Six hours from Athens, and still an ocean away from home, my train finally halted to the lovable town of Kalampaka. Awaiting me here was not an adventure that I was eagerly anticipating, but an experience that would center my spirit, connecting an earthly bond between reality and fantasy in the “Middle of the Sky.”
“With a little imagination, you can see almost anything in these rocks.”
Though Vassilus, our local guide, had just told us of the petrified titans fabled to be these majestic structures before us, he then pointed out a place where you could also make out a woman’s profile resembling the head of a sphinx. With a little imagination.
Scanning the mountains for more legends in the rocks indeed ignited my imagination, and observing the grandeur of this place proved to be delightfully overwhelming. Given the otherworldly essence of Metéora, Game of Thrones producers truly capitalized on a suitable setting to inspire one of the epic scenes of their fantasy series.
To me, the way in which these daunting formations gently basked in the light from the heavens, it seemed like the perfect place for monks– for anyone– to seek God. The landscape cradled rich earth tones and echoed triumph as the sun kissed it through the clouds. The entire countryside was singing.
An Argentine couple, Vassilus, our driver Konstantinos, and I continued our journey through the hills to the Monastery of St. Stephen. Named after the first martyr of Christianity, this monastery is one of the six active monasteries that still call the apexes of Metéora home. The sights inside revealed the immense commitment of the monks to their Christian faith through the golden biblical artwork that adorned its core.
After a peaceful exploration of one of the holy havens, we resumed our drift through the wavy hills as Vassilus enriched us with more history of his home. He explained how a German geologist theorized this place to have been a delta to the much greater Aegean Sea in its past life over the millenia as we sailed through the ripples of ancient waters etched in the hillside.
Our van stopped again so we could roam a corner of this place for ourselves. Once again, I was gazing over the mountains where so much fresh, open air was majestically interrupted by these massive rock formations. Appearing smooth from afar, though intricately rigid up close, the mountains’ condition is perhaps implicative of an alternative story– familiar to many of this earth’s mysteriously beautiful faces. As Vassilus had earlier recounted, Metéora holds scars from more recent pain, as some of the area suffered destruction from German bombings during World War II. However, I perceived no manifestations of grief– but divinity. I ventured out a bit further only to be stunned by the unimaginable landscape that lay in ethereal existence before me. Then, I quietly obeyed the natural command to sit still in the light.
Back in the van, we glided further through the mountains, while Vassilus shared more of Metéora’s stories. Monks of the different monasteries here preserved Greek culture and language by teaching it to the children in the years of Ottoman occupation– when it was illegal to speak Greek and live firmly in that identity. Evidence of these accomplishments are reflected even now in the religious population breakdown for Greece with over 90% of the people identifying as Greek Orthodox Christian.
Before we ended our day by catching the sunset, we stopped for a delicious treat aside the road– fresh, plump figs. As each member of our group tried the juicy berry, I reveled in its natural sweetness as I peeled it from its sticky skin. Not too far from where we plucked our figs from the trees was our last place to linger for the evening. After romancing the hills all day, the sun was finally ready to kiss them goodbye– a remarkably alluring farewell.
In its majesty, Metéora is still a lively place with various opportunities for adventurous experiences– hikes through the vivid greenage, exhilarating ATV rides through Katastraki, or even scaling some of the mountains– if you dare. This time, I drifted through an ancient delta, witnessed the melodies of a countryside’s choir, and embraced the quiet peace of a land’s dynamic presence, faith, and fables in the “Middle of the Sky.”
P.S. Very special thanks to Metéora Thrones (meteora.com) for facilitating this experience to this inspiring place. An in-depth review of this organization is coming soon.