“Suspended in Air” - A Tour Through Monk Occupied Monasteries in Meteora, Greece

in #outofthinairlast year (edited)

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Directly in the center of Greece, 160 miles north of Athens and 90 miles south of the Albanian Border, is Meteora, a small town with less than 15 thousand occupants including the 17 monks currently residing in the monasteries pictured in this article. Meteora is Greek for “suspended in air,” referring to the once 24 and now only six remaining Eastern Orthodox monasteries.

Nearly every local resident we’ve come in contact with, several tourists, and a handful of the volunteers at the Middle Eastern refugee camp @puravidaville and I volunteer at twice a week has insisted we visit Meteora before we leave Greece—“deal!” We looked into tickets and overnight accommodations and booked a two night stay in neighboring town, Kalabaka, a 10 minute bus ride from Meteora.

We began the three hour train journey from our current stay in Thessaloniki where the sky was blue with minimal cloud coverage, the promenade was occupied by individuals in short-sleeves and sunglasses, and the sun was shining. However, one thing we’ve learned since beginning our European experience is even our weather apps can’t predict what’s going to happen out there so each of them play it safe when making weather predictions. Regardless of the skies appearance overhead, it’s always the same forecast, “partly cloudy with a 50% chance of rain.”

We purchased a pair of tickets and made our way to the departing trains where each one was so unique, I took a picture of all seven of them. Although only one train is scheduled to take us to our destination, for the sake of this #adventure, pick your favorite one and imagine yourself boarding the next outbound rail to Kalabaka, Greece. Enjoy the ride where, depending on which side of the train you look, you’re likely to catch snow packed mountain peaks in the distance, vineyards, green pastures, rivers, the Aegean Sea and peacefulness provided by Mother Nature. Next stop—Kalabaka.
All photos - iPhone 8+

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We arrived in Kalabaka where before we did anything, prior to eating, prior to checking into our Air B&B, etc, we got our umbrellas out of the backpack and they stayed out for the next two days. As soon as we arrived, we were greeted with rain, more rain, pouring rain, and an occasional downpour. In general, most people I’ve come in contact with, including those who accompanied us during our tour, consider pouring rain an inconvenience—I’ve always seen it as an added level of excitement.

We took a walk around town and scoped out our surroundings, grabbed a pair of falafel wraps for dinner, rolled up our pants and stayed as dry as we could. We found an abandoned mid-construction house before it got too dark and enjoyed the looks of it so much, I managed to mysteriously find myself atop the unfinished roof capturing a shot of the city below. Wait’ll you see the view from our balcony! Pura’s got picking Air B&B accommodations down to a science.

Tomorrow morning, rain or shine, it’s time to check out these monasteries we keep hearing so much about. We reserved a four hour tour with Meteora Thrones who will be conveniently picking us up at our front door at 9 o’clock in the morning—welcome to Kalabaka.

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The van arrived at 9 o’clock sharp to pick us up. It rained all through the night and didn’t let up during the day accompanied by layers of cloud coverage that continued rolling in and out during our tour.

We learned the six remaining monasteries, out of an original 24, four of which you’re about to see, were built in the 14th century, all requiring approximately 60 years to complete their construction. There was a total of 350 monks, currently down to just 17, residing in Meteora around 900 AD who made their homes inside the caves of the rocks seeking shelter and safety. The higher they climbed, the safer they felt until eventually reaching the highest peaks of the rocks while carrying backpacks full of stones to build these monasteries one block at a time.

I’ll add narration in between the pictures you’re about to see as I learned quite a bit from our knowledgeable tour guides—I was that guy! “What? How long? Where? Will you say that again, please” while trying to keep up with the notepad in my waterlogged phone.

The first one was only about a 10 minute drive from the Air B&B. As you look at these monasteries from the inside, you’ll see elaborate stairways and arch ways, intricate art work that’s lasted over 700 years, windows (windows?), flat surfaced floors and ceilings, you’re inside a rock—a massive boulder that’s been standing an estimated 60 million years hallowed out to perfection 900 years ago and currently home to 17 Eastern Orthodox monks. Welcome to Meteora.

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The dumbwaiter’s and hoisting systems pictured, though now modernized, have been in place and part of the monasteries since their completion. Only a few were originally used to hoist monks up and down the rocks but all of them were used to hoist boulders to the top. Currently, they’re used for new construction to transport tools and materials from the ground to the work being performed on the structure.

