Meteora: first impressions for Travel Photo Monday
The unique landscape and hilltop karst and rocky promontories at Meteora along the Northernmost mountain range of the Greece is so far removed from the loud and touristy islands in the Greek Aegean coast. But maybe being here during the winter also has something to do with the sparse crowds in the village and around the national park.
As part of the Unesco World Heritage Sites, this impressive national park is filled with amazing landscapes, vistas and these bizarre monasteries precipitously perked on top of craggy cliffs and almost isolated karst formations. Built for safety from persecution and seclusion from worldly materials and desires, the monasteries were situated for total isolation and no access. There are even holes and caves in many of the sheer cliffs that were early conversions of hermits going to the area and leaving everything behind to be in total isolation and absolute focus on the spiritual aspects of their holy lives.
Coming to this areas in the off-season for me is absolutely the right choice with minimal crowds and Disney like lines which I’m sure this place would typically be counting from the myriads of cheap Souvlaki stands and inexpensive cafes closed for the season. That’s fine with me because the die-hard establishments are the real survivors and live there year round.
First solo tour and off the beaten path in Meteora
Arriving late in the afternoon, I couldn’t wait to do my first solo excursion of the area with a suggestion from a local guide on a nearby hike that is truly off the beaten path from the typical visits to the area. I strike out on foot to a hilly trail from the village and begin a quick accent through a small valley and immediately notice these sheer cliffs with strange holes and ladders barely there and not connecting to anything in particular. I learn later that this area housed the many early Christian hermits that came for safety and to be spiritually isolated from the rest of the world. Except that they had to rely on the handouts of locals that fed them and asked for help and spiritual aid or blessings.
The afternoon light is hazy but still warm and rosy. It is starting to fade quickly even though it is only 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I make a hasty trek a little further to investigate some of the deserted cliff monasteries and my first view of an intact monastery which has also been abandoned. It seemed so dark and mysterious seeing these deserted places high up on a hill and only accessible by ladders or later through pulleys and carts to carry provisions. I couldn’t even imagine how stark and basic life must have been, but also very precious so that enabled these spiritual individuals to practice their religious beliefs freely .
Cave dwellings of the early hermits to Meteora
An abandoned monastery set in the cliffs
The sun had started to fade behind some clouds and suddenly the warm sunset became as cold as rocks and knowing that this was the winter, it would be very cold and windy in no time. I head back down the trail towards the old village called Kastraki and looked forward to another exciting day ahead of hiking and seeing more of these fantastic spiritual castles in the sky. On the way down, the sun had a last hurrah and lit up the orchards and vineyards below, quite a lovely don’t you think?
Looking into the valley below and the dull greyish brown cliffs, I noticed the first monastery sitting on one of the smaller karst and almost hidden from view, it was a very special moment in my book and one I’ll remember well from this first hike.
Thanks for visiting and reading my first impressions of Meteora, I hope that you enjoyed your visit. If so, please do share this post with any of the social media buttons listed around the post. Please do check out the other bloggers below participating today for Travel Photo Mondays.