First of all can I say a big belated Happy Birthday to Greg, who had a fabulous 25 September on the marvellous island of Santorini. There was volcano-trekking (Santorini is the most active volcanic centre in Greece), swimming in hot springs (including a bomb dive off the back of a boat), and a surprise party at sunset at the lookout in Oia, which ended with all assembled (including complete strangers) giving Greg a round of applause. Oh yeah, and there was more partying, until we staggered home at 3am to try to get some sleep before our 10am ferry.
The ferry ride gave us ample opportunity to update our diaries, but was otherwise dull. We said good-bye to our wonderful Greek Islands touring crew on arrival back in Athens, and headed off to find our hotel for the night and, what else, an evening gyros (I'm practically mainlining the stuff now!).
After doing some recon work in Monastaraki (a central shopping and eating suburb of Athens), we decided to make for Meteora the next day. So it was up early on Wednesday to take a 4.5 hour train trip north to Kalambaka (sneaking a seat after two hours standing), the biggest town sitting in the shadows of the giant rocks.
Walking around, we got approached by a small man on a scooter asking if we spoke English and offering us rooms. We managed to bargain him down to 50 euros for two nights, and so we found ourselves staying at "Totti's rooms". Totti himself turned out to be very friendly and helpful, giving us directions to the rocks, as well as candies from his bizarre second-hand-cum-two-dollar-shop located on street level underneath the rooms.
We decided to give a couple of the closer rocks (with monasteries perched on top) a good Aussie go, and after a hellish trek uphill through a steamy and slippery forest path, we reached the Monastery of the Holy Trinity. Back in the day, hermits and monks used to live solo on the rocks, but when Greece became part of the Ottoman Empire, the Orthodox monks began building monasteries and convents far up high to escape the Turks. Six still remain and are open to the public. Most people, however, get comfy coach tours up the mountain roads, not hike through the off-the-beaten track! Despite all my whinging, it was definitely worth the trek, as the view from the top was amazing. The rocks are hundreds of metres tall, and you can see for miles. Well, you could probably see more if the weather cleared!
We hadn't really anticipated the wet weather of northern Greece in autumn - after a week in the sunny islands, we'd decided to just take our daypacks for our brief trip out, and had therefore left behind our waterproof coats in Athens. Luckily there are many umbrellas for sale in Kalambaka. Yesterday we also took in the Convent of St Stephen, which had great views and historical relics, as well as the oh-so-important holy gift shoppe.
Another early start this morning saw Greg and I catch the public bus up past the next town of Kastraki to Grand Meteora, the biggest of the six monasteries still operating. A good move - saved a BIG walk uphill. ;) It was pouring down, but the cloud cover made for spectacular shots of the buildings and rocks covered in white.
Heading down the mountain, we stopped briefly at Varlaam (unfortunately closed today), before taking in Roussanou and St Stephen Afapasa. Both made for more marvellous views, especially as the cloud cover began to clear and the rain stopped. It was also a day for cat-lovers, with many moggies standing guard outside the monasteries, and not averse to the odd scratch on the chin from some passing Australians. Mind you, there are cats EVERYWHERE in Greece - not something I've mentioned before because they've become just a part of the scenery. ;)
Tomorrow we head for Delphi and the ancient Oracle, before heading back for a final taste of Athens, and no doubt, some more gyros. Monday sees us wing our merry way to bonnie Scotland!
Hope you have enjoyed the audio blogs - and thanks to the people who are commenting. I think there's only about three people reading this blog, but I appreciate your efforts! ;)