Only two of the four structures allowed access inside and the other two are only viewable from the exterior. Both monasteries we were allowed to enter adhere to strict dress codes respecting the monks’ religious beliefs. Men are required to wear pants and shirts, shorts are permitted so long as they’re cut below the knee, no shoulders are to be visible and no hats are allowed. Women are required to cover their shoulders and are only permitted to wear skirts or dresses. The two monasteries that allow access inside provide the women with skirts.

In this next one, I happened to catch a high ranking military official with a monk escort exiting the monastery. He, or a colleague of his, along with all freshmen soldiers visit the monasteries ceremonially on the 25th of each month commencing peace and, as a reminder to the monks, they’re protected by Greek military.

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These next three pictures are from a distance of the two monasteries we were not allowed to visit—the guide pulled off the road so we could take pictures and explained their 21st century significance.

The first two are different views of the same monastery—it was used during the filming of a James Bond film though he couldn’t recall which one. I’ve never seen any of them anyway but I know it’s a popular movie series. Also, earlier this year, another popular television series called Game Of Thrones, though I’ve never seen that one, either, propositioned the monks for the use of this location to film their movie—they were denied.

The third picture is Holy Trinity Monastery and recently earned a cover page along with a detailed article in National Geographic magazine.

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We’re about to visit the final monastery on the tour—we weren’t allowed to go inside. Each of the monasteries you just visited are self sufficient and supply more than enough vegetation assuring the monks won’t go hungry—monks are vegetarian. They grow their own food, harvest their own honey, and each monastery is equipped with its own orchards that supply the wine for their ritual communion.

The word “monk” is derived from the Greek wOrd, “monos” which translates to “alone.” Their conditioning and constant pursuance in religious practices are in favor of the spirit through body and mind. Their religion is the dedication to leave mainstream society and to live the remainder of their life in prayer and contemplation.

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Did you like this one @eii? Thank you for keeping an eye on me!

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You really love that van @dandays 😉 !
But I like all the pictures with or without the beautiful back of your wife 😄
The dress code are quite similar to some historical temples in Indonesia and they are welcoming the visitors by providing the skirts or else👍 amazing view!

I’m glad you liked this article @cicisaja, thanks a lot for checking it out, I appreciate it! You’re probably a little more familiar with the religious dress codes than we are.. but we’re quick learners! 👍🏿

About the van, my intention was to kind of bring you guys along, in and out, the walk, the tour, just kind of seeing the whole experience the way we saw it. I hope it came across that way.

About Pura... you know what?! She’s always like “don’t show my face!” Then I’ll take a bunch of pictures and every once in awhile she’ll insist I get her face and she’ll pose for the camera, stick her tongue out, kick a foot up, insist on a selfie, etc. But then when it’s time for me to post the article it’s always the same thing—“don’t show my face!” So I’m like “why do you insist I picture your face and then insist I don’t use it??” 🤔

You can probably explain a woman’s mentality better than I can, too, Cici! 👍🏿

Thank you for checking me out, @cicisaja, I appreciate it. It’s always a pleasure to hear from you. I hope you and yours are well.

Hehehe... about taking her pictures and the command "don't show up my face" ..somehow I can understand that😉 we love to see our ridiculous actions captured or recorded.. but we don't do that to show off 😁 it's for private collection only. My hubby never took my pictures without my request😁 simply because he doesn't really like it when I publish in social media. I need to ask his permission to post his pictures, but sometimes... I forgot to ask abd keep posting with several justifications prepared.

I forgot to ask abd keep posting with several justifications prepared.

I can’t count how many times you’ve made me laugh out loud but you did again. That’s funny!

