Overnight in the Meteora Monastery

by Christopher Xeneopoulos Janus

Whenever I go to Greece I try to visit one of its splendid monasteries. It really is inspiring to be in the monastery.

Spending the night in a monastery in a rather unique exhilarating experience. As we approached the dinner hour the monks suggested I bathe in a unique marble tub.

Afterwards, the young monks gave me a rub down in Greek olive oil. Then they suggested I wear one of the monks habits rather than my own and this made me feel part of the community. There were prayers before and after dinner.

There was singing and hymns. The next morning at about six 0' clock I had breakfast, which included honey, nuts and yogurt.

They then returned my clothes to me - pressed and cleaned. As I was leaving I gave them a $100 bill, which they seemed to be very grateful but they asked how much it was in Greek drachmae. They told me the story of Meteroa plus an account of it, which is as follows:

The word 'Meteora' literally means hovering in the air and of course brings to mind, the word meteor.

What created this rare geological phenomenon is one of the many mysteries of nature and there are many theories though they remain theories and none have been proven.

But as amazing a marvel of nature as these giant rocks, are the buildings on the top of these are a marvel of man and seem just as miraculous and make Meteora one of the most spectacular places to visit in Greece.

The area of Meteora was originally settled by monks who lived in caves within the rocks during the 11th century.

But the times became more unsure during an age of Turkish occupation, and lawlessness. They climbed, higher and higher up the rock face until they were living on the inaccessible peaks where they were able to build by bringing material and people up with ladders and baskets to build the first monasteries.

This was also how monasteries were reached until the 1920s and now there are roads, pathways and steps up to the top. There are still examples of these baskets which are used for bringing up provisions. Back in the old days when the only way to get to the monasteries was by the baskets, a nervous pilgrim asked his monk host if he ever replaces the rope. "Of course, we do" he replied "whenever it breaks," which I am sure put the guy at ease.

But now you don't have to worry about ropes breaking since the monasteries are all connected by a series of patchworks that if you begin early enough you can see them all in the car.

There is a 400 drachmae fee to enter each of the monasteries and proper attire is required. Women must wear skirts below the knees though in some monasteries these are provided for women in shorts or slacks.

Men's arms must be covered and they must wear long pants.

Monasteries are closed between one and three every day. The monasteries themselves, besides providing an incredible view are full of religious treasures, wall paintings, icons and libraries rich in old manuscripts.

Most of them were built in the 1500's and then added to over the centuries.

(Posting date 9 January 2007)

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