The next place on my and @martibis' Greek adventure was Meteora. This was actually something we found out about from steemitworldmap. Hey, what a useful website. Some cool people must be working on that project! Although there are a few Meteroa posts pinned to the map, a couple of weeks before our trip @marymik23 made this post so it was fresh in our minds.
Basically, Meteroa is a bunch of cool looking rocks with monasteries on top of them. Millions of years ago it was all underwater, so a combination of water and geological fault lines running through the area made them look like this. I'm sure my geologist mates would be better at explaining the process, but Facebook seems to be shadow banning my posts so I doubt they'll even see this, let alone offer a technical explanation.
So many buses, so little time
Now, you'd think getting here from Delphi by bus would be relatively straight forward since it's a reasonably well-established tourist route. At least half of us leaving Delphi were going to Kalambaka (the town below the rocks). But no. You have to change buses about five times so it ends up taking up most of the day. It's not overly complicated, but it is annoying and adds quite a bit of unnecessary journey time.
We arrived in Kalambaka late afternoon and checked into El Greco Hostel (along with a few others from the bus), where we got a free welcome drink and the guy told us where the good places to hike to for sunset views are.
I liked this hostel except everyone smoked. At one point I had to leave the roof terrace cos it was like a fucking chimney up there. I was forced to go sit in our room with the Kiwi chick who I'm pretty sure was the only other non-smoker in the place. We had a good five-minute
rant discussion about this. Seriously, what is it with Europeans and smoking? Why??? It's gross. And you stink. And you're probably going to die from some preventable lung disease. Bah!
He's gone walkabout to Kalambaka!
Well, since I'm now totally sidetracked, Kalambaka sounds like an Australian Aboriginal word, doesn't it? It just sounds cool. I like saying it. "Oi, where you going? Kalambaka mate."
The internet says it's of Turkish original meaning 'powerful fortress' but I'm pretty sure the dude at the hostel—who is a local—said it means 'nice views' or something to that effect. I guess either definition works.
Views from and of Kalambaka.
Middle right: Holy Trinity Monastery.
Getting back to the main story
After finishing up that day's Travel Digest, passively smoking a dozen cigarettes, and drinking our free glass of wine, @martibis and I headed off up a mountain. It was a good 30–40 min hike up to the closest monastery, Holy Trinity.
This wasn't the best spot for watching the sunset, but @martibis and I had the place to ourselves, which was great for taking photos. It's good we went up on our first evening too, cos the next day was raining so we would have missed out on any sunset if we'd waited.
Holy Trinity Monastery.
Since neither of us had any battery left in our phones we headed back down the unlit path before it got dark. Being lost in the forest with no light source was not overly appealing. At least to me.
Obviously we stopped for wine when we got back to town. Once again, this place was run by a weird, little old Greek lady, but the wine was €1 or something and it was quite good.
Sunsets and wine.
Come for the monasteries, stay for... the monasteries
The next day we did the hostel's half day walking tour. This was really good since it was based on tips, making it very affordable for backpackers. Plus the dude from the hostel was awesome. The only downside was this one girl who trying to save money or something by not doing laundry—even though it was only €3—stank of BO. There was no way her t-shirt would have passed the sniff test when she put it on, so I don't know what she was thinking by wearing it. Anyway, the mission of the tour became to always walk in front of her.
At their peak, there were 24 monasteries. Now there are seven, although one just recently opened so most websites still say six. The rest were destroyed in various battles and revolutions and World War 2. Or they were abandoned cos the monks got a bit lazy and they became too hard to get to.
Why did they build them on top of mountains? First, isolation, since monks don't like people. Second, to be closer to God, since monks like God. And there was a third reason but I've forgotten. Million dollar views maybe? Workout benefits? I don't know.
Top left: St. George Madilas cave. Top middle: monk jail (cave).
Ypapanti Monastery is the one that's recently reopened and has the best story. The Turks tried to bomb this one a bunch of times but kept failing cos the Greeks could see them coming across the plain. So, the Turks hauled a cannon up the mountain opposite and finally blew it up. A cross now marks the spot where the cannon was.
A cool monk also lived here—Papaflessas—who later became a pirate, and then formed a rebellion against the Turks. He escaped death a bunch of times, which really pissed the Turks off, so in the end they tricked him with a false white flag. Once he was captured they tied his limbs to a stretching machine or horses or something and then yanked them all off and he died. His statue now sits atop the mountain near the cross.
Next up was the Monastery of Great Meteoron. It's the largest one and a museum. All the tour buses go here.
There is a room full of skulls for some reason, and we learnt that Greek monks like making wine, unlike the Belgian monks who like making beer. Obviously the moral of this story is monks are boozers.
From here, you can easily see the Holy Monastery of Varlaam.
Top left: the Monastery of Great Meteoron. Top right: Holy Monastery of Varlaam.
Bottom left: monk cable car at the Monastery of Great Meteoron. Everyone else has to take the stairs.
Next, we walked back down towards the town stopping at a hidden cave on the way. While I was posing for this shot I was having a bit of a freak out as there was a big drop on the other side.
Tortoises live in the forest and were just walking around, as they do. Most people on the tour thought they lived in water but that's turtles you idiots. Tortoises are land-dwelling creatures!
Caves, views and locals.
The last two monasteries we saw were Rousanou and St. Nicholas Anapavsa. However, the only ones we went in were Ypapanti and Great Meteoron. I think seeing them from the outside is better anyway. The only one I don't have a photo of is St. Stephen’s. This one is east of the Holy Trinity Monastery and we should have gone up there on our sunset walk since it wasn't covered in the tour, but we didn't know that at the time. You can see it from the town, I just don't have a photo cos it was too far away.
Left-right: Rousanou Monastery, St. Nicholas Anapavsa Monastery, and two monastery ruins.
Even though Kalambaka is bigger than Delphi there weren't any dedicated veggie restaurants on Happy Cow. There was a decent sized supermarket next to hostel which had alpro chocolate desserts, but that was about it in terms of packaged foods. Obviously you can get Greek salads, fava beans, etc. in restaurants but we didn't go to any since travelling with @martibis was the budget part of my trip. I pretty much survived on bread, salad, and chocolate desserts while I was here.
It's all over red rover
The next morning I woke early to get the 5.50am train to Athens. Thankfully, the station was only a two-minute walk from the hostel. However, this meant saying goodbye to @martibis the night before since there was no way he was getting up that early. When I asked him later if he heard me leave, the answer was no. Hopefully I didn't wake the others in our dorm up either.
I had a good time travelling with @martibis so I hope we get an opportunity to travel together again in the future.
Thumbs up or thumbs down?
Thumbs up of course. This place was TOTALLY AMAZING. Well, except for all the smoking backpackers but they'll probably be dead soon.
Check out this post on steemitworldmap.
Previous stop, Delphi
Next stop, Athens
Footer by @ryivhnn