One of the great things about our route through Greece has been the scenery. I guess all our previous experience of the country has been on its coast – most people’s is I think – and we hadn’t appreciated how dazzling the scenery inland would be.
Coming out on top (it was recently voted the most beautiful place in Greece) is the Meteora.
The Meteora is collection of curious rock formations which jut out of the ground to a height of 600m plus. Weathering and erosion overtime along the fault lines means that many of the rocks now stand alone, reaching into the sky like long fingers. There’s hardly any vegetation and they all share the same smooth, grey, uniformed surface which makes them almost impossible to climb.
Oh yes, and I forgot to mention… Many of them have monasteries built on top of them:
There was once a total of 26 orthodox monasteries perched on these various rock towers. Now only six remain housing between 3-16 monks or nuns in each. The first monastery was built in the 14th century (although buildings existed there before this) and over a period of 200 years more were added. The buildings are impressive, some of them as big as castles, and the buildings look as if they’ve been melted onto the rock. Before the stone steps which now provide easy access for all the tourists, the only way up was via rope ladders or baskets on a winch which could be pulled up in a matter of seconds.
The hermit monks used this ‘basic’ form of defence time and time again against the threat of external invasion and persecution – the Ottoman Turks and later against WW2 German and Italian forces.
Despite Paddy’s vertigo we managed to visit a couple but we spent most of the day cycling around and enjoying taking in the formations from different angles.
From here we head north – more mountains to come including a 1700m humdinger to look forward… Not long before we reach our first border crossing of 2017!