Oh my gosh.....have I already overused "amazing"? I'm sorry, but today was SOOOO amazing (this is not the last time I'm going to say amazing). Yesterday Barb, Peggy and I took a 5-hr bus trip (3 buses actually) to Meteora, an amazing place north of Athens, where there are these immense rock towers - five with still active monasteries at the top, other towers have ruins of monasteries. When we arrived in Kalabaka, the town at the base of the huge rocks, it was raining. Peggy said "well, maybe it will let up by tomorrow..." at which instant the thunder rolled! Really. However, unbelievably, we woke up to sunny blue skies which lasted all day except for a tiny little sprinkle in the late afternoon.
The caves in the rocks - and everything, towers, boulders, caves - are all natural formations. The caves were lived in by monks thousands of years ago and the monasteries are still working; one has only one resident monk. The youngest monk in this collection of monasteries is 21 and the oldest is in his late 80s. The one monastery for nuns (there's no Greek word like "nunnery") is Saint Barbara's! Imagine that! We've been told we now need to photo-shop halos on all pictures of Barb!
We had a 4-hr tour which took us to three active monasteries and several photo op places to pull off the road. Our tour guide, Jim, was a botanist from Meteora, who through a series of life changes, became a tour guide. He speaks several languages and if this tour is any indication, he speaks them at top speed! He was delightful, and ever so patiently answered all kinds of floral/tree/plant questions that Barb and I asked him. Peggy arranged the tour and I'm so very glad she did - we would never have received the amazing information on our own. The pictures, of course, can't begin to do justice to the landscape. There's more to share, but too much to write....Costas, our "host" at the guesthouse and his parents, his 77-yr old dad who was cooking at the grill when we arrived, and heading out to the fields early the next morning with rake and hoe over his shoulder. The swallows and birds chirping all through the night, the pastoral setting with 1,000 olive trees, sheep and goats, the painting nun who ever so reluctantly shared her name when Peggy asked, the pharmacy search for calcium and sleeping aids! Totally worth two full bus-travel days to see. ~ Lorraine
I loved this trip. Other than I would spend two full days at the monasteries, I would make the same trip again.