Thursday, 30 June 2016

Thurs 30 Jun 2016. Around Meteora

Thurs 30 Jun 2016. Around Meteora
Happy Birthday sister Susan!
Couldn't wait to get on road up to the magnificent monoliths of Meteora again this morning. 
Stopped to look across to Varlaam, the second largest monastery, perched precariously:

Thought we'd left early enough to beat crowd to parking, but not good enough! Parking in Greece is sheer chaos - found buses, cars, vans all double and triple parked, impossible to get in or out, buses couldn't turn around, horns blaring, people shouting and gesticulating wildly. 

Finally grabbed a space, gathered out backpacks, hats and water (and GirlRob her sarong), walked down cliff face in order to walk up staircases to 14th century (multi-named) Grand Metereon/ Metamorphosis/ Transfiguration monastery. Tired-out and already sunburnt by time we reached the top, but proud of our efforts!

Looking across to path down, down, down, then to staircase up, up, up...

Goods cable car better than old days of ladders

Admiring how far we'd come...

Visited kathlicon/church, the frescoes well restored, beautifully vivid, yet horrific in content.

The heads of the persecuted are all halo-ed

There was no-one to ask...

Downstairs, explored kitchen and carpentry shop (restored according to early traditions) - fascinating to see stairs hand-hewn into rock by early monks. 

Its creepy in the dark cellars...

Downstairs we also found the ossuary - could not believe it when tourists actually stood in front of skulls and smiled for a photo!. This cool dark storage cave contained the skulls of the monastery's founders, but wasn’t as extensive as expected given the centuries it had stood. So whose skulls get to be kept? Only the REALLY holy monks??(and where exactly did rest of their bones go??)

Back up in the sunshine, had more appreciation for the views the monks had seen every day of their chosen vocation. 

A less than successful community once lived on this ledge

The Ethnographic Museum had pictures of Greeks defeating Nazi invaders, and locals ascending and descending mountains with huge loads on their backs, protecting monastery's treasures against pillaging. The curator explained the bells we’d heard echoing in valley this morning were to celebrate the holy day for Twelve Apostles. We asked about the swinging/hanging log, and found it was for striking, gongs like a bell. One of the galleries is dedicated to the neo-martyrs, those who laid down their lives for their faith and their nation, "paving the way for liberation and national resurgence".

Went into Monastery Museum - treasures included miniature carvings (so fine you needed a magnifying glass to see crucifix and figures), exquisite precision needlework in vestments and embroideries, and fine mosaic work for a triptych.

Began the trek back, admiring views from alternate angles (and not at all envying the "quicker" cable car...)

Frightening to be charged with painting the rockface via this ladder 

Good job Wanderoos - d'yer reckon this was about 20 stories down plus up??

Back on more level ground bought a spinach and feta slice for lunch, sitting in shade on wall watching parking melee, before tackling the road towards the next monastery.

Rousseau-Barbara nunnery

Arrived Rousseau-Barbara nunnery, and climbed up steps to the entrance. Easy to see women's place in pecking order: lowest pinnacle, smallest residence, teeny-tiny church, no treasures on show - but at €3pp entrance fee there was equality of admission price!! 

We were intrigued to see that St Barbara, who we knew was the patron saint of miners, had been expanded to include the patron of Greek artillery! The almost 360* views certainly foster quiet reflection in today's world - and would have afforded advance warning of attacking forces in the past. A pregnant cat was lounging on the steps (GirlRob admitted there was no evidence to take it as a symbol of times past when nuns may have cared for unwed mothers...)

Long way back to house if you forgot something...


Back in our camper truck, took a final swing around the plateau. Couldn't resist taking some vanity shots of Ozzie among the pinnacles.


Time for a quick shop in town then took our tired feet back to camp. Last night's prime spot gone, BoyRob had to take his axe to a tree branch to ensure no snags for our roof or annexe. Used internet at cafe over beer and white wine, swam in pool (11 laps might seem small to some, but a triumph for GirlRob just the same!!) Enjoyed a cold salmon and salad dinner.