Day 95 – Friday, April 10, 2015 – Piraeus (Athens), Greece – Meteora

Today starts a very busy six straight port days with one sea day followed by another 3 port days! With so many port days and activities, I am not sure when or how much delay there will be between my postings. I will try to stay current, but I am sure there may be several days’ delay for which I apologize ahead of time. We arrived in the port of Piraeus, Greece (Athens port city) around 7:00 AM. Since we were leaving the ship for two nights for an overland tour, we had our luggage packed and ready. We debarked around 8:10 and were on the road by 8:30. The drive to Meteora was long, but the scenery was beautiful.

Greece is not exactly as I had pictured it in my mind. Most photos and movies concentrate on the coast and the beautiful coastal cities. I didn’t realize that the country was so mountainous. It is the 3rd most mountainous country in Europe, behind Norway and Albania. Greece is composed of 85% mountains.

I outlined in YELLOW our route over the next three days. We leave from Priaeus early Friday morning and travel to Meteora where we spend the night, then back down to Delphi near the southern coast to visit the ruins and again spend the night in the small town of Delphi. On Sunday, we travel along the coast and cross the bridge on our way to Olympia. After a traditional Greek Easter Feast, we then proceed to Katakolon to reboard the ship

Snow covered mountains in the background, solar panels in the foreground.

Mountains and Olive orchards…

Sweeping valleys, between the majestic mountains.

A brief glimpse of Mt. Olympus in the far distance.

After 5 ½ hours of travel by bus we reach Meteora where we stop for delicious lunch. As I have found most Greek meals to be, it was huge and consisted of a large selections of appetizers (which could have been the meal itself) followed by the main and dessert. I had my first Greek beer a Mythos, which is a Hellenic style brew. It was ok, but on this trip I have yet to find a beer which rivals those of Northern Europe But in all fairness, this is wine country.

A view of the mountains from the restaurant.

We saw many climbers. Meteora is a popular destination for hiking and rock climbing.

The Metéora , "middle of the sky", "suspended in the air" or "in the heavens above" — etymologically related to "Meteorite") is one of the largest and most important complexes of Greek Orthodox monasteries in Greece, second only to Mount Athos. The six monasteries are built on natural sandstone rock pillars, at the northwestern edge of the Plain of Thessaly near the Pineios river and Pindus Mountains, in central Greece. The nearest town is Kalambaka. The Metéora is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List

The Plain of Thessaly has been reorganized as the site of the most ancient habitation in Greece. Meteora is nothing other than a group of lofty and precipitous rocks crowned with monasteries, retreats and cells, while its various caves have been turned into hermits’ cells for Orthodox monasticism since the 11th century. These pillows rise to over 1000 feet above the beautiful plain of Thessaly. The pillows were formed over 60,000 years ago when an ancient lake forced its way to the Aegean Sea, eroding the mountain and leaving these unique pillows.

We were only able to visit two of the Monasteries which are now operated by nuns. Only two Monasteries still are occupied by Monks and one only has two devotees left. From the elevations, I was able to get photos of many of the Monasteries, but I haven’t had time to actually identify the specific ones from the book I purchased. Therefore, I will just present the photos for your viewing enjoyment.

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Rossanou was one of the sites we did visit. Unfortunately no photos are allowed inside any of the churches which was a shame because the fresco decorations are incredible!

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One of our fellow travelers took this photo for us, unfortunately we are out of focus but the monastery is quite beautiful!

The Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas, built in the 16th century, has a small church, decorated by the noted Cretan painter Theophanis Strelitzas, in 1527.

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St. Stephens was the other site we visited. The Holy Monastery of St. Stephen has a small church built in the 16th century and decorated in 1545. This monastery rests on the plain rather than on a cliff. It was shelled by the Nazis during World War II who believed it was harboring insurgents and was abandoned. Nuns took it over and reconstructed it

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Looking down on the town of Kalambaka, where we spent the night.

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The view from our hotel balcony in Kalambaka. Our room is on the front of the hotel and Meteora is directly behind it.

I walked around to the back of the hotel and got this photo of St. Stephens just at dusk.

The timing of our visit to Greece was both a blessing and a curse. We of course celebrated Easter last Sunday. In Greece where the official religion is Christian Greek Orthodox and the vast majority of Greeks are of this religious persuasion. In Greece, Easter is recognized according to the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar (which is what is currently used almost worldwide). As a result the Greek Easter usually occurs after our Easter, in this case only one week later. The Greeks celebrate Easter for the full Easter week with various events each day. Since this is a Religious holiday weekend, the hours of stores, museums and historical sites are changed. Almost all are closing early on Saturday and opening late on Sunday. On Friday while we were in Kalambaka, we had the opportunity to participate in the Procession of the Epitaph, one of their most sacred ceremonies. In towns all over Greece, people gather at their church for a ceremony, then make a procession from their individual churches to a central location where members of all the churches join for a joint ceremony. It was quite impressive and massive, and this was in a small town.

This was our group making our way to the church, about a half mile walk from the hotel.

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The church where we met.

Alter boys getting ready to lead the procession.

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Not a great photo, but this was the Bishop. He finally had to stop to allow the parishioners the opportunity to kiss his cross

The crowd was body to body along the narrow streets, but everyone was patient and we observed absolutely no problems.

There were all ages and all forms of dress, from very casual to suits & ties.

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Gathering in the town square.

Children enjoying an evening out late…

Walking back to the hotel room, Kay and I stopped at a pastry shop. On the Procession night most businesses stay open quite late, with many people having dinner after the ceremony around 11 or 12 PM. The ship must have had 150 varities of pasteries! We selected three and had to leave the shop before we went crazy!

We got back to the Hotel for a goods nights rest and an for an early start tomorrow. We have another several hours of bus ride to reach Delphi before it closes at 2:30 PM. Everything is closing early Saturday because this is Easter Saturday and a holiday. Most people will be attending a Midnight church service and then having a meal. Early Sunday morning the people will begin to prepare the traditional Easter Feast. We have already seen wood and charcoal grills set up for the roasting of whole lambs which is an absolute requirement.

Hopefully I will get Delphi posted soon…

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1 Response to Day 95 – Friday, April 10, 2015 – Piraeus (Athens), Greece – Meteora

  1. Sharon says:

    We spent quite a bit of time in Athens making day trips to everywhere but Meteora since it was a two day trip from Athens. Ever since we saw the James Bond film “FormYour Eyes Only”, we have wanted to go to Meteora. Nice photo of you and Kay. Did Kay have to wear a skirt to go to the Monastery? And did you go on a private tour with CC? Wonderful post. Enjoy the cruise and post when you can.

    Like

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