Por: Omar Romo
Although Greece has paradisiacal places such as the Aegean islands or places that shelter in their ruins the voices of the beginning of humanity such as the Acropolis, in Athens, or Delphi on the top of Mount Parnassus, it is also home to spaces that touch the sky due to its spirituality and height, such as Meteora, a group of rocks that built a series of impressive monasteries on its top.
Motivated by family recommendations and because it was the setting for some scenes in the Game of Thrones series, my girlfriend and I put this destination on our itinerary in Greece and it was well worth it, from the rural landscapes we could see through the windows of the train, to the wonderful village life of Kastraki, the place that perches at the foot of this set of monoliths.
We decided to embark on the adventure staying in a small hotel with just three rooms in the center of Kastraki, soon realizing the familiar atmosphere, since arriving at the hotel we asked the host for the key to the room, since he did not have it at hand he suggested we go to eat at a tavern and when he returned he would deliver it to us. Seeing us worried about leaving our luggage without security, he only told us:
Relax, it’s Kastraki!
We ate some of the richest dishes we had in Greece in a tavern with affordable prices, which also had an impressive view of the Meteora monoliths. The table was decorated with a delicious cut of lamb and a moussaka; In addition, the typical white wine and local beers crowned a chapter worthy of #FudisPorElMundo.
The mysticism of the monasteries that touch the sky
Meteora means “rocks in the air” and there is no better definition for these stones formed more than 30 million years ago! where monks, specifically Saint Athanasius of Meteora, came to found the first one at the beginning of the 14th century: the Monastery of the Great Meteor.
To climb the rocks there are many options, you can go hiking, there are routes for biking, buses throughout the day that have stops at the monasteries that can be visited or you can use the car because they are well connected, although it is just a view does not seem so.
Although walking or biking sounded tempting for adventure, we decided to hire a local tour given the short time we would have. The host of the hotel contacted us with an agency and we shared a group with about 15 people of different nationalities. It is important to clarify that unlike much of Europe, little Spanish is spoken here and tours are in English if you are lucky.
That afternoon it started to rain, it was around 5 in the afternoon when the van arrived for us at the hotel and we went up to the monasteries, making the first stop at the Monastery of San Esteban, a space dedicated exclusively to female nuns where the mysticism and orthodox religious art floods every corner of this place. As the tradition of the great castles, this monastery is connected with a beautiful bridge with the road.
To this day, after various events throughout history such as the Second World War, 6 visitable monasteries are still standing, which are still inhabited by Orthodox nuns and monks, so you do not enter as “Juan por su casa” . The main rule to access is to dress “properly”, that is, no shorts, no bare back, no short skirt, etc. My girlfriend was wearing pants that day and they provided her with a skirt for her stay in one of the monasteries.
The cost to enter the Monastery of San Esteban was 3 euros per person, a more than fair price for the experience of living, even for a moment, as a hermit far from the world.
The tour continued with various stops of historical color and ended with an incredible sunset at the top of Meteora, without a doubt the climax of the day that despite sharing it with many people, the contagious silence of the monasteries spread throughout the day. spectacle that the Sun gave us until it disappeared between the mountains.
How to get
The transfer from Athens was not difficult, the comfortable life of the metro took us to the Lárisa station, the main one in the city that connects the Greek capital with the interior of the country with its train network; One goes directly daily at 7:57 am and makes a journey of almost 5 hours, which go unnoticed thanks to the views. The cost of a single ticket is around 21 euros and drops a bit if you buy a round ticket.
The train arrives at the Kalambaka station, a town located very close to the group of rocks and it is a good option to stay, however, we chose to stay in Kastraki, it is only 30 minutes on foot from the station and it is still closer to the monasteries. This place is much smaller but has everything you need for a couple of nights: taverns and hotels.