. Giorgios stops on the side of the road for our first photo opportunity – teasing us with a view of our first monastery!
The first monastery we visit is the Holy Monastery of Grand Meteoron. Just a ‘few’ steps to climb before we reach the entrance.
I had been a bit apprehensive before coming to Meteora, thinking that my vertigo would throw one of its spanners in the wheel but so far it isn’t too bad. Although I had come prepared, dressed modestly in long sleeves and covered legs I had to wear one of the wrap around skirts available – trousers on ladies not allowed.
The Grand Monastery serves as the main museum for tourists visiting Meteora. Points of interest are the wine cellar where we see a representation of shelves fully stocked with wine barrels, a kitchen with an array of antique utensils featuring a bread oven and in the refectory you can imagine the monks gathering to eat their (what I imagine is meagre) meals. In the sacristy is a grizzly collection of the skulls of former monks that inhabited the monastery. BTW if you need to use the public convenience be prepared to squat! You need strong leg muscles to squat over this thing without splashing your clothes! Tres difficile for ladies!
NB – writing this after the event I can tell you that if you visit the Grand Monastery you MUST purchase some of the honey from the shop. It is thick and dark like molasses and I have never tasted anything like it – just gorgeous!
The views from the terrace over this beautiful landscape are spectacular. However, as I move towards the outer fence for a photograph I have to clutch onto anything within arms reach to stop the vertigo eebiejeebies!
From the perimeter fence I can see the next monastery we are going to visit – the Monastery of Varlaam. It looks like access is by way of a narrow bridge suspended between two rocks. We also see a little cable car running from the monastery. My knees are now knocking quite loudly at the very thought! I approach this one with trepidation.
We meet Giorgios back at the car and we hop back in for the short drive to the Monastery of Varlaam. I tell Giorgios that I am concerned about walking across the bridge and he reassures me that it is fine. And do you know what – it was. It looks far worse from above and was not a problem crossing at all.
We cross the stone bridge and then climb the 195 steps into the monastery taking in the view of neighbouring monasteries and the landscape was we go.
When we make it into the monastery complex we are presented with an attractive courtyard with wonderful vistas.
Here is a link to further information on the Varlaam Monastery.
Giorgios has also been into the monastery and I’m glad he’s enjoying this trip with us. Giorgios take us to another point down the road from where there are the most magnificent views we have seen yet. Unfortunately my jelly legs won’t allow me walk out onto the rock that overhangs the cliff edge.
What an amazing trip this has been. After all the trials and tribulations of trying to get here we finally made it. I hope to come back another time and visit more of the monasteries and maybe stay in Kalambaka.
The views back through the Thessalian landscape hypnotise us especially after such an exhausting day.