Kalambaka and the Monasteries of Meteora

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Planet View: N39°42.653’ E21°37.791’
Street View: N39°42.653’ E21°37.791’

Nick the owner of Koka Roka TavernaKoka Roka Taverna in KalambakaOur dinner cooking at Koka Roka TavernaDefinitely one of the best places we’ve visited so far, Kalambaka is a small mountain town nestled amongst surrounding granite monoliths.  The surrounding peaks are home to a collection of orthodox monasteries, the way they are perched atop the rocks is an amazing sight.  One of the monasteries, Moni Agios Triados, was the venue for the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only.

We arrived in Kalambaka on a late train from Thessaloniki and trudged up into the mountains through town laden with our packs.  Koka Roka Taverna, our home for the two nights we were in Kalambaka, is owned by Katerina and Nick who run the place along with their son Arthur.  Nick was born in Kalambaka and Katerina a town nearby, they both moved to Melbourne many years ago and returned to Kalambaka with Arthur when we was 12 to start Koka Roka.  Koka Roka was fantastic, we enjoyed our dinner Dinner cooking at Koka Roka Tavernaso much the first night that we ate there on our second evening as One of our hosts at Koka Roka: Katerinawell.  All the meat is cooked over an open flame, we’d sit there enjoying our tzatziki while our dinners cooked, at the same time knocking back a few Amstels and some homemade wine.  Nick is quite happy to sit on his table out the front of the taverna all day and evening (he’s pictured doing so above), consuming either coffee or beer along with his Marlboros.  Katerina and Arthur seem to handle the main operation of Koka Roka and do a fantastic job, the rooms were some of the cleanest we’d had throughout Turkey and Greece (although it was a bit of a challenge to battle Sally for the hot water whilst we both happened to have our showers at the same time!).  ET and I sampled Nick’s homemade Ouzo after hiking through the monasteries, I don’t think I’ve ever seen ET wince as a result of alcohol quite as much as he did when he knocked his back, it was sure hot on the way down.  After we’d drunk the ouzo Nick enjoyed showing us how well it holds a flame by dipping a cotton bud in it and setting it alight!

Lisa hiking up the trail from Kalambaka to Moni Agios Triados Sally and ET hiking up the trail from Kalambaka to Moni Agios Triados The trail from Kalambaka to Moni Agios TriadosOur day in Meteora was devoted to exploring the monasteries of the area.  The seven monasteries of Meteora are all perched precariously atop giant granite monoliths, it boggles the mind to think how they were constructed centuries ago.  Up until about 10 years ago the road connecting the monasteries was a dirt track, and most of the monasteries have only had paths leading up to them for 30-40 years.  Prior to that the only means of connecting each monastery to the  outside world was via a winch and cradle (pictured here a couple of times) that transported people, goods and food the hundreds of feet to the valley floors.  Koka Roka is situated at the very top of the town of Kalambaka at the beginning of the hiking trail connecting town to the first of the monasteries we visited, Moni Agios Triados (the one from For Moni Agios TriadosYour Eyes Only) (N39°42.799’ E21°38.196’).  It was misting rain during our hike up, but it’d stopped ET, Sally, Sam and Lisa with Moni Agias Varvaras Rousanou and Moni Agiou Nikolaou Anapafsa in the distanceby the time we reached the  monastery.  Agios Triados, as with all the other monasteries in Meteora, incorporates a winch and cradle, various prayer rooms, and a small two-roomed chapel.  Iconography completely covers the walls from floor to domed ceiling of each of the chapels, the intricacy and realism of the images was amazing.  We ran into a couple of Aussie Greek Orthodox lads from Melbourne on a pilgrimage through Israel and the monasteries of Meteora who filled us in on the history and meaning behind some of the iconographs, it was great to get some inside knowledge from people who had studied the Meteora sites from a very young age.  Evidently, at the time when many of the Greek monasteries were constructed illiteracy was extremely high so iconographs were used in place of script to convey the gospel.  The Aussie brothers also clued us in on the caves we saw in a number of the monoliths: the caves are actually hermitages used by monks (to this day) who are studying to be conveyed the full priesthood, monks can be sent to the hermitages for lengths of time ranging from one week to 50 years until the elders decide they are on the correct spiritual path!

