Symphony of Life
|My representation of Meteora before the trip|
I have found my heaven. We made the trek to Meteora this weekend and stayed at the Alsos Hotel which literally sits at the bottom of the rocks. Big rocks. Like, jut out of the Earth and rise for 600 feet rocks. Our host picked us up at the train station and drove us to the hotel. As we approached the edge of the cliffs, we could only make out the eerie shadows of the monumental rocks. The hotel sits underneath the biggest and sheerest cliff I have ever seen. Our balcony faced another epic formation of stone. The weather was ominous with heavy rain, so dense fog concealed the rocks. However, as we waited and stepped out on our balcony, the fog slowly started to recede—revealing just how huge the rocks actually are. Suddenly we all raised are heads toward the heavens where the rocks peaked. The rocks are every color—green, tan, grey, blue, and the edges are smooth—worn down by the water of hundreds of thousands of years. Have I mentioned they built monasteries on top of them? The cliffs are so high that from our hotel we could only make out the cross which sits atop one of the monasteries.
Meteora is Pandora—the magical land in Avatar. I’ve never found a place more surreal in my entire life. Since we got there pretty late, we sat on our balcony drinking coffee. As the fog crept around the rocks, moving them in and out of view, my friend described it perfectly. Meteora, he said, is like a symphony. The fog is like the beginning of a song—slow, secret. Then, as the fog starts to lift, it’s the middle of the song where the tension becomes increasingly heavier. Once the fog is totally gone and the true glory of the rocks is shown, it is the finale of the song. We all looked at each other. “This, my friends, is what we’re here for,” he said, “This is the symphony of life.”
We set out very early the next morning to ensure enough time to see everything. Having geared up and packed a lunch, we set off through Kalabaka (the town which sits beneath the cliffs). We managed to snag a taxi to the monastery called “Grand Meteora” which is the largest of all the monasteries. Hence the name. We had to cross a pretty rickety bridge to get to the stairs which spiral around the cliff’s edge. The monastery is literally built into the stone on the very top. Girls are required to wear wraps around their legs. So, once we were properly covered, we explored the monastery.
Monasteries are silent. We found ourselves whispering to each other even where talking was permitted. The view from the top is enough to silence anyone. The cliffs threaten the town below with their height and it’s a sheer drop to the bottom. Other monasteries can be seen scattered across the neighboring rock formations. It is absolutely breathtaking.
After exploring two other monasteries, we took a lunch break. Lucky enough, we had ventured off the road and slightly onto a cliff that juts out over the land. We climbed to the very edge to peer down the sheer drop-off of at least 1500 feet. We explore the area a bit and I was able to scout out a ledge that is sheltered from the strong wind. Thus, we picnicked on the cliff’s edge. It was the most spectacular view I’ve ever experienced, and we were just leisurely sitting there enjoying a picnic lunch.
We went to a nunnery next. Though they live a secluded life, nuns are, in fact, incredibly chatty. They wanted to know from where we came and our purpose for being there. All attendants helped us find our way around. Since it’s the offseason, tourists are scarce. At one monastery, the man had to unlock the museum for us. Although it seemed an intrusion, it was wonderful to have everything to ourselves. It was silent, peaceful, and spiritually inspiring.
All monasteries include the typical dome-topped room which contains the iconography. These churches date to the 1200s and are entirely influenced by Byzantine art. A picture of Christ is at the top of the dome. Surrounding him are the eight archangels followed by the twelve apostles. Every dome has twelve windows for that reason. Pictured underneath all of this are the four gospels. Every monastery follows this procedure, but each has different representations. One had two separate chambers. To get into the separate chamber we had to pass through the representation of Armageddon. It was a bit eerie. However, the rooms are otherwise stunning. The monks clean everything flawlessly—always ensuring that the candles remain lit. Also, especially in the room with the icons, incense constantly burns. It’s a wonderfully sweet, flowery smell.
At each place, everyone took their time and remained incredibly respectful. Overall, the trip proved to be the cheapest but the most rewarding we’ve had yet. We appreciated natural as well as man-made formations. Constantly I had to pinch myself to realize what my eyes were beholding. I would go back in a second.
Rather than taking the road back to our hotel, we took the secret ancient trail which zig-zags down the edge of the mountain. Good choice—we found a waterfall. Oh, The Symphony of Life.