Day 80-82 : Meteora, Greece

The view over the lake as we left Ioannina behind was spectacular and set us up for a good drive over the Pindus mountains to Meteora.

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If you’re travelling yourself whilst reading this, there are loads of laybys here (and it’s a quiet road) for overnight stops – just watch out for beehives in some of them!

We had decided to leave the motorways behind and use the mountain road and the decision was a fantastic one because the scenery as we enter the Pindus mountain range is, quite frankly, breathtaking.  You can see the new toll road in the distant right hand side – actually the toll road is complete with lights and lines but there’s no toll booths, so isn’t open yet so thank goodness we didn’t try to use it!

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Clouds had been building on our drive as we ascended and as we reached the top of the mountains, the sky was completely clouded over, thin clouds drifted low over the roads (we were pretty high then!!) and a wet drizzle misted everything.  The warm smell of wood smoke welcomed us into a mountain taverna for a friendly cuppa and a bite to eat.  Wood & pine cones crackled in the open fire place and the men drinking coffee (with the obligatory nip of Tsikoudia or mountain raki!) and putting the world to rights (which is done so well in Greece! may have something to do with the quality of the raki!), turned as Trevor walked in and all stood as I entered (good manners is such a joy to experience!) to wish us both “good day”.  After a quick chat, we found ourselves a seat close to the warmth to ease out the kinks of travel and relaxed as voices murmured around us and we sipped our Greek coffees.

Outside the chestnut trees are just starting to give up their fruit as the spikey green pods split open to reveal the chestnut within.

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And then we are on our way again.  Look, there are late blooming figs!!!  Trees whose branches are hanging low with the hundreds of figs on them.  But when we finally manage to pull into a layby, the trees are stripped bare of fruit and the walk back to the full trees pretty treacherous!!  Ah, now we understand why they haven’t been picked!  And as we’re standing there admiring what scenery we can see as the clouds scutter by and open and close around the view, the eagle-eyed gorgeous Mr T walks over to the edge (“Don’t go too close”, from me as I stand far enough back so that I can’t see the drop, my legs turning to jelly as I watch him) and spots a cherry tomato plant there from, we suspect, a cherry tomato tossed casually away after a lunch stop.  A quick scramble down and he’s able to raid the little crop while I stand crapping myself watching him disappear over a mountain edge.  Oh lordie, I could do with a little less excitement sometimes!  But at least our stop hasn’t been in vain!!

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The misty rain finally eases up but the clouds seems to have settled in as we reach Meteora and spot our first signs of the strange and beautiful rock formations that surround the area.

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We find the campsite easily enough and get Kaya settled in to a great spot at the bottom of the site.  With it being out of season, the campsite is fairly empty and the herding instinct in motohomers strong as they congregate at the top.  We have managed to get Kaya level by digging some holes for her tyres at the back and using the levelling ramps on the front  Thumbs up, there are trees enough that we can put both hammocks up Thumbs up, there is a view of the rock formations Thumbs up and all we need now is a bit of sun and we’re 10/10.  And the following morning as we open our eyes, our wish is granted Thumbs up.

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We’d booked a Meteora sunset tour for tomorrow night so we had some time to relax and kick back.  We’re just sitting down to a late brunch when suddenly we hear a whoop of triumph from Ambaria, the rock you can see in the background.  There are people climbing up the side of it!!!  OMG!!!  I have absolutely no understanding of why (but then I’m not a rock climber and get vertigo standing on a thick carpet!) but there they are…

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and we continued to watch them, me in horror (what if they slipped and fell, what if they got stuck, what if the rope wasn’t long enough…..), the gorgeous Mr T in fascination, as they reached the top then abseiled down.  Oh dear god, I need a drink….Sick smile

But rather than alcohol, the gorgeous Mr T squeezed us some orange juice (bought the oranges!) and I made us a yoghurt breakfast with Kithoni Glyka (Greek quince spoon sweets and really a conserve as we know it – a lightly set jelly with whole pieces of fruit) from quince that I had foraged from a tree yesterday along with some arbororiza (edible pelargonium leaves fragrant with vanilla and rose notes) and boiled up and jarred, served on top of thick set Greek yoghurt with muesli and walnuts.

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And with nothing much to do, we went for a walk around the village, foraging yet more figs, ornamental-size apples with a fabulously sweet flavour but left behind the tiny ornamental pomegrantes and still green Mediterranean acorns.

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We needed a lie down after our walk so out came the hammocks and an hour or so of swinging under the trees was enough to out anyone to sleep – including me!!

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and the gorgeous Mr T’s most favourite meal ever ended the day off lazily.

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We woke up to blue skies again on the morning of our sunset tour – a really good omen! – and decided that a walk down into Kalambaka town would pass the day nicely. So off we went, backpacks in place to do some local shopping with a spring in our step.  It was a little more daunting on the way back up a very steep hill – more of a slow drag – with our back packs now full and now looking more like Quasimodo than skipping fairies!

The sun was still shining and the skies blue when the bus picked us up an hour later with our guide Dimitri (otherwise known as Jimmy).  He was a fabulous guide and kept us entertained for the entire afternoon for our tour of the monasteries, Byzantine church and back up to the monasteries for the “sunset”.  Turns out the sun earlier was not a good omen and, as with all weather in the mountains, decidedly changeable.  We didn’t manage to see a sunset but we had a fabulous time and would definitely do this again!

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Above: The long walk down and up to the Holy Trinity monastery – the monks use the “cable car” – really just a bucket that you manually haul between the 2 rock  pillars and in the event of an “accident” crash to your death 200m below!!!

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Looking across to another monastery in the distance and trying to show the perspective of how far the top of the monastery is down to Kalambaka below.

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Dimitri outside the Byzantine church now still a working Greek orthordox church – check out the Byzantine wall uncovered with symbols of the sun carved into the rock

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The rock formations that tower over Kalambaka

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A little trick panoramic photography!

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Honestly, the sun is setting behind the Varlaam monastery.  If you look at a bright light, tightly squeeze your eyes shut and look at the picture again, you’ll be able to see it!!!!!

Then it was back down to Kaya for rest and recovery that night as our next stop was another exciting one, to Delphi, the centre of the world according to the ancient Greeks!

 

 

 

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