My wife and I waited for the bus near a fountain on the main road of Kalambaka on a Tuesday morning in October 2007. Kalambaka is a small town in the interior of mainland Greece. It had taken us 5.5 hours to get here by bus from Athens. Our sole purpose of coming here was to visit the Meteora about 5 km away.
The bus came at 09:00 hrs and it took us together with other tourists through the little village of Kastraki and then up the tortuous mountain road all the way to the car park next to the Great Meteoron at 525m a.s.l.
No, it is not the crash site of a meteorite! In Greek, the word meteora refers to the sky and the Meteora in the vicinity of Kalambaka is actually a collection of 6 monasteries each perching on a pinnacle. The Great Meteoron is one of them.
Conspicuous in more ways than one, the monastic settlements of the Meteora perch upon huge and precipitous rocks that rise abruptly from the north-western edge of the Thessalian plain where it meets the foothills of the massive Pindos mountain range. The strangely varied landscape that has few parallels anywhere in the world strikes the traveller with a curious mixture of awe and amazement.
It is believed that the first hermits to seek solitude among these immense outcrops of rock settled on the Meteora long before the 10th century AD. Many anchorites chose to settle here on the summits of the soaring rocks half way between earth and sky, seeking to live close to God for the remainder of their years while turning their backs upon mundane things and devoting themselves to prayer and spiritual contemplation.
The grandeur of the landscape and the security from raiders, robbers and malefactors enjoyed by the monks living on the barely accessible summits of those precipitous rocks led over the years to the creation of a large, closely knit community comprising many monasteries supported by numerous donations and privileges granted by devout rulers and noblemen.
A gradual decline in this theocratic community set in later, however, and today only 6 monasteries are still functioning.
The 6 monasteries are spread over an area of about 10 sq. km. but are connected by very good roads. After dropping us at the car park, the bus disappeared and would not appear again until 13:00 hrs. So we had to visit the monasteries on foot. Those who had a car of course could save a lot of time.
The monasteries (one of them is in fact a convent) have different opening hours and they are closed once a week on different days. We managed to visit 4 of them.
The Meteora was admitted to UNESCO’s List of World Cultural Heritage Sites in 1988.