The Mountains Are Calling…
From Meteora, Greece!
My first trip out of Athens was to Meteora, a small town 200 miles north from my new home on the mainland of Greece. Two fellow CYA-ers and I took a 6 hour train ride at midnight on a Thursday and reached our end destination in Kalabaka bright and early 6am on Friday! To our delight, our hostel hosts, George and Stella, were so sweet and gracious, beginning our weekend adventure on the right foot. They both made us feel so welcome, always excited to answer any of our questions and recommend activities for us! I would 10 out of 10 recommend the Meteora Central Hostel to anyone thinking of visiting. As it’s name implies, it’s also in the center of everything, which was super convenient!
The town itself was very small and basically centered around one main road. Kind of like the movie Cars if you’ve ever seen that. However, its size only compliments its rich history and beautiful views. Meteora is surrounded by colossal rock formations and mountains, which house magnificent caves and monasteries. From up to 50,000 years ago, monks inhabited caves in these mountains and built the monasteries in the 14th century in order to achieve religious isolation. There were originally 24 monasteries, but today only 6 remain, housing fewer than 10 monks each. I was so lucky to see 3 of them during my visit.
Friday, my friends and I took to ourselves to explore the town of Kalabaka, around which the Meteora monasteries are located, and hike up one of the rock formations. After climbing almost 1900ft (570m) of mountain, we reached the top monastery, Holy Trinity (Agia Triada). After receiving some wrap skirts to cover our athletic leggings, we toured through the monastery and reached the most beautiful view. Fun fact: parts of the monastery were used in the James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only!
Saturday, we joined a guided group hiking tour with Meteora Thrones Travel Center. This was perfect, as our tour guide, Vassilis (or Bill as he told us Americans to call him), brought us through his hometown up a mountain that he had been hiking since he was 7 years old! It was definitely a harder hike than the day before and required some actual rock climbing to get to the best views! Vassilis was an excellent guide, however, and gave us a personal perspective on the surrounding area while making sure we didn’t fall off the mountain! I highly recommend Meteora Thrones after this experience. It really enriched the hiking experience to learn about the area from someone who loved and lived there. The view was just as beautiful as the previous day, making any of our struggles completely worth it. Vassilis pointed out spots where men would make annual climbs using only ropes in order to fulfill religious traditions. We also passed by a small prayer room in the side of the mountain and a prison for monks. This prison was not so much a prison but more of a place where monks voluntarily went to further discipline themselves.
After two amazing hiking experiences with even better views, we went back home on the train, wanting nothing more but to stare at the beautiful pictures and rest our tired feet!