View from our sixth floor apartment patio in Pogradec, Albania.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Pogradec, Albania .

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Gjyrokaster, Albania on October 6th.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

The clifftop monastries of Meteora, Greece

Monday morning we woke up to a clear blue sky. What a refreshing change! With a more positive weather forecast in our future, we decided to do the detour to the monasteries of Meteora. 

It was about a 200 km detour from our loosely planned route, and with the price of fuel we don't take these things lightly. Also, toll roads in Greece are fairly expensive and while we normally prefer to stick to the back roads, they can be pretty slow going.

Just  warning... lots of photos today!

We took the time to fill Max's fresh water tank with nice clean well water. Not a lot of pressure though, and it seemed like it took forever! I had wanted to get on the road by 9:00am, but it was almost 10:00am by the time we got going.

Max, parked at GPS 39.555162, 20.77635
Look at that blue sky!!

We made the decision to take the toll road through the mountains. With all the rain (and snow up there!) they have had lately, we didn't know what the conditions would be, and really, we just wanted to get there. It was about 100 kms (62 miles) and it was still going to take almost two hours.

We are headed through those mountains.

Not much traffic.

Scenery along the way.

As we gained altitude, the clouds were moving in.

We're up in the snow now!

Really beautiful toll road, and like I said, there was hardly any traffic. We've never driven through so many tunnels! I can't imagine what it must have cost to build this road. We got off the toll road after 53 kms (33 miles) and the cost for Max was €6.50 ($9.40 CAD, $7.30 USD) which I actually thought was not too bad.

The next 47 kms were on a twisty curvy back road.

Coming down the other side, there was no snow, but the clouds had rolled in.


There are quite a few remote villages up here.

More scenery.

Church on a hilltop.


Really beautiful area.

Our first view of the cliffs.

More scenery.

On the outskirts of Kalabaka.

Entering the town of Kalabaka.

The town of Kalabaka (pop 12,000) is at the base of the cliffs and is the starting point for the many tours that go to the monasteries. I've read that prior to Covid over 2 million people a year made their way to Kalabaka, most of them on bus tours from cruise ships and the cities of Athens and Thessaloniki. But of course many others would drive and there were traffic jams and line ups at the monasteries and you even had a hard time finding a parking spot. We would not have enjoyed any of that, and are glad we made the decision to come when we did.

We easily found lots of parking. 

Max, parked at GPS 39.700844, 21.627329

From where we are parked, we can see two of the monasteries high up in the cliffs.

St. Stephen's Monastery.

Monastery of the Holy Trinity.

Unfortunately the sun never made an appearance in the afternoon. Still, we made plans to hike up to the Monastery of the Holy Trinity because there is a trail going from the town. There is a monastery ring road going up behind the cliffs that gives most people easier access. But we needed some exercise!

The cliffs of Kalabaka.

It's easy to understand why it's a popular area.

We are headed up to the top of the rock on the far left!

Starting to get a bit of a view.

We are headed up there!

Fantastic rock formations.

Weird!

Does this remind you of Kilroy?


Looking back at Kalabaka.

Stopping to enjoy the views.

Ruth.

Me, on the walkway to Monastery of the Holy Trinity.

I've seen pictures online of the lineups to get into this place during the summer prior to Covid. For us, that would have taken away all of the enjoyment. For comparison, when we visited yesterday there were only two other people there at the same time as us. We pretty much had it to ourselves!

Me!

We could even see Max from up here!.

I don't know why I didn't take any photos, but we had to climb 150 steps that were carved into the rock face to get up to the monastery.

At the top of the steps.

It costs €3 ($4.30 CAD, $3.40 USD) per person to enter. That in itself is pretty reasonable, but you need to remember that there are six different monasteries so unless you are prepared to drop €36 ($52 CAD, $41 USD) per couple, you want to pick and choose two or three and leave it at that.

Apparently the original monastery was built in 1362, however the building that is up there now dates from 1470. It's been meticulously restored though, and there are some parts still undergoing repair. 

Back in the day, this winch was used to transport goods up to the monastery.

Just put whatever you want on this hook, and winch away!
Now, they have a more modern electric one!

You can see some scaffolding on the top right.

Inside, there are paintings that date to the 1740's.

Ruth and her monastery outfit!

Men have to wear long pants (even in the baking hot summer) and women have to wear a long dress or skirt. No, it's not enough to just cover below your knees, it has to be a long dress or skirt. Or, you can use a sarong and just wrap it around yourself like Ruth did!

Recently restored.

