Thursday, August 2, 2012

Monasteries in the Clouds

On my travels around the world, I missed this one, but there are the special few who have taken the time and have told me that it was abundantly worth it.  So, while in Greece, I recommend getting out of Athens and off the islands for a little while and visiting a surreal place where the rocks jut straight up out of the ground and have monasteries on top.  This is the Meteora area of Greece in the center of the mainland.
Now, it would be amazing to see one monastery perched on top of the spires of Meteora, but at one time there were at least a dozen.  There are still six that are active and accessible.  That's amazing.  I hear that there are two that everyone should visit.  The first is Moni Megalou Meteorou, or Metamorphosis  .

The other is Moni Agia Triada, or Holy Trinity.

Metamorphosis is the biggest and sits atop a 2,000 foot spire.  It's church is full of frescoes depicting martyrs and their deaths.  There is a collection of skulls and other bones that are displayed for public viewing.  It's an interesting look and the monks view on death and martyrdom.  It is a little graphic, but well worth a look.
Holy Trinity is currently home to only two monks who love to have visitors.  They will show you around personally and show you where all the best views are.  They serve tea and candy and tell stories about the old days when the monastery was far busier.  Although the atmosphere is vastly different than at Metamorphosis, it is harder to get to with narrow steep stairs and it's quite a climb to the top.

Meteora is located in the Thessaly region of Greece.  You can grab a tour bus in Trikala.  It's approximately 5 hours from Athens.  It's a great day trip into the uncommon.  Make sure you bring your camera, but make sure you don't wear anything offensive.  The monks prefer that visitors come dressed conservatively as part of their religious beliefs.  Check ahead for the hours, or you may be surprised to hear that they are closed for one reason of another, and have wasted a trip.  Also, be prepared to climb some steps.  It's not easy getting to most of the monasteries.  Face it, the reason that they're so interesting is because they are perched on top of 2,000 foot spires.
So, be prepared to walk, dress accordingly and spend some time on the road from Athens.  Take your camera and a little cash to get in and have the driving, climbing, and cultural visit of a lifetime with a view that you'll never see again.  Embrace the spires of Meteora, or suspended in the air and take a little walk on the unusual side.
  Don't miss it!

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