Taking Maureen to the Middle East travel blog

View from our hotel balcony

One of the high perched monasteries

Grand Meteora Monastery was closed

Grand Meteora

Perched right on the cliff's edge.

They are covering the old roofs with cement!!!

Inside one of the monastery rooms

An old turret

Some of the other peaks and a nunnery

Our view of the Parthenon and the Acropolis

We were in luck this morning as we awoke to cloudy but dry weather even though it had rained through the night. It was so lovely overnight and we slept with our balcony doors wide open.

Reasonably relaxed wake up this morning as the monasteries on the mountains do not open until 9am. Decent breakfast offering of the usual cereals, scrambled eggs and hams and plenty of Greek cakes and pastries and the most amazing yogurt ever. Have finally found something the Greeks have got right.

We were staying right at the base of the rocks so only a short drive up to the most amazing views of sheer rocks with buildings perched either over the whole rock top or right on the edge of the larger rocks.

Made our way up to Grand Meteora Monastery only to find the thing that all tourists dread, it is closed on Tuesdays!!!! However, we still have a choice of 5 others unless they all closed on the same day.

We seem to be making a habit of trying to beat tourist buses and it was no different on these rocks as it was a nightmare climbing up the multi flights of winding rock stairs following the aged tourists with their sticks, knee bandages, ankle braces. Seems ironic that we will also be some of those bus tourists in a couple of days. Not our problem if the freewheeling tourists get held up by us bus goers then.

It is very hard to describe what you see at Meteora. In the 11th century monks had retreats and hermitages in the area and used to meet up on Sundays and feastdays to do liturgies together. In the 14th century one monk founded the first monastery on an impressive rock 415m above the town of Kalambaka. He gathered together 14 monks and they began the whole ideal of the monastic life and called it all Meteora ("in the air").

The number of monasteries grew to 24 on each of the summits of the rocks. Nowadays only 6 of the monasteries survive but the monks still exist in a very solitary life in the hopes of attaining eventual elevation to be with God. Sounds like a hard way to live to me but if it suits them, good on them. Until the 1970's the monasteries were only accessible by a net suspended from a hook which was winched up and down, or a series of winding pathways, tunnels and ladders up the rocks.

Just a spectacular site and it was amazing to wake up this morning to see several of these large rocks right there out our room window. We could also see the grotto of St. George which is only accessible by climbing somehow, It is traditional for those who make it up to leave a coloured scarf for St. George.

Having seen one of the monasteries and wandered around its precincts, we decided it was time to go back to the hotel and collect our luggage and make tracks towards our last destination in Greece, Athens.

It was about 4.5 hours and we encountered some heavy rains along the way but we were still astounded by the general state of disrepair and untidiness of the towns we passed through. Graffiti is a valued art form by the look of it, roadside medians proudly display weeds of great height, no old car is ever disposed of but kept as a family heirloom in the front yard, and why bother replacing windows in disused buildings if no-one wants to use them any more. Newsbreak to all Greeks, your modern era disused buildings will never replace or even rival the ancient ruins so for goodness sake don't just leave them rotting and disintegrating, pull them down. We saw nothing to rival this in Eastern Europe last year Greece so smarten up your act!!!! The ancient greeks would be disgusted at the current state of affairs here. Wonder if Angela Merkel even looked around before she agreed for Germany to throw their money away bailing the Greeks out of the poo they are in. Disinterest appears to be rife here.

Enough ranting, we duly made it into Athens around 5pm and John had little trouble driving in the peak hour traffic, although it got hairy at times. Were not impressed at all with the dodgy state of the suburbs we came through but finally arrived at the appointed address of our apartment just near Syntagma Square, the main area in Athens. Our road Akademia is pleasantly lined with trees and our apartment is on the 7th floor and we have a direct view of the Parthenon and Acropolis. Christos, our landlord was here to greet us and show us around the apartment and give us some idea of restaurants, shops and things to do in the area. Very accommodating young guy. The apartment belongs to his parents who have a house elsewhere and only use the apartment for a few months each year. It is 3 bedrooms and has everything we need for a couple of nights with all the comforts of home. Way to go Megzy and thank you Airbnb.

Hopefully we will see all we need to of Athens in our walking tour tomorrow morning and we can chill out for tomorrow afternoon. Done a load of washing and got another underway, been to the supermarket for supplies and a great spanakopita for dinner and muesli and Greek yogurt for brekkie.

Goodnight all.

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