On Travels... Greece - Meteora
Meteora is a small place in the north west of Greece, one that I'd never heard of until I'd arrived there. Its famous (relatively) for its monasteries. The thing is, the monasteries themselves aren't that exciting, its more the location - they're stuck up on the top of big rocky towers. There used to be 24 of them, but they've slowly closed down, and so now there's only 6 remaining.
<P align=center><IMG alt=”Varlaam Monastery, Meteora” src=”/common/photoalbum/generatethumbnailimage.aspx?img=..%2f..%2fmatt%2fphotos%2fallphotos%2ftravels%2f03+-+TheTrip%2f09+-+Greece+-+October+25+to+November+8%2f04+-+Meteora%2f02+-+Varlaam+Monastery%2fPB050029.JPG.lnk&thumbnailtype=photoalbumpage” border=0>
Varlaam Monastery, Meteora</P>
In recent years, they've made them lots more accessible, but in the good ol' days, the only way you could get up there was via a rope basket, hauled up by the monks. A hand-woven rope basket... Some travel writer, who wrote his travel book roughly a thousand years ago (I cant remember who, or when exactly), wrote that he'd heard a rumour that they only replaced the rope basket when it broke...
But generally, it was a pretty cool place to go - the monasteries weren't that exciting, but it was still worthwhile. The biggest monastery, Megalou Meteorou, had a charnel house in it, full of skulls, which was somewhat disconcerting, especially in a monastery. Was interesting to see some of how the monks lived (and some still live). But, its turned into a bit of a tourist thing now, so the monks go off and do their stuff separately, and ignore the tourists. Its a stop on the Japanese bus tour, so it got kinda crowded at times. Oh, and ladies weren't allowed to wear pantaloons, shorts or short sleeve dresses. So, Amy had to put on a wraparound skirt over her jeans... He he he... <IMG alt=":)" class="emoticon" src="/images/emotions/emotion-1.gif" border=0>
So, all in all, a pretty cool place to go visit, but not really worth staying very long. Oh, and just to put this in the wrong order, back to the start, about the train ride to Meteora (Kalambaka to be precise): It was about a 5 and a half hour trip, and it was a overnight train, so not much sleep, then arriving in a new town, with no accommodation, at 5.30am... Pretty painful. We ended up laying down on the floor in the station waiting room, and sleeping for a few extra hours - remarkably good sleep on such a hard floor, in such an odd location.
From Meteora, we were planning on hiring a car, and heading up to the Vikos Gorge, which is supposed to be pretty darn cool. Only problem was that we had a bit of trouble trying to find a place to hire said car. We eventually found one in a nearby town, and after haggling a bit, headed on over there to hire it. All well and good, until I pulled out my Australian license, and then it all went downhill. Apparently thats not valid in Greece. I needed an international license. Doh! Seeing places were pretty expensive in this other town (the cheapest place to stay was A) a 'pay by the hour' hotel, and B) more than we wanted to pay anyway), we headed back to Kalambaka, which turned out to be a good idea, as we managed to run into four girls (3 Germans and a Canadian) who were in learning Greek, and had headed over to Meteora for the weekend. Went out to dinner with them, and then ended up having a few drinks back at the hotel. Pretty fun <IMG alt=":)" class="emoticon" src="/images/emotions/emotion-1.gif" border=0>.
And then, once again, it was back to our friendly HI hostel in Athens. The getting there was a bit more exciting this time, as we got kicked off the train for having the wrong tickets... At least we didn't get a fine <IMG alt=":)" class="emoticon" src="/images/emotions/emotion-1.gif" border=0>.