Kalambaka

30 July – 1 August, 2011

This place is a major highlight in a trip full of highlights. You must be getting tired of my superlatives, but I saw some unforgettable sights today. Stunning surreal scenery. I’ll try to give you a heads-up before I unleash my pics. I first learned of the spot called Meteora (on the outskirts of the small town of Kalambaka where I am staying, which is about 25km from the provincial capital of Trikala in central Greece) in Melbourne, near the Huntingdale Railway Station. This station is where I catch a bus to visit my mother in nearby Mulgrave. Having some time to kill I wandered up the street and came upon a Greek club with membership mainly from this area. There were blown-up photos in the shop-front window that intrigued me. Imagine having a dozen rock monoliths like Uluru just over your back fence, many of them towering vertical pillars. That’s Kalambaka. That would be stunning enough, but that’s only half the story. There is a man-made aspect to go with the nature bit. In that way it reminds me of Matera in Italy. In the 11th c. monks started living in caves high up on the rocks, and in the 14th c. started building monasteries on top. Access was incredibly difficult of course. The highest one I visited, Megalo Meteoro, had to be accessed by a series of rope ladders and finally a basket pulled up by rope, until the 1920s.

I predict I am going to have some strange dreams tonight. That reminds me of a dream I had not long ago. I was an archaeologist excavating a previously undiscovered Roman mosaic. I was so excited. You just don’t get dreams like that in Australia. That one dream was worth the whole trip.

Here are the pics. Enjoy.

                     

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About middleeuropeanmelancholy

64 year old Australian born male. Into travel, poetry, philosophy, music, popular physics, mathematics (especially topology)...
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2 Responses to Kalambaka

  1. Andy Jackson says:

    Those rock formations are astounding. Hard to describe or compare, really – they do make me think of Hampi, the Blue Mountains, Uluru, but they’re utterly unique. They must have an imposing, calm presence, looming over the town. Are they teeming with tourists? And those monasteries! Are they still in use?

    • Andy, yes, astounding and unforgettable. There are some, but surprisingly few tourists. Apparently Meteora is little known, even in Europe. Kalambaka is very small, only about 14,000 population I think. But I was having coffee at a cafe (an untrendy one, mainly for locals, which I often prefer to the flash touristy ones). An old guy (older than me!) motioned me to sit with him. His English was quite good. I don’t know where he picked it up. He was bemoaning how big and busy Kalambaka had become, remembering the time when it only had 3,000 people. I had some interesting talks with other, younger, locals about politics. The Macedonian question come up of course, so I have heard the Greek point of view as well as the FYROM (Skopje) one. In a way I sympathise with both sides. It all seems to me to be just a tragic misunderstanding. But that’s probably Balkan-ousider naivete. Getting back to the monasteries, there were 21 but now only 6 active ones (including a nunnery), the rest in ruins. I was told about two incidents about them. In the first, a young monk caused a scandal a couple of years ago that is still talked about by renouncing his vows and leaving his order for love of a woman. I would not have thought that to be such an uncommon occurrence, but apparently it is. The second was the visit of an Australian woman to Meteora 30 years ago. She had no Greek or Orthodox Christian background, but decided to become a nun. She is still in the nunnery here.”Imposing, calm presence…”. Good observation, Andy, that’s just what it feels like.

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