After a long time we were on our way again solo. Amber had left for Crete and Kai… well, I don’t remember where Kai was. In any case, we really wanted to visit Meteora, with its world-famous monasteries. That meant we had to drive a bit inland. To split up the long trip we first drove along a lake, a bit into the mountains. Lake Plastiras is an artificial reservoir used for irrigation and electricity generation. The idea for the lake and dam originated in 1925 and the dam was inaugurated in 1960. Because it is located between the mountains, the lake has a jagged shape.
The banks are very sloping and I’m sure it’s great to be there in the summer. However, with some precipitation it quickly becomes a muddy mess and we were close to being stuck in the clayey subsoil again. So we made a quick U-turn and headed back down the track at sufficient speed, skilfully shoving and sliding Nigel back onto firmer ground. To be on the safe side, we drove to one of the few restaurants around the lake. There we asked if we could spend the night, on the paved parking lot. That was absolutely no problem! We considered booking a table for that evening out of courtesy and after looking at the very reasonable menu we were convinced.
We took a brisk walk along the lake. Unfortunately, the winter landscape made the place a bit desolate with all the dry branches around us. We started the aperitif then… An older Greek couple stopped and gave us homemade cookies. A Christmas tradition, or did we look so scruffy? We then put on something a little more dignified and went to the restaurant a little later. Reservations were clearly not necessary… It was low season, but judging by the size of the restaurant, including the terrace, it must run well here in the summer, we thought. We ordered several mains and sides and a carafe of house wine. The food was simple but very tasty, as we have come to expect from Greece. Afterwards we were treated to a piece of orange pie, a typical Greek dessert. If I remember correctly we paid around €35, which was an extremely good deal. Completely satisfied we crawled into our bed…
Meteora – Life on clouds
The next day we drove a touristic tour along the lake. We then spiraled out of the mountains on our way to one of Greece’s most famous tourist sites: Meteora. We spent the night just outside the city at an abandoned and dilapidated aqua park, where there was little to do, but we had a quiet and undisturbed night, which was the main thing.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to live on a (petrified) cloud, you really should pay a visit to Meteora. Where monks and hermits have sought refuge in monasteries built on gigantic rock formations that rise from the rolling landscape since the 14th century.
The name ‘Meteora’ literally means ‘floating in the sky’, and believe me, that’s exactly what we felt walking on the rocks there. Once we drove up, we marveled at these immense, rugged rocks that reach to the sky like pillars, with the delicate structures of the monasteries on top, like gigantic eagles’ nests. It rang a bell and I remembered a scene from an old Bond movie, For Your Eyes Only, filmed at the Holy Trinity Monastery.
Aside from the Bond story, a little bit of history: When hermits and monks climbed these inaccessible rocks in the 11th century in search of a place of peace and spiritual contemplation. Century after century they have built these monasteries, hewn out of the rock itself and often only accessible by long ladders or nets. The monks lived in complete seclusion, devoting their lives to prayer and simple labour. There was another great advantage of building on this location: At the end of the 14th century, the inhabitants of this monastery were well protected against Turkish plunderers!
Today, six monasteries are still inhabited, and you can visit them. Each has its own unique charm and history, but all share the same breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. Standing on the edge of such a rock, with the wind blowing through your hair and the world stretching out below you, you suddenly feel very small, and you also understand why all the effort has been made to build monasteries here of all places .
We had forgotten one small detail: it was also a holiday period for the Greeks, between Christmas and New Year. Despite arriving early, it soon filled up. So we limited our visit to the Monastery of the Holy Trinity. This is one of the smaller monasteries, but in our opinion it gives the best view of the city and the other monasteries.
While we enjoyed this visit, I think it’s best to visit in the spring when there aren’t too many people around and the scenery really brightens up. After this tourist trip, we returned to the coast. You can see from the photos that the temperature in the Greek interior was also dropping to wintery levels. We hoped to find some more warmth back on the coast and started to wonder if we hadn’t made the trip better in the opposite direction… It was also time to plan New Year’s Eve with some traveling friends. We agreed with Kai, but our favorite Belgian/Moldovan/Swedish couple, Wouter & Iana, were also coming our way. You can read more about that in the next post!