Mystical Rocks

25 11 2011

About a year ago, “M” and I, decided to take a few days off around the period of New Year’s Eve and make a short trip to Thessaloniki. We both had some friends of our own living there and we reckoned it was a great opportunity to spend some time with them and at the same time have our small getaway from everyday life.
We were both fed up with programming of our every day life commitments that we really couldn’t bother with flight schedules and train timetables. We just wanted to take our time and enjoy the whole thing, including the process of getting there. So, we decided to drive and spare ourselves from airplanes, airports, trains and train stations.
A couple of days before our short vacations begin, it hit us: “why don’t we make a small detour and spent a night or two in some other place? Just for the sake of making our trip more interesting….” The decision came instantly. We both had never seen Meteora before and we both always wanted to go there. So, that was the time to do it…

Meteora are at the northwestern part of Greece, near the town of Kalambaka and are situated between Pindos Mountains and Mount Olympus. The word “Meteora” actually means “rocks suspended in the air” and etymologically refer to meteorites. In fact, they are a group of dark-colored (grey) rocky pillars with sheer cliffy walls, some of which are rising 550mtrs high above the plain. The texture of the rocks seems like being sandy but it is actually really really strong and hard.
Scientists believe that Meteora were formed about 8,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age. They estimate that the rocks we see today were in fact 60 million years old muddy sediments, which were accumulated at the delta of a river that they suppose was flowing into the Thessaly plain, which back then was actually a sea and not a dry land like we know it today, and eventually due to a series of earth movements and climate changes over the milleniums both the river and the sea went dry and caused the uplifting of Meteora rocks.

The first residents of the rocks were ascetic hermit monks back in the 9th century. Later on, at the end of the Byzantine Empire during the 14th century, greek orthodox monks took advantage of the inaccessibility of the rocks and seeking refuge from the expanding Othoman Empire decided to move their monasteries on top of Meteora rocks. The access on some of these monasteries was done either by long vertical ladders or by hoisting nets which were actually used both for supplies and for people.

From afar, Meteora appeared like some huge rocks were vertically planted into the ground by some hyper-power. Despite having heard all the geological explanations and analysis, when we got at Meteora and stood looking up at these tall solid rocks, we couldn’t help thinking of the other, less scientific but more widely believed amongst common people, version of how these rocks got there in the first place and which was also in fact implied by the etymological interpretation of their name. These rocks definitely looked like being huge meteorites being thrown on earth from outer space and being nailed down on the ground. It’s really surprising that despite the fact that Meteora are visible from quite some distance before you actually get there and therefore you are somehow prepared of what to expect, their majestic presence is so overwhelming that when you eventually get there, you are literally flooded by a feeling of admiration and ….humbleness!

We drove all the way to a village named Kastraki which was actually standing right next to the rocks and we found ourselves a place to stay. It was an old mansion recently renovated into a guest-house of five small flats. Our flat was something like a small single bedroom flat. It was traditionally decorated and had one small bedroom and a spacious sitting room with a fire place and a small kitchenette. Our bedroom was situated almost under one of those huge rocky pillars that actually consist Meteora’s complex.

When we settled in it was already early afternoon, few hours before sunset. Most people were either asleep or sitting in front of their fireplaces. There was something mystical flowing in the air,  giving out the impression that something beyond of all possibilities of calculation or measurement or even imitation was actually happenning that very moment and we had the honour to be communicants of this sublime flow of energy.

We were both looking round and round with our jaws hanging wide open. “M” said that although she loved the place she wouldn’t like it if for some reason she had to be left alone there in the middle of the night. She said that despite the beauty of the place, she found that prospect being rather spooky. That gave me a beautiful start to make up a story and try to tease her a bit. I stood silent for a while and then said in a serious and convincing tone of voice that a few years ago I had heard a story by some people I knew back then, who also claimed that they had actually also tried and confirmed themselves that this was truly happenning, that if someone stood really close to some of these rocks late at night he could possibly sense them moving and even listen to them making small sounds like human whispers. To spice up my story a bit and make it seem more realistic I said that I myself could never possibly believe in such  silly stories and that this phenomenon was probably caused due to the expansion of all materials, including rocks, during the daytime under the sunlight and their return back to their normal state during night time…… “M” looked at me really puzzled and I must say a bit troubled too. For a few hours after that she couldn’t really make up her mind if I was simply joking or if someone had played a joke on me or even this whole story had any dose of truh. Eventually, when later on that evening I confessed to “M” that I had all made it up muself, she was purely relieved and we both had a great laugh about it!