No photos or videos inside this room.
Which was too bad, but I did sneak a photo from outside the room!

Can you see three of the other monasteries in the center of this photo?
Remember, you can click on any photo to make it full screen.

Zoomed in.


This is the largest of the six monasteries.


Looking straight down, you can see the path we climbed up on.

Ruth saying hi to a friendly kitty cat.

View from the top.

I'm not gonna lie... it was cold and windy up there.
If nothing else, the mask keeps your face warm!

Looking down on Kalabaka.

On the way back down.

Overall, we had a great day even though it wasn't as sunny as they forecast. However it's looking better today and tomorrow. And there's lots to keep us busy here, so we'll probably hang around for a few days and make good use of the sunshine. It's still cool, but we can deal with that... we're just glad that the rain seems to be behind us! We're off to hike up to another monastery!

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And in Canada...

18 comments:

  1. That looks amazing. I could definitely see Kilroy in that rock formation. Do they make you wear masks all the time? Or was it due to the cold?

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    1. It was pretty amazing, we haven't quite seen something like this before.

      When I looked up at the rock formation, I thought it looked almost as if someone had carved Kilroy into the side of the mountain because it looked so much like that cartoon drawing.

      No, they don't make you wear the masks outside unless there are too many people that you can't social distance but they must be worn inside. We kept ours on because it kept our faces warmer up there, it was really windy and pretty chilly.

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  2. In the picture titled "This is the largest of the six monasteries"
    play find the bride & groom. Enjoying your travels & really like
    the click on picture feature to see up close. Have a great day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Too funny, we hadn't even noticed them in the picture. You have good eyes to have seen spotted them. We are glad that you are using the enlarged the picture feature, you really do notice more detail that way as you have just proven. :-)

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  3. I can't help but wonder how much water rushed through there to carve those hills.

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    1. It wasn't just the water that carved out those formations but the wind and extreme weather had a hand in it too. Here is a bit more about the geology of the area https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteora#Geology. These formation made us think of parts of Utah that we have seen but colouring is different.

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  4. In all of my 53 years, I never knew there were mountains capable of being snow capped - I always think of the beaches. Learned something new today!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They actually get quite a bit of snow here in Greece, they even have some ski resorts here. I think most people think of beaches when they think of Greece and when you see travel brochures that is what people see, there is definitely a lot more to Greece though. :-)

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  5. The trail itself looks beautiful...would have loved to see more of it...especially the 150 stairs!

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    1. The trail was beautiful and the most interesting parts of the trail are shown in the pictures that Kevin posted here in this blog post, although he did forget to take a picture of the stairs. If you click twice on the picture of Kevin on the pathway you can see some of the stairs in behind him and in our next post if you zoom in on the picture of the same monastery you will see part of the stairway going up and around the stone formation as it make it's way up to the monastery.

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  6. What a beautiful hike! And the rock formations were incredible. The monasteries perched atop them were also amazing. I wonder if in the far distant future, there will be enough erosion of the stone that the monasteries will start falling into the abyss below?

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    Replies
    1. We really enjoyed our hike and yes, the rock formations are incredible. We wonder if some of the other 18 monasteries that are no longer seen maybe met their tragic end this way. We know that there are ruins left of some of the remaining monasteries but not sure what happened to all of the remaining ones. I believe it will take a lot of erosion to take them down though, as the rock that they are built on is a combination of sandstone and conglomerate so a lot more resistant than just being made of sandstone. I would expect that an earthquake would take them down before erosion would.

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  7. Recently, the Smithsonian channel reran a program about the monasteries in Meteora, part of their series of narrated aerial photography around the world. Your pictures completed it. The pictures of the outskirts and entering the town are striking. Those rock formations! Ah yes, Kilroy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That sounds like an interesting program, maybe we will have to see if we can find it on the internet and watch it. The aerial view would be amazing to see. It is neat to see things from different angles.

      The formations certainly are impressive as you enter town.

      It almost looked like someone carved Kilroy into that rock face but we know that wasn't the case, it sure was a close resemblance of Kilroy though.

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  8. Replies
    1. It really is beautiful, we are definitely glad that we made this detour. :-)

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  9. That was the furthest place that we planned to go to on our trip but we figured out quickly that there wasn't enough time and to much to see in the other countries...next time.
    Looks like it was worth the 200 km detour!

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    Replies
    1. We totally get what you are saying, there is just too much to see! We hope that you can eventually make it here, it really is a beautiful spot and yes, we are really glad that we made the 200 km detour for this. :-)

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