On Thursday 6th June we set off in the van about 9am for Kalambaka and after a good journey we arrived there at 2pm. We checked into the Hotel Meteora and were advised by the owner to visit one of the monasteries today. We had booked a guided tour for the following day but Varlaam would be closed then so we decided to take his advice and drive up there.
The Holy Monastery of Varlaam is the second biggest monastery. It is located opposite of the Great Meteoro Monastery and it was founded in the mid 14th century. This is the monastery where you can visit the tower with the net used by the first monks for their ascent and descent from the rock. A very large and impressive 16th century oak barrel for water storage is also not to be missed. The old refectory has been turned into a museum, where visitors can admire the excellence of religious painted icons and precious holy vestments of the priests. Other old buildings in the Monastery are the kitchen and the hospital.
After returning to the hotel we had a walk around the town of Kalambaka and later we had a meal in a restaurant near to the hotel, Taverna To Paramithi which was very nice. We then drove back up to the Meteora to a place where we could view the sunset, recommended by the hotel owner. Mel took lots of excellent pictures some of which will be included below.
On Friday 7th June we were picked up just after 9am outside our hotel by the minibus from Visit Meteora for a guided tour of some of the monasteries. Our guide Vassili was very informative and appreciative of the needs of the people on the tour. He was also quite amusing particularly about his own country and the ways of its people! We visited three monasteries – Great Meteoron, St Stephen’s and the Roussanou. We also stopped several times to allow pictures to be taken and throughout the tour Vassili gave us information about the monasteries and the area.
The Great Meteoron Monastery is the biggest and oldest one of all. It was called the monastery that was “suspended in the air” (meteoro), because of the formation of the gigantic rock on top of which it was built and its appearance when it stuck out above the clouds below it.
St Stephen’s is the most accessible monastery, where instead of steps you simply cross a small bridge to reach the entrance. The beginning of monastic life on the rock of Agios Stephanos dates back to early in the 12th century. St. Stephen’s Monastery includes two cathedrals; the old 16th century chapel which was severely damaged during WWII and the consequent Greek Civil War.
The Holy Monastery of Roussanou has received the name of the first probable hermit who settled on the rock. The main cathedral was founded at the end of the 16th century and was decorated thirty years later.Compared to other rocks where monasteries were built, the one of Roussanou has a lower elevation, which makes it more accessible. The monastery was initially founded by monks and it suffered severe damage during World War II. It became a convent in 1988.
In the evening we went to the village of Kastraki for a meal at the Taverna Paradisos where we ordered far too much food! Then we drove up to the top again for more sunset pictures.
On Saturday 8th June we set off after breakfast to drive to Vassiliki and had a very enjoyable scenic journey back.