Aegean Adventures in Greece, Part 5

The following travel post(s) this week are written by Dawn Stuart Weinraub, an avid traveler and wonderful storyteller. This past October she took a trip to Greece to enjoy their food, dance, art and history of ancient civilizations amidst stern austerity measures. Her travelogue provides a mix of observation, opinion and historical perspective.

Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012
Clifftop Monasteries of Meteora, Greece

The Meteora Pendus Range includes some of the highest mountains in Greece. Many moons ago, a tremendous geological event occurred here that replaced the rushing river here into tall peaks of conglomerate and sandstone. Seashells and fossils are stamped on rock throughout hollow caves.

We passed through the village of Kastraki, a lovely suburb of Kalambaka with houses attached to gorgeous gardens and vineyards. In the 16th century, hundreds of monasteries resided here – today that number has dwindled to 56. In early Christian period especially during months of war and battles, hermits were attracted to the protection of monasteries. Sadly, many monasteries have been lost to the ravages of time, WWII bombing and the Greek civil war that followed WWII.

monasteries on Meteora crags

We arrive at The Great Meteoron also known as the Monastery of the Transfiguration of Christ. Founded in the 14th century by a monk from Mount Athos, the Great Meteoron is well preserved and well visited. I recognize the Orthodox Church from scenes from the James Bond movie “For Your Eyes Only.”

We ascend 180 steps up to the original hermitage of St. Athanasios Meteorites where a monk promptly blessed us. We were blessed by the weather as well – bright blue skies and sunny after a violent thunder storm the night before. The hermitage has only 7 ascetic saints left – many left when it was opened to the public because of the disruption it caused.

The frescoes painted inside the nave are the most impressive. They depict various saints, the monastery’s founders and scenes from the life of Christ like the Transfiguration, the Entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the Descent to Hades and many more.


Another part of the building holds portrait of the Virgin Mary with the archangels Michael and Gabriel. We linger over rare manuscripts and wood-carved crosses at the inside museum.

One of the most startling stops is inside the sacristy where skulls and bones of previous residents are neatly stacked on shelves. This monastic community, a bastion of true Christianity, even preserved their dead.