Today I had a chance to sample some unique Greek Eastern Orthodox monasteries perched on top of high sandstone cliffs jutting out of perfectly a perfectly flat area. This was Meteora, and the word literally means ‘suspended in air’ or ‘in the heaven above’. The Theopetra caves 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) south of Meteora had inhabitants fifty millennia ago. The cave of Theopetra, Kalambaka, radiocarbon evidence for 50,000 years of human presence, Radiocarbon 43(2B): 1029-1048.[clarification needed]
In the 9th century, an ascetic group of hermit monks moved up to the ancient pinnacles.
They were the first people to inhabit Metéora. They lived in hollows and fissures in the rock towers, some of which reach 1800 ft (550m) above the plain. This great height, combined with the sheerness of the cliff walls, kept away all but the most determined visitors. (From Wiki).
More than 20 monasteries were built, beginning in the 14th century but only six remain today. Of these six, four were inhabited by men, and two by women. Each monastery has fewer than 10 inhabitants! The monasteries are now tourist attractions.
Access to the monasteries was originally (and deliberately) difficult, requiring either long ladders lashed together or large nets used to haul up both goods and people. This required quite a leap of faith – the ropes were replaced, so the story goes, only “when the Lord let them break”.In the words of UNESCO, “The net in which intrepid pilgrims were hoisted up vertically alongside the 373 metres (1,224 ft) cliff where the Varlaam monastery dominates the valley symbolizes the fragility of a traditional way of life that is threatened with extinction.”[ In the 1920s there was an improvement in the arrangements. Steps were cut into the rock, making the complex accessible via a bridge from the nearby plateau. During World War II the site was bombed. Many art treasures were stolen. (From Wiki).
The city of Kalambaka overlooks these high cliffs and it gives the whole town a stunning character. The roads which weave through this whole area, connecting the six monasteries, is of a very high quality and my ride through it was simply stunning with all high sandstone pillars, the monasteries perched on them and the modern house visible far down below.
From here it was a run to the Astira Mountain located near the city if Ionnina. The road quality for most of the 120 kms ride was fantastic. But not before I sampled what 100 octanes could do!:
Tomorrow it will be Bulgaria!
This was my resort in the Aristi Mountains :