Wow, spectacular, breath taking, and so informative. I wonder why the # of monks has gone from 350 down to 17, it can't be because of the accommodations.
Pura couldn't find any Air B & B listings for a couple day's stay at any of the monasteries.😊
It is amazing how determination, and a belief in a higher power, can inspire people to undertake such projects.
There are very few places that I've every wanted to visit that have not been here in the states. One of them are the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt.
With all of the unrest in the world a trip to Egypt is more then likely out of the question, but I could see us taking a trip to Greece. @farm-mom's Nephew married a lady from Greece, and after they got hitched, they took a vacation to Greece to see her family. We were invited to go, but passed up on the opportunity, what a mistake.
You mentioned haw rain adds a sense of excitement to the moment, I couldn't agree with you more. I always get a kick out of people who scurry around while trying to avoid a couple of rain drops. You would think they thought they were going to melt. I find it refreshing and I will usually take my time finding shelter.
The two pictures capturing the art work, which I guess are of monks, remind me of the stained glass you find in many places of worship. I don't believe they are glass at all, rather murals painted on stone. What ever the canvas, they appear unscathed by time.
It's a good thing you and Pura keep yourselves in good shape, otherwise all of those stairs may have hindered your adventure.
I may have had to take the gondola to see these grand structures.

Great post, you got me all pumped to the point where I want to call Zack, #farm-mom's nephew, to see when he will be going to Greece again.

Stay safe my friend, and thanks for the tour.

My man, @thebigsweed! You don’t know how happy it makes me that you didn’t miss this one. Before I forget, happy thanksgiving my brother, I know you’re going to have a house farm full. God bless all ya’all, everyone you know and don’t know. What a great response—I miss these. This is going to be fun.

Good question about 17, I can’t believe I didn’t ask that question myself, unfortunately I don’t have an answer. I know why there’s only 6 monasteries, though, I decided not to mention it in the article to avoid mixing politics with adventure. Do you remember when I did that article on York and pointed out the ruined churches thanks to Hitler bombing them during WWII? Same with the monasteries, the dude wasn’t out to cause casualties toward the end of his reign, he strategically attacked culture—he bombed them. That’s why the 25th of each month is commemorated as a reminder to protect the monks—the last day of his reign.. I believe it was April, don’t quote me on that.

I didn’t even think of that.. an overnighter at a monastery, where was she on that one?? 🤔

Sir, we’ll be fine in Egypt! How’s this? You guys book a trip any time next year and we’ll meet you at the airport. “I dare you.” We’ll be fine, Sweed, promise! Only one place of limits, in my opinion—Somalia. Everywhere else is open.

I know a good way to fix that error back when you rejected that trip to Greece. 😉 Are you aware it’s more affordable to purchase round trip tickets exiting the US vs round trip tickets inside the US? Yup.. true story. Use “Skyscanner,” it’s the best flight search engine—period! Piss on all of the other ones. Example: round trip from LA to Nashville is ‘about’ $700 whereas round trip from LA to England is ‘about’ $400.

About the rain. I should’ve known you’d agree. 👍🏿 Man, even back in my California freeway driving work days, the rain causes havoc, right? Pile-ups, even more traffic than normal, etc. Fellas would always complain.. I was always the guy trying to talk them into appreciating it—“it’s not every day you get to use your windshield wipers.” To this day, Pura often quotes me when it rains, my favorite thing to say was “no lines at the car wash!”

The art work!! Dude, you’ll never guess. It’s not paint! It’s “earthly things” instead and I can’t remember them all. For example, egg for yellow color. Specific flowers for purples, reds. Grass for green and the list goes on. What happens is, rather than fade away or chip away like paint, the earthy materials used to create color seeps into the concrete preserving itself. Fascinating, right?? “Unscathed” was a good way to describe them, Sweed—it’s literally unremovable.

I’m so glad you liked this post and I’m stoked you didn’t miss it. 1-800-CALL-ZACK. 👍🏿

Always a pleasure to hear from you, @thebigsweed, I didn’t like your response at all, can you tell? 😉 Happy thanksgiving! I know I said it at the beginning but that was a long time ago.

Hitler's reign cost the world so much, besides the precious lives his giant ego cost mankind.
Very interesting how the colors on those murals were procured. Now that you mention how they were made, I should have thought of that, as the stain from walnuts was used in the same way.

Nothing like looking at most things as the glass being half full, that type of mind set sure does help one avoid a lot of unnecessary stress.
Skyscanner,” it’s the best flight search engine—period! Thanks for the heads up.

Hiya, @itchyfeetdonica here, just swinging by to let you know that this post made into our Top 3 in Daily Travel Digest #694.

Your post has been manually curated by the @steemitworldmap team and has been upvoted by @blocktrades.

If you like what we're doing, please drop by to check out all the rest of today's great posts and consider upvoting and supporting us.

