Travel: Omniscience of Meteora

The earliest ferry in this morning did not arrive until just before noon, so we slept in a little before hailing a taxi to bring us to the port.  After successfully rendezvousing with the crewman, and completing the license hand off, we headed to the airport to pick up our rental car. Unfortunately, the company mixed up our reservation, so it took us longer than anticipated to secure our transportation (2 hours). By the time we were on the road, it was around 2 pm.

2013-06-10 10.42.10We drove to Meteora as fast as we could (the average time is just around 5 hours), and arrived in the valley just before sunset.

The name, Meteora can be broken down into the greek word Μετέωρα, which translates to “suspended in the air” or “in the heavens above.”

It may be logical to then extrapolate that this is the same origin from which we derive “Meteorite.” As one of the most significant Eastern Orthodox complexes in Greece (second to Mount Athos), it is a breathtaking view as all of the monasteries are carved into natural sandstone rock pillars.

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While the exact establishment of these buildings is unknown. A rudimentary monastic state, the Skete of Stagoi, formed in the late 11th and
early 12th centuries. This centered around the existing Church of Theotokos – “Mother of God.”

Athanasios Koinoviti brought a group of followers to the region in 1344, and from 1356 to 1372, they constructed the Great Meteoran Monastery on Broad Rock. – The common legend is that Athanasios did not scale the rock, but was borne there by an eagle.

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This was an ideal location for the monks, as it perched them above the reaches of political influence and interests. Only those within the complex had control over whom entered and exited as the only means of admittance was by climbing a long ladder or being hoisted by large nets, which the residents could draw up when threatened.

As the Byzantine Empire‘s 800-year reign over northern Greece became increasingly threatened by Turkish raiders in the late 14th century, the hermit monks found the naturally defensive rock pillars to be an ideal refuge. More than 20 monasteries were built.

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In the wise words of UNESCO,

“The net in which intrepid pilgrims were hoisted up vertically alongside the 373 metres (1,224 ft) cliff where the Varlaam monastery dominates the valley, symbolizes the fragility of a traditional way of life that is threatened with extinction.”

Today, only six of them remain; four house men and two are occupied by women.

Due to our extremely tight schedule, we were not able to reach the attractions until after visiting hours. We grabbed dinner at the nearby Kalabaka before heading further north to the foot of Olympus and spending our night in Litochoro. We also had to trim Delphi from our schedule due to the license confusion.

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