Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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Meteora Kalambaka, Greece, Sunday, 03 January 2010 9:00pm

The Meteora are spectacular. They're huge rock formations left over from the weathering of an ancient uplifted seabed. They have natural caves that were used by hermit monks. Eventually the hermits were joined by their not-quite-as-antisocial brethren, who build monasteries on the the top of some of the outcrops.

I started my day off with some pastries from a bakery in downtown Kalambaka, followed by a taxi up to Moni Megalou Meteorou. Megalou is the largest of the monasteries, and the one that has the most space open to visitors. In addition to its chapel, there's a museum, an ossuary, an exhibition hall, and several areas showing elements of the daily life of the monks in the period before the monasteries became tourist attractions (a workshop, wine-making equipment, a wood-fired kitchen, and so forth).

Surprisingly, a lot of the exhibition space is devoted to exhibits about the War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire. There's a collection of uniforms of Greek Soldiers, documents about the war, and a gallery of portraits of pivotal figures.

The other three monasteries I visited had much smaller areas open to the public, usually just a chapel and a small museum. I missed out on Moni Agiou Stefanou, because it was open from 9am to 1pm and 3pm to 5pm, and I arrived at 1:30. Ominous clouds were rolling in, and I didn't really want to wait another hour and a half for the place to reopen, so I hiked back down to Kalambaka, getting only lightly sprinkled with rain on the way down.

Another solo traveler who's staying at the same guesthouse happened to take the table next to me at the restaurant where I ate dinner, and we talked for a while about where we'd been and where to go next, about the state of technology (he's posting virtual "postcards" in realtime from his Blackberry), and on how restoration changes the character of ancient sites. Oddly, he was also in Delphi while we were there. Strange that we didn't run into each other.