We woke this morning to a beautiful bright sunny day here in Kalambaka. Our day today is split into to completely different halves. The morning was when we visited the two Monasteries on the mountain at Meteora and the afternoon on the Battlefields north of Kalambaka.
The Monasteries at Kalambaka are the result of a long line of Hermits starting from the 10th Century when individuals arrive, climbed the rocks to caves and spent their lives there meditating and trying to survive away from the world. In the 14th Century a Monk named Nile brought a lot of the individuals 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.
As a rule of thumb, it took 60 years to gather the stones for the building and 20 years to complete. Along the way many were destroyed over the years and even during the war, the Germans bombed a few. One of the Monasteries that we visited had its tower destroyed and the painting of the frescos is now getting close to completion. At the height of occupation there were 24 Monasteries on the mountains but now only six.
Our visit took us to two of the Monasteries, one for men and a Nunnery for Women. There are six men in the men's Monastery and 30 Women in the Nunnery. 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 to take them up and down. The stairs were constructed in the 1920s. These Monasteries are not for only meditation where a Monk can be closeted away from the world, they are Tourist attractions as well as sanctuaries. To give the Monks and Nuns time for meditation etc each Monastery is closed one day a week and when open only from 0900 to 1600. The frescos within the individual Churches at the Monasteries are incredible and depict the Gospels and all associated with Orthodox Christianity.
Lunch followed our visit at a restaurant in Kalambaka run by a lady who came from Smyrna in Turkey as a young girl when, as part of the exodus of Greeks from Turkey and Turks from Greece back to their National home in the 1920's, her family arrived in Kalambaka and started a restaurant. We used to be able to go into the kitchen and select our choice from the large pots of food cooking on the stoves. But COVID changed all that and you cannot venture into the kitchen to check “live: We have been visiting her since our first visit in 2005 and over the years no one has ever complained about he food. We will return in September this year.
After lunch we headed north out of town to the site where Savige Force was deployed as the blocking force to cover the approaches down the Greek peninsula in the West. It was a very strong force on an excellent piece of ground in which to defend if needed. However, the withdrawal of the main body had moved past the passes and this Force pulled out and moved south. The ground there has changed as there is a highway in the process of being built. A pity for Battlefield Historians but good for the community.
Tomorrow we head further north to Florina and Vevi, the scene of the first clash of arms between the Germans and the ANZACs.