I said goodbye to Athens this past Friday and set out with a group of CYA students and professors to spend the weekend in two other fantastic Greek towns: Meteora and Metsovo. Located about six hours north of Athens, Meteora and Metsovo rank as two of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. Both towns have spectacular local landscapes and a lot of traditional Greek charm. Since we were quite a bit north of Athens, I even got a taste of the fall weather and foliage that I’ve been missing here in the southern Mediterranean.
I’m not sure it is even possible to describe the magnificence of Meteora, but I’ll try to put it into words. This small area of Greece is known best for its towering rock formations. And as if that doesn’t sound amazing enough, those towering cliffs are the foundations of monasteries that date back to the Byzantine period! Of the twenty-four orignal monasteries that were built in this area, only six survive today. Over the course of the two days we were in Meteora, our group visited four out of these six working monasteries. Since they are located on top of island rock formations, getting to these buildings is no easy feat. Roads can only get so close to the cliffs, so bridges and many many steps are used to reach the top of the rocks. I was exhausted after just a day and a half of walking to these monasteries, so I can’t even imagine how difficult it was to construct and access these places hundreds of years ago! However, the stairs are well worth the effort. Once I reached the top of the first monastery, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the mountains and cliffs. The view is so beautiful that it almost doesn’t seem real. In addition to the amazing scenery, the monasteries provide great examples of Byzantine iconography and manuscripts. Our group was lucky to have three great professors with us who gave us so much information on the modern Orthodox Greek Church as well as Byzantine architecture.
After spending most of Friday and Saturday in Meteora, our group packed up and headed to our next destination: Metsovo. This small mountain town was the perfect place to spend a fall weekend. I was so happy to kick my feet through the fallen leaves and sit down to a warm meal on a cold night. In addition to spending time looking at the wood-working and cheese shops (Metsovo is known for these two products), we also visited a local folklore museum where we got a taste of life in Greece during the 19th century. Before heading back to Athens on Sunday, our group had the privilege of attending a Greek Orthodox church service and sitting down for coffee with the local priest. His congregation was very inviting and he openly answered our questions about his church and his religion. My weekend in Meteora and Metsovo was definitley one of my favorites so far in Greece and I can’t wait to go back some day!