This is such an honor you guys! Thank you kindly @steemitworldmap @itchyfeetdonica and thank you for the generous upvote @blocktrades.

This was such a pleasant surprise to wake up to!

Congratulations, Your Post Has Been Added To The Steemit Worldmap!
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I enjoyed a lot reading your post, its an amazing place.

This post has been appreciated and featured in daily quality content rewards. Keep up the good work.

This really means a lot @appreciator! Thank you for inspiring me to keep going. 👍🏿

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Thanks for keeping an eye on me @esteemapp!

That's pretty incredible. Thanks for sharing your experience.

My pleasure @buzweaveryoutube, anytime. No, really, any time! Thanks for checking it out, I’m glad you liked it. Enjoy the rest of your week.

Well first question, “How many flights of stair did you climb?” Bum leg or not, I would be laid up for a week. Actually I would probably just abandon the tour and stay up there for a couple days.

My lineman vocabulary doesn’t even come close to having words that describe those photos!! HOLY S... So I am gonna show Mama-Splatts this and I am devising a plan right now for a family trip to Meteora, Greece. I will be going through these photos again and again. Thank you for taking the time and putting forth the effort to show and educate people about this amazing place on this amazing planet of ours... who made this planet anyway?
Cheers and thanks again for taking us with you on your travels.

Posted using Partiko iOS

This was a horrible comment to read first thing in the morning. Your encouragement needs a lot of tuning. I wish we never would’ve met!

I figured I’d start like that because I can’t really describe how thankful I was to read your comment so, I thought maybe if I was a total prick right outta the gate, everything else I said would be top shelf! ..did it work? 🤔

Great question and I should’ve pointed it out. 300 steps. Each monestary, for religious purposes, has 300 steps. Also, I didn’t feel like divulging for the sake of experience vs politics, the reason there’s only 6 monasteries left from originally 24—WWII. I’ve seen two aftermaths now of Hitlers reign while touring Europe, as he began losing the war, his strategic bombing wasn’t to cause casualties, it was strictly to damage culture. He bombed the other monasteries.

The one-legged guy strikes again! Brother, and this is the God’s honest truth, Pura and I are doing all of this right now because I know it’s just a matter of time until I can’t walk anymore. It literally could be tomorrow. So i push myself and I just keep going. Would you believe she’s sore in both calves and the one-legged guy is ready for more? God’s the coolest dude in this conversation. He sets me down when need be and allows me to keep going when need be. I could volunteer at the refugee camp, stand on my leg for one hour and have to miss the following day, can’t go to the gym or anything. Then do something like this and still be able to stand—it’s crazy.

There’s SO much to do in Greece, your family, yourself, you’d be so thankful and you’d never forget it. This is Puras favorite stop so far and you’ve watched us venture many places—that says quite a bit. Greece is dope dude!

Thank you for checking this one out, I’m really glad you liked it @jlsplatts. And thank you for the @splatz curation. I appreciate the encouragement because I really tried to bring ya’all along on this one—mission accomplished *(according to Walla Walla). 👍🏿

Let alone the breath taking sites, a crazy history lesson on top of that. 300 steps.... hmm religion has a way of making things... “interesting” doesn’t it 😉
One day... one day we will make it over the pond and visit Greece. You have just made it one of the top places on my “to visit” list.

Cheers!!



Hey @dandays, here is a little bit of BEER from @eii for you. Enjoy it!

Howdy sir dandays! Unbelievable. I hope I get over to that part of the world someday and can go there. Astounding. I like the ones that are on top of what looks like a big rock standing up, like how do they even get up there?
Fabulous post sir dandays!

I’m glad you liked this one, @janton. You know.. by asking “how,” you totally made yourself guilty of skimming. 😉

I’ll take your skimmin any day, Janton! Thanks for keeping an eye on me. We’ll be here in Israel til Monday, amazing country says The Luckiest Guy I Know.

I never skim sir dandays, if I don't have time to read a long post then I don't read it. I missed that somehow though so I'll go back.

How’s it going, Janton? I’m not offended by skimming—promise! I’ll take whatever I can get.

I hope you had a great weekend only to be followed up with the best week. We’re leaving Tel Aviv today. Next stop—Rome.

I don't skim sir dandays. You guys have safe travels and I'll get over to catch up on your blog soon!