The tour bus arrived at my hotel at 9am and I was greeted by our guide for the day Dimitrius. The hotel receptionist had recommended this particular tour as it was a local tour guide and an Intimate group size. The dress code for visiting the monasteries is dresses that cover the knees and shoulders – so the blue dress came in handy again!
I was the first on board and we proceeded to collect other passengers from various other hotels that I recognised from agonising where to book when planning the trip. There were some spectacular places with amazing views of the mountains, but as I am travelling alone and didn’t really spend any daylight hours in my room last night I think the 30 euro a night choice I made was the best one.
Our tour started at the base of the mountains just outside of Kalambaka which is where the monks that inhabited the hills in the 10th century first started their journey to enlightenment. The monks took up residency in the craters and caves that had developed in the rockface in an effort to achieve solitude and get closer to god. According to the tour guide, the monks survived in the hills for 200 years thanks to the generosity of local villagers, who believed in the mission of these holy men and supported them by passing baskets of food and fresh water to them.
In the 12th century, the monks decided that they needed a place to come together to honour god together and so the first chapel was built.
As years went by, the monks designed more and more elaborate buildings, each one constructed with materials gathered by hand and hoisted up the mountain piece by piece. The buildings are adorned with beautiful paintings commissioned by local artists, many of which are preserved in the museums that have been set up for tourists to browse.
There are 23 monasteries in total built into the mountains at meterora, a place that gained its name due to the appearance of the peaks in winter when the cloud is low and the rounded rocks appear to float in the air like meteors above the clouds.
The tour ended at lunchtime, I had a quick lunch and then headed back to the train station for my 4 hour journey back to Athens and a new hotel, beside the port of Athens, where the next part of my adventure into the islands would commence.