Moni Agias Varvaras Rousanou From Moni Agios Triados we followed the road to Moni Varlaam (N39°43.556’ E21°37.851’) and Moni Megalou Meteorou (N39°43.595’ E21°37.646’).  Unfortunately Megalou Meteorou was closed for the day when we visited (each monastery is closed for one day per week), Megalou Meteorou is the largest of all the monasteries due to the fact that a Serbian emperor once donated his entire wealth to the monastery and became a monk!  We were still able to see the structure from the outside, however, and what a sight to behold.  After Varlaam and Megalou Meteorou we started to make our way down to Moni Agias Varvaras Rousanou (N39°43.299’ E21°37.925’), which is inhabited by nuns instead of monks and the four of us agreed was probably the prettiest of the monasteries we visited.  The grounds were covered with potted flowers and beautiful ferns, Sally and Lisa were sure we noted the feminine touch.  Last on the trip was Moni Agiou Nikolaou Anapafsa (N39°43.418’ E21°37.489’) which is almost in the village of Kastraki.  A few kilometers around the granite monoliths behind Kalambaka took us back to town, where we enjoyed a fantastic afternoon snack of tzatziki and melitzanosalata as well as enough fried zucchini to sink a ship (we ordered three servings and could have done with one!).

Kalambaka and Meteora are probably the highlight of our trip so far, there aren’t many places in the world I’ve visited that make me stand back and stare at the landscape in awe.  The fact that we drank our fill of €1.50 500mL beers and ate scrumptious Greek food cooked over an open flame was icing on the cake!

 Lisa in the entrance to Moni Agios TriadosView of Kalambaka from Moni Agios TriadosView of Kalambaka from Moni Agios Triados View of Moni Agias Varvaras Rousanou from Moni Agios TriadosMoni Agio TriadosMoni Agio TriadosMoni Agio Triados Sam next to the winching pole in Moni Agios TriadosMoni Agios Triados' toilet and its view of Kalambaka!The bells of Moni Agios TriadosMoni Agios Triados Lisa in Moni Agios Triados looking out toward the other monasteriesThe pathway up to Monio Agios Triados and the view of KalambakaView of Kalambaka from the road between the monasteries Moni Agias Varvaras Rousanou with Moni Agiou Nikolaou Anapafsa in the distanceMoni Agias Varvaras Rousanou with Moni Agiou Nikolaou Anapafsa in the distanceLisa with Moni Agias Varvaras Rousanou and Moni Agiou Nikolaou Anapafsa in the distance Sam and Lisa with Moni Agias Varvaras Rousanou and Moni Agiou Nikolaou Anapafsa in the distanceMoni Varlaam (left) and Moni Megalou Meteorou (right)Moni Varlaam's winch tower ET, Sally and Lisa walking up to Moni VarlaamMoni VarlaamMoni Agias Varvaras Rousanou from Moni VarlaamSally and Lisa dressed appropriately at Moni Varlaam Lisa next to Moni Varlaam's wine barrel!Moni Varlaam Wild poppies in front of Moni Varlaam Moni Varlaam with Moni Megalou MeteorouMoni Varlaam with Moni Agias Varvaras Rousanou in the backgroundMoni Agias Varvaras Rousanou on top of the world Moni Agias Varvaras Rousanou (left) and Moni Agiou Nikolaou Anapafsa (right) with the town of Kastraki in the middleThe road down past Moni Agiou Nikolaou AnapafsaMoni Agiou Nikolaou Anapafsa Moni Agias Varvaras Rousanou Moni Agiou Nikolaou Anapafsa's winch and cradleThe town of Kastraki The hermitages in the granite monolithsAfternoon tea in KalambakaSally waiting at the bus stop in Kalambaka with the monoliths of Meteora in the backgroundLisa, Sam and ET enjoying pre-dinner drinks at Koka Roka Taverna

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 28th, 2009 at 10:00 PM and is filed under Greece. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Responses to “Kalambaka and the Monasteries of Meteora”

  1. Brooke says:

    Wow!! I continue to be blow away by your pictures! What a place. I just put Greece on my to due list!

  2. Arthur Meteora says:

    Greetings from sunny and warm now Kalampaka, keep on going guys and always enjoy your free time.
    Good Luck,
    Arthur

  3. Peter and Teri Theodore says:

    Greetings from Visalia, California. Just wanted to let you know how much we are enjoying your trip and living vicariously through your notes and beautiful photography. Kalambaka and the monataries are bringing back fond memories of our trip 15 years ago. Safe travels and good weather to you. Peter, Teri, Nick and Zack (from the cabin)…

  4. Our Walkabout » Archive » Vang Vieng says:

    […] surrounding rice paddies made for some beautiful surrounds and reminded us of the mountains in Kalambaka.  Unfortunately the influx of tourists to Vang Vieng has stripped the town of most of its […]

  5. Leslie says:

    I found your beautiful photos while searching the web. I am hoping you could put me in touch with your friend Arthur in Kalambaka as I am on a search for a man who is suppose to be from Kastraki Village. My understanding is that this man may own a taverna and paints pictures that are seen in some of the monestaries in Kalambaka. My mother fell in love with these paintings but didn’t buy one when she was there and desperately wants one now, I would like to help her obtain one. Thanks.

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