The next day we spent it visiting various monasteries and admired all their museums with the ancient manuscripts and the religious artworks. We learned that Meteora has been declared by Unesco a World Heritage Site and that was another confirmation that we had done the perfect choice to pay ourselves a visit to this wondrous place.

The next day we decided to make a short call at a nearby village called Metsovo, which is considered to be very picturesque and a pure touristic attraction during winter time. It’s built on 1,160mtrs altitude and it’s really close to the city of Ioannina. Due to this, Metsovo, sometimes can be very crowded, especially during weekends or holidays, and due to this to lose part of its charm.
That particular day, Metsovo was rather crowded for us and decided to pay another short visit to place further on. I remembered I had seen once a travel documentary on tv about a place called Aoos Springs and this was really close to the village of Metsovo and now it was the perfect opportunity for us to go there as well.

Unfortunatelly, the weather was not our ally. The road leading up to the springs was either frozen or turned into a mud pit. We tried to take our chances but we got stuck on the mud. We hardly managed to get out of the mud and back onto the icy road. We decided not to risk any further and head our way back. We only managed to get a glimpse of the lake and the surrounding hills. It seemed wonderful and fresh. We promised our next visit to be for hiking purposes stictly and returned back to our room, under the safe embrace of Meteora rocks.

Next morning, it was already time to go. So, we had breakfast, packed our things, paid for our stay and drove off.
We had friends waiting for us and we didn’t want to keep them waiting any further. We had about three hours drive ahead of us and after all, it was already New Year’s Eve and we had to get ourselves ready and all dressed up for the big night!

Somewhere in the middle of the route “M” leaned her head against the window and fall asleep….
Her look was more serene than ever and her face seemed like it had gained a natural glow, which was now becoming apparent to me while she was quietly laying underneath the morning sun. It must have been either the mystical atmosphere flowing amongst the rocks of Meteora, or perhaps “M” had managed to sneakout of our room somehow the night before and eventually listen to the wishpers of the Rocks. Anyway, whatever had this effect on her must have been something of seriously major powers, because her face has never stopped glowing ever since.

I brought back to my memory the last couple of days we had together, with all the places and emotions we had shared along the way and figured that these two days were actually the best choice we could have ever made in order to say a rock-solid-goodbye to all the hardships we had been through during the last year which we were just about ready leave behind us…..

I took another look at my glowing “M” and  felt content!

“N”

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8 responses

25 11 2011
walkingbulgaria

Very nice photos…been both to Pindos and Mytikas, but not to Meteora…both mountains really deserve to be seen.

25 11 2011
beingouthere

Thanks for your comment mate. Bare in mind that Meteora is a group of rocks not much suitable for proper climb-hiking as such made at Pindos mountains or Olympus. But nonetheless Meteora also deserve to be seen, in my opinion.

26 11 2011
Orel Di Angelo

Oh my… I don’t know what to say.. It seems so unreal. When you watch a James Bond you’re like “Ok this is beautiful but whatever”, and then when I see your photos I realize these places are real! Thanks for the stunning photos and the story 🙂

26 11 2011
beingouthere

Thanks Orel! Oh yes, this place is so real indeed! It’s so real that we almost felt ourselves being unreal the moment we got there. Thanks again for your nice comments!

30 11 2011
Katie Boué

Great photos – makes my hands get a little sweaty in anticipation of climbing some of those bad boys. And it seems that weather and road conditions are always part of the misadventure, but we can’t have the sunshine without a little bit of rain (and snow/ice/mud), eh? 🙂

Keep adventuring!

1 12 2011
beingouthere

Thanks Katie! I see you are a huge climbing fan!
Here are is a link with some climbing photos at Meteora which I’m sure you will enjoy: http://climbing-at-meteora.com/photo%20Gallery.html
(To view photos click on “[…photo gallery…]” in the middle of the screen)

I always thought that misadventures are the ones spicing up all the …..adventures! Thank god they exist!!

30 11 2011
Katie Boué

And I must admit, I so very much wish there was a beautiful picture to accompany your glowing descriptions of M.

1 12 2011
beingouthere

It seems to me that my description moved your curiousity and imagination. If that’s the case, then I am flattered. Maybe in some other post. Thanks again for your nice comments.

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