During these 'unlikely travels', together we've seen some of Europe's most breathtaking and awe-inspiring works and wonders. As I enter my final week you might have expected this to be the time for me to rest, relax and generally reflect and philosophize on these last eight months. Besides, what would be the chances of me providing you further visual delights from slap-bang in the middle of Greece in early December?
More ancient Greek temples and palaces perhaps? Nope, you've had plenty of those over the months. More Greek sunsets? Nope, you've had several of those too. More islands and beaches then? Certainly not as you may remember I've seen enough islands to last me a short while.
Ok, so what about a large 'rock forest'. Does that immediately grab your attention? No? Ha, well it soon will my friends as let it be known that Meteora shall not be a name you will forget in a hurry.
With that textual teaser out of the way, let's go straight into a visual teaser or two...
That is the Great Meteoron monastery
This is the biggest of the six remaining monasteries. We were so mesmerized from within it, that we actually stayed for a whole hour. Unfortunately a lot of the inside was photography prohibited and as it felt so holy here, I was happy to respect that.
Still, I managed to capture some strange images inside from areas that you could take photos and then I moved my camera on to what this place is really about; the epic landscape showcasing some truly incredible scenery and backdrop.
Here are some of the views from the Great Meteoron monastery looking across to the Varlaam monastery which will give us some height perspective, image by image...
(Don't be in a rush to flick past the first image though. Just look at the detail of the construction which you will admire even more when you consider building started in the 14th century! I mean look at the height of these things! Could humans fly back then!? Honestly...what an accomplishment).
I understand that it was continuously inhabited by monks in the 16th century and get this, it took 22 years to complete!!! Ah ok, maybe they couldn't fly after all :--)
So I spent today's exploration in the pleasant company of a young British man named Alasdair who is also staying in the same hostel. We also met a lovely Canadian girl who has now sadly departed in the direction of Thessaloniki which fully gets my approval and especially so as she will be staying in the 'Little Big House' as mentioned in a recent post.
Our next stop on route would be the Varlaam monastery and it was on approach to here that we were able to catch more incredible views - and photos!
Up first is the view looking back at the first monastery - The Great Meteoron.
Opposite to this standing point was then the Varlaam monastery.
Warning: Anyone with vertigo might find the following images a little uncomfortable and that very much includes Alasdair :-) Bless him it took quite a bit of convincing to get him to stand as I wanted him too but needless to say, he was chuffed afterwards that he conquered his fear considering how the photo turned out.
Cable car to the next monastery was out of action for the season so I climbed across...
Joking, obviously :-)
Today was magical for more reasons than just the obvious visual wonders. We had glorious sunshine accompanying us all day with the atmosphere providing a steady and an almost perfect ambient temperature. Furthermore, there were almost no tourists around! A handful or two at most. As you know, these two factors alone can heavily 'make or break' an experience and so thankfully for us, it was the former.
Enjoying this experience at its maximum also backs up something I spoke of in a recent post; out-of-season really can be the best time to travel.
In less than a couple of hours Alasdair proclaimed: 'I think this is the best place I've ever seen'.
But Alasdair is young at 24 and has seen much less of Europe than I. Was that claim too bold by my own standard and experiences?
No folks, it really wasn't. It didn't take me long to agree wholeheartedly with his sentiment: Meteora was the most amazing place I've seen this year.
In fact as a country, let's make it official (or 'exclusive' as our cross-pond American cousins would say) - I'm in love with Greece.