I was visiting Meteora Monasteries Greece in a very beautiful late spring. Much I’ve being heard of this magical place, that means between heaven and earth. Nevertheless, I was overwhelmed of the beauty and the serenity found in here. Meteora is a place of silence, tolerance and love.
Meteora is the second most important group of Orthodox monasteries in Greece, after Mount Athos. In Mount Athos they only allow a small number of visitors and the reservations have to be made well in advance. Opposite, Meteora Monastiries can be visited by more tourists.
Furthermore, woman also can visit Meteora monasteries, unlike Athos, where woman are banned. Athos mountain is the largest area in the world where woman do not have access. Till 1920, the situation was the same in Meteora, The Romanian Queen Maria being the first woman to visit the monasteries.
Visiting Meteora Monasteries Greece: Between Heaven and Earth
In Greece, in the Thessaly region, close to Kalampaka and Kastraki towns. I visited Meteora as passing from Paralia Katerini to Corfu. Just stopped in our way to Igoumenitsa, on Egnatia Odos, (the European Road E90) and a part of E 92.
Meteora area formation of immense monolithic pillars and rocks that are not volcanic nor limestone. There are unique, conglomerate of stone, sand and mud that needed millions of years to reach the today form. The caves in Meteora were inhabited even 50 000 years ago. As of 11th century, hermit monks made the caves their home. Then, the first monasteries in Meteora were build in 14th century as the Turkish attacks were more and more frequent. The Otomans used to burn the Christian Monasteries so they made these ones impossible to reach. At one point there were 24 monasteries in Meteora.
Today there are only 6 that are functional and another two undamaged. In the future more will be open, as there are undergone works in order to rehabilitate some others.
The monasteries that can be visited today are: The Monastery of Great Meteoron, the Holy Monastery of Varlaam, the Monastery of Agios Stefanos, the 12th century Monastery of Agia Triada (Holy Trinity), Monastery of Agia Varvara Roussanou and the Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas. More about them here, on greeka.com.
It was extremely difficult to build the monasteries as the monks had to bring all the stone and materials with rudimentary means: they used long ladders, windlass, baskets or large nets. The water was collected from the rain and they used to produce most of the food.
Out of this world!
The Holy Monastery of Varlaam
Depending on the hour you arrive in here, you can visit a certain monastery. Usually, in a day trip you get to visit two. We were lucky enough that at Saint Varlaam Monastery we were welcomed by a Father that explained a lot of things. Like the fact that here are coming visitors of different nationalities, even Moslem. Frequently they pray like in Mosques, in sign of deep respect. It is unusual, yet in such a special place, we all have the same feeling of astonishment.
We also found out that a monk is ordained after 3-5 years spent in this place, as he has to be absolutely sure of his vocation. And to make this step when is absolutely certain that is ready. And so much more about their life. This place is so special, so much peace.
The entrance is 3 euro to each of the monasteries. You can purchase and light candles. Also, there is a shop where you can purchase religious objects.
If you are not dressed properly, they do provide cover ups.
Out of the 6 monasteries, 4 are of monks and 2 of nuns.
Zindros, a Byzantine Icons Workshop
Zindros is one of the stores where you can purchase Byzantines Icons. They are made using the same technique as centuries ago, with gold flimsy. There are icons as cheap as 3 euro/each (very small) and others that cost 16 000 euro – the ones made in wood panel. Then there are the ones made in silver and others objects as chandeliers and many souvenirs.
We were very curios to learn about how the Byzantine Icons are made. First about the preparation of the panel wood, of cypress, oak or plane. Then they proceed to prepare the canvas and of course all other stages of glue impregnation, drawing, applying of the gold flimsy – all the icons from Zindros are made with gold leaf. Then the paintings are only made with the colors used in iconography, like carmine and blue. We were explained also about the different representations of Saint Mary and also the meaning of the most popular representations.
Do: Purchase the Pythagorean cup. It is an amazing technique, used in Ancient Greece: if you fill it just as it should, you can drink from it, even if it is botomless. Then, if you pour liquid beyond a certain limit (like full, meaning you are greedy) it spells all the content. For sure will be a very interesting gift for your friends as it is quite unique.
The meaning is that if you are greedy, you loose everything.