With the intention of visiting a Metéora monastery or two today, we woke up early and packed a backpack with food, water and our guidebook. We set off on foot saying, "I am thankful for good health and good weather!". Spring is in the air and the knowledge that we have many months of warm days ahead is truly freeing to me. It was a perfect day for a hike.
I am the designated on-foot navigator, a task and newfound skill I greatly enjoy. Rather than heading straight to the monastery paths, I accidentally led us on a winding route through the nearby town of Kastraki. Villagers split wood, worked in their gardens, and burned piles of brush which sent smoke curling up into the morning air. Many of them gave us friendly hellos as we passed on our way to the Metéora.
Along our way, we were befriended by an adorable puppy who repeatedly ran up to us so he could squash down onto his belly and sprawl out like a pancake. Tyler couldn't resist picking up the cute little guy to give him a squeeze.
Back on track, we headed towards the monasteries. It is truly mind-boggling to contemplate how eremetic monks scaled these walls centuries ago in order to start a new life high atop these pinnacles. According to legend, they were carried up on the back of an eagle.
For a long time, the only way up or down from each monastery was a rope ladder that reportedly was only replaced "when the Lord let it break!" In the 1920s they carved stairs into the rocks.
A 10 kilometer access road winds around the Metéora, allowing many gigantic buses to bring groups of tourists to see the sights. We opted to go "off road" on a trail that leads to the base of the largest monastery. This proved to be our favorite part of the day! Hiking up through the woods we walked past trickling streams and fields of flowers.
The highlight was seeing what we thought at first was a giant moth, and then thought was a hummingbird. As it turns out, it was sort of both. Here are the photos Tyler managed to get of the Clearwing Hummingbird Moth:
When we made it out of the woods, we climbed up to the base of the monastery where we joined in climbing the stairs along with dozens and dozens of other people. This place must be a madhouse in the summertime!
There were signs saying women would not be allowed to enter unless they had a long skirt on (thanks guys) but no one seemed to mind my jeans. They also said that photos were strictly forbidden, but nobody was following that rule either.
I was blown away by their collection of old books. Detailed hand-written passages complete with intricate drawings and gold leaf adorned nearly every page of the ancient parchments on display. It is astounding to me how much effort must've been put into a each and every book.
Someone made the paper by hand, someone meticulously bound the book and then a scribe with impeccable handwriting thoughtfully and beautifully recorded everything within. The hundreds of hours of work it must've required to produce just one, and the skill of the craftspeople involved was astounding to me. Unfortunately it was one of the few areas where photographs were actively discouraged; we didn't get any photos.
The collection of hand-embroidered clerical clothing was quite impressive as well. I particularly enjoyed the old monastery kitchen, of course, as well as the wine cellar.
We both thought the ossuary was pretty interesting. You know, just a room full of skulls…
Sightseeing is tiring. Our book gives instructions as to how to fit all six monasteries into a single day, the prospect of which sounds terrible. The longer we're out here, the more we realize we don't have to do EVERYTHING. Doing one thing and really doing it well sounds far more appealing. And so, after our one monastery, we hiked back down and were ready to call it a day.
On the way back from the Metéora, Tyler faced one of his fears and picked up this giant, squishy-looking bug. He reports that it felt like a very mushy gummybear. Gross!
We also saw climbers scaling the monoliths. Cool!
Tonight, we're going to settle in with some junk food and watch movies. On the docket for tomorrow is a 12-16 hour work day for Tyler, and a boatload of knitting for me. Then we hit the road for Thessaloniki!