(The writing of this post was a joint effort with Rich… I’ve not started talking about myself in the third person)On our way in to Kalabaka, the town that sits at the bottom of Meteóra, we were in awe. We had ridden many miles across a huge flat plain but in the distance, smooth karsts began to appear, protruding in clusters along the horizon. Ancient troglodyte civilisation was evident and reminded us of our trip to Cappadocia. This region, however, was lush and green and presented a stark contrast to the dustbowl that was Cappadocia. Our waiter that evening confirmed our suspicions of an ancient cave-dwelling civilisation and we even saw one karst with a washing line strung about half way up!
Camping Kastraki was advertised form the road and with as little plan as ever, it seems like a great choice. The marketing was also interesting advertising an excellent ‘POOL WITH FILTER’! Apparently, the fact that their pool had a filter should be enough to sway any passing campers! The campsite was huge and filled with people of all ages as well as a Caravan Club from the UK. Kudos to them for driving all the way to Greece and those guys really loved the Bonnevilles. Rich was more interested in the climbing gear and rope bags we were seeing from the resident climbers though. You could also say there was a fair amount of mosquitos…
Meteóra looked to be an incredible place to climb. We scrambled around some small boulders here and there and found plenty of comfortable holds. Interesting overhangs, erosion channels and just about everything else had ‘climb me’ written all over them!
Rich jealously looked on as multiple groups of climbers were either setting off, half way up, or standing like champions at the top. Decidedly, next time, he wanted to return on a climbing trip instead. Alas, without any gear, we were limited to motorcycling. This wasn’t too much of a compromise as this was why we actually came to Meteora in the first place. We readjusted our adrenal glands and commenced a short ride around the rocks.The main road to the monasteries was pleasant enough. At some sections you could really let loose and there were a few good off road bits too. The little loop to see all of the monasteries could be done in one afternoon and would be a great place to take a picnic. Beware of the dreaded coach tours though. Some parts of our afternoon looked like this…
By far the best motorcycling in the area for us though came the next day – to the south west in the Koziakas Mountains. Despite it being cloudy and close to freezing at the top of the pass, the view was incredible. we had to keep our eyes on the road as it offered its own challenges; gravel, broken barriers, hairpins, animals and blind humps into tight corners but each one was enjoyable and rewarding in its own way! Kind of. We did enjoy the road though and it seemed like there was plenty more of it in the area.
When I think of monasteries perched on top of mountains I think of Japan and Kung-fu panda-monks. While Greek Orthodox monks are still portly and wear black and white they are a little less kick ass. In fact they had installed an elevator to avoid the thousands of steps. Their monasteries however were very impressive indeed.
Each one is an extension of the boulder underneath and I have never actually seen anything like it in real life. The vista would be incredible without the monasteries but they are the secret ingredient that add something extra special to Meteóra. Until you want to go inside.
We often joke about having a ‘Karl Pilkington moment’ when you realise that sometimes it’s better to ‘live in the hole and look at the temple, than live in the temple and look at the hole’. Visiting the monasteries of Meteóra is definitely one of these. Firstly, to get in you must Kung-fu your way past the hundreds of tourist delivered by hypodermic coach. Then, you’ve got to enter via the shop and pay the entrance fee (I’m sure Jesus would have been proud) to finally, be ‘welcomed’ by a grumpy monk who looks like he’s been eating all the honey in the shop that the tourists didn’t buy. I do tend to get annoyed by religion in general and Nea is definitely the tolerant one in that respect but something about this process really got to me. Especially when ‘Portly-McGreecey-Monk’ is collecting the cash. But I guess everybody’s got to make a living.
Anyway, it is what it is, inside the monasteries are some beautiful paintings and some incredible engineering so it’s definitely worth seeing inside at least one. Personally I think they are better from the outside, but maybe I’m just being an idiot abroad.
All things considered, I loved Meteóra. The town was touristic but also relaxed and friendly with some good choices for eating out. Most places seemed to have some live BBQ action going on and souvlaki was definitely the word. Nea also reliably informs me that at least one of their coffee shops deserved special recommendation, we just can’t remember which one! So, if you like mountaineering, motorcycling, monasteries or any combination of the above then Meteóra is the place for you!