A later start today as we do not have far to go to the famous Monasteries at Meteora. The Monasteries at Kalambaka are built on huge rocks that are the result of life in the sea that was here millions of years ago. Then in the 10th Century a long line of hermits arrived, decided that the caves in the rocks were what they had been looking for and climbed to the and spent their lives there meditating and trying to survive away from the world, in relative safety. In the 14th Century a Monk named Nile brought a lot of the individuals, there at the time, together to pray on Sundays, this was the start of communal life at Meteora.
From there the building of the Monasteries as we see them today started. Along the way many were destroyed over the years and some were destroyed during the German occupation but most damage was done during the Greek Civil War. At the height of occupation there were 24 Monasteries on the mountains but now only six. There are 4 with Monks residing there and 2 Nunneries. Most of the ones with Monks only have a few Monks in residence but the Nunneries have 30 or so in each.
Our visit took us to two of the Monasteries, one for men and a Nunnery for Women. The Monks and Nuns still grow their own vegetables and wine in the grounds surrounding the rocks, they gain access via cable cars and not as we the tourists must, by stairs. Originally there were no stairs but only ropes and pulleys with nets to take them up and down. This then saved the Monasteries over the centuries as those wishing to do harm to them could not gain access once the net had been pulled back up. The stairs were constructed in the 1920s. The Churches on the top of the rocks within the Monasteries are decorated as per the Byzantine Period and the paintings covering the walls and ceilings depict the life of Christ, the death of the Martyrs and the Saints of the Church. Interesting to note, that one of the worlds most famous artists, El Greco , born on Crete, started his artistic work painting in the Byzantinian style. Elena introduced us to the story behind the paintings and all were thankful for her descriptions and the way the Religion had survived. What we saw today in those Churches one would see in every Greek Orthodox Church.
We left the glory of Meteora and made our way back off the rocks to a lunch appointment back in Kalambaka. Lunch is always at this restaurant where the family running it had been part of the expulsions of 1922. The lady who owns the restaurant was with her parents and were expelled from Asia Minor in Turkey as all Greeks living there were, just as all Turks living in Greece were sent to Turkey. That enforced move was not as violent as the similar change of Indians and Pakistanis in 1949.
That lady hass now retired from cooking but her son said that many times she returns from her retirement home to sit in the restaurant adjacent to the kitchen to soak up the atmosphere. We went into the kitchen to select from the many big pots on the stove...Yummy was the word from all.
Following lunch we ventured north of Kalambaka to the defensive position of Savage Force that had been established again as another blocking position in order to allow the main withdrawal to pass through various choke points on the route to the evacuation beaches in relative safety without the worry of being cut off by an encircling German Force..
Tomorrow we head still further north to Florina and Vevi, where the actions of 1941 began. There we will firstly visit Xinon Nero where with the support of a local Priest and the Greek Army, we will conduct a small Remembrance Service. Then off to Vevi and for whatever awaits us there.