Today we hit the road in the big coach bus and after a 2 hours drive we arrive at Thermopylae. We’re here to check out the site where the Battle of Thermopylae was held. I’m sure you’ve seen the movie “300”; in preparation I rewatched the movie and I didn’t care for it. Haha – except for Gerard Butler’s abs. In ancient times, it was a fortified coastal passage where the Persians came in to takeover. They were met by 300 Spartan soldiers from an alliance of city states (around 7,000 soldiers altogether) led by King Leonidas of Sparta. Fun Fact: the land surface on which the battle was fought in 480 BC is now 66 feet under the soil. So hard to imagine that! Another cool reference: there are hot sulphur springs in this area, which led to Greek mythology saying this is the entrance to Hades (the underworld). And also that Heracles cleansed himself of the Hydra poison in these waters, making them hot. Awesome. Today, there is not much to see here except the monument to King Leonidas and the gorgeous scenery.
Our lunch stop is this large cafeteria and gift shop, basically made for tour buses and truck drivers. The one guy running the food is reminiscent of the soup Nazi from Seinfeld. He’s a no-nonsense kind of guy. I am looking at what is being served and he is annoyed that I don’t know what I want yet. Pressure!! I finally decide on the spaghetti, and he’s happy I’ve made up my mind. It’s actually pretty tasty too.
Now we have another 2-hour drive to Kalabaka, the quaint town that lies at the base of the Meteora Peaks. Before we get there, we make a quick stop at Zindros House of Byzantine Icons. The craftsperson shows us how they make the gold designs on the religious icons they produce. It’s a really neat process. I’m not a religious person but these artworks are so beautiful that I need to buy a piece – just a small one though.
In Kalabaka, we are staying at Kosta Famissi, a cute hotel that is opulently decorated to the point of tacky. Love it though!
The view from our room is this…….notice the monastery up on the peak. Wow!
We have some free time this afternoon so Sophia and I take a walk to have a look around and find an ATM.
After a few tries, we can’t figure out the ATM’s here and can’t get any money. But there is a cute pastry shop right beside one of the ATMS so we take full advantage of this. I get a cup of gelato and cup of Greek halva, which is a semolina pudding with raisins. So yummy!
On the walk back to the hotel we see some kitties and I have to stop and say hi. I crouch down and two of them come over and try to hide under my dress. Haha so cute.
And then…it starts to pour rain….luckily I hear someone calling my name and I’m thinking, who do I know in Kalabaka? Haha. Well, it’s Mitch and Claude from our tour and they are having a beer at a local pub. We run over and hang out with them until the rain clears up.
Luckily, the rain clears up for the evening and we are able to take our drive up the Meteora hills for some breathtaking views.
Meteora is a large rock formation, where 6 monasteries remain up on the natural pillars of these giant boulders. If you’re into knowing how these rocks were formed, check out the Wikipedia page…it’s too complex for me to explain here! And apparently, rock falls are a threat to the area so thank God there were no earthquakes when we visited! It’s a drive up some winding roads to get to the top of the hills and to describe how amazing the scenery here is impossible.
Like it’s just stunning. We drive to a few lookout points to get some cool shots. And the clouds have contributed to some amazing visuals for these pics.
I’ll drop a few more for you to enjoy.
Then we head back to the hotel for a late dinner and I’m not feeling great… I suspect a combination of the winding roads and elevation. Before heading to bed, a few of us wander over to a souvenir shop across the street and it’s jam packed to satisfy all my souvenir needs. As Claude says, “I’d hate to have to do inventory in this place”. Absolutely true. Haha.
The next morning we ride back up the hills so we can go inside the monasteries. One must dress appropriately, so we gotta cover up. So much for my plan of short shorts and a cleavage bearing crop top. The monasteries provide long skirts for the ladies, so that’s handy. And I guess if the guys want to wear them too, have at it. The original inhabitants of Meteora were hermit monks, and by living in the hollows and fissures of the rock towers they were able to live in solitude. Many centuries later they built the monasteries up top to hide in the face of Turkish attacks and they could only be accessed by ladders. They would often hoist supplies up to the monasteries by using nets and baskets. Today, there are stairs carved into the rocks so people like us can visit more easily instead of trying to fit in a basket. First, we visit The Monastery of Great Meteoron.
The steps to get up here are no joke – there’s lots of them. Once inside, we explore the rooms and chapels within the complex.
This monastery also has the largest manuscript collection. I don’t spot any monks today, so that’s disappointing. Luckily, the views from up here make up for that!
Next stop is a short drive over to the Monastery of Saint Stephen, which is now a nunnery.
I do see some nuns here, so that’s cool. It’s much smaller and prettier than the other monastery, probably because it’s run by women. Haha.
We head back into Kalabaka for lunch at a small restaurant that serves up gyros in a pita. Perfect! Now we’re back on the road to the next destination….