I can’t believe how many fears of the past have provided popular touristic objectives of today. If we only think of how many citadels and fortresses are there, we see that throughout the history humans were anything but friendly. Everybody wanted something that belonged to somebody else, be it a country, a piece of land or simply a handbag.

Out of fear, Greek monks built the Meteora monasteries in Kalambaka straight on the top of huge cliffs. Some of them didn’t even have access by foot. Monks got in and out by sitting in a basket hanging on a rope or by using wooden ladders which could be drawn up in case of danger. Here’s one of those lifting systems. As you can see from the detail picture, it looks a bit too modern, I guess the engine was added in our days. Anyway, it’s still interesting:

Meteora monastery lift

Meteora monastery lift

Lift close-up

Lift close-up

Here’s another lifting basket, which looks more like the original thing:

Monks used such baskets to lift supplies and people

Monks in Meteora used such baskets to lift supplies and people

The monasteries were built between mid-14th century and mid-16th century. Only six of them are still erect nowadays.

One of the monasteries in Meteora, Greece

One of the monasteries in Meteora, Kalambaka, Greece

Monastery straight on top of a sharp cliff in Meteora

The same monastery seen from the base of the rock

Monks still live in some of the monasteries, but tourists are welcome to visit. Don’t worry, you won’t have to sit in a basket and have the monks pull you up. There are staircases carved in the rock. I visited the Varlaam monastery. After that, my friends and I agreed that the place is way more spectacular on the outside, so we didn’t bother visiting the other five.

The Varlaam Monastery - Meteora, Greece

The Varlaam Monastery – Meteora, Greece

Varlaam Monastery - a closer view

Varlaam Monastery – a closer view

Varlaam's water tank

History says Varlaam built a church, a room and a water tank on top of the rock which bears his name today. When I first saw this tank, I thought it was for wine. Water doesn’t sound that exciting, does it?

Meteora is in Northern Greece, about 300 km from Athens. If you drive there, exit the motorway at Larissa and follow the road to Trikala and Kalabaka. There are organized trips from all parts of mainland Greece to Meteora, however, I’d rather rent a car and go by myself. But that’s just me, I don’t like crowds. Again, you’d better avoid July and August, as it can get insanely busy.

Megalo Meteoron Monk

This is how monks get to Megalo Meteoron in order to avoid the tourists (and the stairs, which can be exhausting if you are not that young). Photo credit: cod_gabriel

I’ve been there in the beginning of June. It was a rainy day, which was rather daunting for the photos (if you want to see a photo taken on a sunny day, check out Jack & Jill’s travel blog). The big advantage, however, was there were almost no other tourists. Actually, we met some other people, but that was in a restaurant nearby the monasteries area. Too bad I can’t remember the name. I would have sent you there to have a fabulous rabbit stew.

Did you visit Meteora or any other areas in Kalambaka, Greece? Which of the monasteries did you like most?

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