Up a Rock, Without a Prayer

Not bad for a hotel room view.
The first Christian hermits in the Middle East thought that the best way to get close to God was to get as far away from the madding crowd of humanity as they could (some of us may sympathise). Holiness, however, brought fame, and soon those same crowds sought them out. So the hermits erected poles and pillars and retreated up them for years at a time. Anything for a quiet life.
The monks of Meteora, sadly, weren’t taking this approach to its logical extreme when they decided to build their monasteries on top of inaccessible pinnacles of rock. It would have made this post much more coherent if they had. Instead, they were trying to keep out of the way of the Ottoman conquerors of Greece, with whom they weren’t religiously in synch . Whatever their reasons though, the results are spectacular.
Kalambaka, nestled at the base of sheer limestone cliffs (which, yes, people try to climb because some people aren’t happy unless they’ve found a new way of making their lives difficult) is a small town that mostly caters to the tourists coming to gawp at the monasteries of Meteora. My own gawping is taking place towards the end of the gawping season, which means that the town is a little quieter than it might be and a fair bit cooler. (That it gets a lot colder can be seen in the piles of firewood that most houses have set aside for the winter.) Which is definitely a good thing, as a trek up the footpath to the nearest monastery without a bottle of water came close to being a rather bad idea.
The views, though, were well worth it again, and tomorrow morning I’ll be back to do it properly. Already I’m realising that ten days isn’t enough to even scratch the surface of a country like Greece. But a day that can grant you a glimpse of Mount Olympus, a tour through a thousand-year-old church adorned with frescoes on every surface, and the sight of a monastery that can only be reached by a rickety cable car or a stairway carved into a cliff face is a day well spent.

A little more Meteora is good for the soul.