After driving up the mountain through the beautiful scenery of the Meteora region we made it to the parking lot of its biggest monastery – The Great Meteoron, also called the Holy Monastery of Transfiguration of Jesus. Situated on the top of ‘Broad Rock’ it’s the largest and the oldest of all six monasteries. From the moment we got off the minibus we could feel the splendor of the place.
Even though we got jumped by the local souvenir vendors who, while trying to speak in every imaginable language, wanted to sell us stuff nobody needs, we couldn’t pull our eyes of the wonderful sight that was in front of us. A stone building that was attached perfectly to the sandstone pillar. They fit together like two puzzle pieces.
The place was so cool I had to take of my sunglasses and look at it naturally. The place is that dimension of ‘cool’.
The monastery itself is basically unreachable. In the past, the monks used ropes and ladders to climb up and down. Luckily for us there are stairways built in the stone that are used by tourists from all over the world.
From the parking lot the first stairs are going down with a magnificent view of the cave entrance into The Great Meteoron. At the lowest point is a plateau that is elevated just above forest with giant boulders that are rising from both sides. From that point the only way is up the narrow stone stairs on the side of the cliff. The more you climb, the more of the Meteora valley opens with its views on the second biggest Varlaam Monastery and the small monastery of Roussanou in the background.
We were spared from paying the 2 euro entrance fee since it was a Greek national holiday. Women have to wear long skirts which they get form the ticket kiosk. To enter the monastic community we had to go through a cave tunnel. On the sides of the tunnel you can see the wine cellar and the skull room. Skulls of the monks who died here are placed on shelves inside a rock. The sight of human skulls arranged like books in a library is really creepy…
After passing through the rock tunnel we arrived at the magnificent courtyard of the monastery. This was a once a functional and sustainable community. While walking around the narrow stone-paved streets we peaked into the rooms around which the daily life of monks revolved. The kitchen and dining room are preserved in their original state. Also monastery museum and the library are open for the public. The little church with a colorful, flowery courtyard and beautiful frescoes is also a must see. Sadly, taking photos inside the church is forbidden.
Although the church and the museum are worth seeing and the monastery’s 600 year history is amazing, I saved the best for last – the views. On each side of the monastery there are balconies with the most astounding views of the whole Thessaly valley. If you are looking at other Meteora monasteries, down to the small town of Kastraki or far away into the horizon you can only feel excitement and satisfaction. It is as time has stopped.
All the peace and calmness was destroyed by our tour guide who was screaming that we were already late. So that was it. Our time in this fascinating place has ended. We had to go back from this paradise into the the minibus for a three-hour long drive back. It was a really depressing ending to a beautiful day. We hope to return here and expand our visit to other neighboring monasteries…