The Monasteries of Meteora
The train trip to Meteora was pretty slow. Thanks to the old lady sitting behind me, who answered her phone at least 20 times, I think I could now have a phone conversation of my own in Greek. It pretty much goes something like “eh, darg darg, nehn, eh darg darg, neehn”.
Finally we arrived at the massive rock faces of Meteora. Less splendid than the mountains of Switzerland sure but still really cool. Having partied the last two nights till after 2am we felt like pretty intelligent travellers, walking the 200m from the train station to the hotel we chose purely for it’s location. A pretty cruddy but cheap hotel it was another great opportunity to continue one of our ongoing battles. The shower curtain is much loved by the cheap hotel and is one of the most frustrating inventions in history. In fact whoever invented it should be shot. They let water out, their gross and collect mould, but worst of all they stick to you when your wet, which you happen to be more often than not in the old shower.
Anyway, we napped, grabbed a gyros (Greek kebab with tatziki which tastes amazing) then did a sunset hike up into the rocky cliff tops. Now what kind of wildlife would you expect to see a couple of km up amongst the rocks? We could hear something in the undergrowth and went searching, what we found totally tripped us out… a turtle? In the end we saw three of the little fellas running around, or at least crawling steadily.
The view from up top was superb and the location of the monasteries unbelievable. Precariously balanced right on the edges of the cliffs. I could think of nothing worse than laying these walls. So freaky.
Next day we took the bus up to the top monastery and walked down through a few of them. The hermit monks, seeking a retreat from the expanding Ottoman occupation, found the inaccessible rock pillars of Meteora to be a fairly decent place to hide out. More than 20 monasteries were built, beginning in the 14th century, but only 6 of them are left. These monasteries became centres of the Orthodox creed in the Byzantine era, and produced some of the best pieces of religious art and stuff, which are on display. People say they are the reason Greek culture wasn’t forgotten during the Ottoman invasion.
We got a little lost on the way down looking for a bush track and chatted to a couple of other tourists doing the same thing. One headed down, the other two decided to take the road the other way. We stopped for another cracker picnic.
After a bite we headed in the direction the other bloke had gone in search of this track. After about ten minutes we were lost and definitely not on the track. So we bush bashed our way down through some fairly thick scrub to the bottom. Sustained a few mild flesh wounds, but otherwise unharmed.
Later we ventured back out on a walk to a cool little cave and then headed into town to celebrate our last Greek dinner with a big old restaurant feed. On the way we experienced a major stress. We couldn’t find the restaurant we had looked up online. By the time we found the place it was after 8pm and hanger (hunger induced anger) had well and truly set in. Tough life here. No matter where you are life has challenges.
We chose well though, the restaurant was great, delicious mousaka and roasted lamb. We sat facing the massive rock walls and while we were sitting there Clare spotted something almost unbelievable on the highest peak. A flock of goats was cruising around up there. No idea how the heck they got there but I bet there are turtles up there too.
Seems crazy to say but we have actually been struggling with being too busy and not having enough time to plan the rest of the trip. Hopefully we get a bit of down time over the next few weeks. Still haven’t booked anything after Barcelona which is only a month away.
We caught the train to Thessaloniki and of course all the bag lockers were broken, so we headed into town, backpacks and all. A random bus driver we asked for directions was super friendly and walked us to the correct bus. On the bus the driver didn’t speak English and we had no idea how to buy a ticket, then this really nice lady just handed us two. She didn’t speak English either, but we think she understood our thank you’s. This trip has definitely made us realise there are a lot of great people in the world!
We sat by the water in town for a few hours, and then visited a cool little tapas bar to get some trip planning sorted. By 9pm we had started the 10hr overnight bus trip to Albania with quite a few dodgy looking characters including the pair in front of us with a massive bag full of fake watches. The older guy next to us was a really nice Albanian who turned out to be an excellent translator on one of the craziest bus rides we have ever experienced. The driver had pumping music going the entire night and left the internal lights on. Other people had their phones playing moozzie music and every few minutes an argument would break out between one passenger or another. This was all capped off with a two hour border crossing and everyone chatting loudly the entire night. It was manic. No sleep for us. Luckily Clare decided to join in the arguing with one of the drunk guys. This was the perfect icing on the cake of a surreal trip. I was woken from a quick nap to Clare and him in a battle to see who could play their phone music the loudest. Not sure who won, but I’m certain I lost.