Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Meteora. Varlaam and St. Nicholas Monasteries.

At St. Nicholas Monastery.

 After visiting Grand Meteoron, it was on to Varlaam Monastery, located less than a minute's drive from Grand Meteoron.  Varlaam is accessed from a narrow bridge that leads in from the main road.  The bridge connected two boulders and at the end, we once again had to climb a set of steep steps.  Yikes!


Looking back down at the bridge.

Inside the complex, Varlaam looked and felt very much like Grand Meteoron except it was a much smaller place.  We started our visit at Varlaam but going to the katholikon.

Steps leading up to the entrance to the katholikon.

Looking back, past the steps.

Outside the entrance, there were murals on the wall and ceiling.



The religious art work here was just as spectacular as what we had seen in both Roussanou and Grand Meteoron.  Photography was not allowed inside the katholikon so I surreptitiously took a shot from the entrance before going in.


We visited the monastery's museums ....

An ancient wine barrel.  The monk's sure drank a lot! :-)

I loved these beautiful mother-of-pearl inlaid pieces of furniture.

....and wandered through the courtyards.  Truthfully, neither of us is a museum lover so spending time in the courtyards was just fine with us.... more so given how beautiful a day it was!


No fun posing for photos when the sun is shining in your face!

More stunning views of the scenic landscape.

Roussanou Monastery, the first one we visited and my favorite!

I loved the terracotta roofs. They all looked so new.  Varlaam has been restored and well maintained by the monks.

More of the exquisite brick work.  I think Varlaam shared builders with Grand Meteoron - the buildings at the two places look very similar.

The last place we visited at Varlaam was the tower where the net used to hang.

I loved the typography they used for the signs.  Looked medieval somehow.

These days, the cable pull is just used to bring supplies up and down; people have to use the steps. We watched some men use the centuries old cable pull and modern day trolley to haul up supplies for construction work that was being on one of the buildings in the Varlaam complex.



We didn't spend much time at Varlaam - wasn't all that impressive after having seen Grand Meteoron.   Recommendation to future visitors to Meteora - visit Grand Meteoron last, if you can!








On the way back to the car, we met up with a food truck selling Greek pastries.  They were screaming out for me and when we learned that the woman, behind the counter, made them, we had to buy one.  I asked Bro to get the spinach filled one.  It was a substantial pastry and for 1.80 Euro, an incredibly good buy!  Bro couldn't resist so he bought a second one for himself. Both would be our road trip snacks!

Yum!!

We decided to continue on our road trip to Katakolon but as we drove past St. Nicholas Monastery, we had a change of heart. We had come all this way to see the monasteries and we had plenty of time for our drive ahead of us so we decided to pull over and visit the monastery.  There was no real parking lot here, we just stopped the car alongside the road.

From where we parked, I could look up at the monastery.

The path up to the monastery was through the woods.  Olive trees dotted the landscape. It was a very pleasant walk on a lovely day.


Part way up, we saw a small door.  Thinking it was the monastery entry, Bro headed up.  It turned out to be a small chapel.



Getting closer.

The path wound its way gently up the hillside though Bro often took the *short* cut up the steep hillside instead.  Sometimes I followed him and other times not - I was in no rush.

At the base of the monastery, I could see a small cable car.  For a split second, I thought that was our ride up.  Alas, not to be.  Tourists have to take the steps.  Damn.....more steep steps.


Again, we had to pay a modest entry fee.  Inside, St. Nicholas was very modest.  It reminded me of Roussanou.

Admiring one of the icons.

There wasn't much to see inside St. Nicholas which was just as well as I pretty much already had my fill of monasteries.  They were starting to all look alike.



All the while that we were making our way through the various rooms in St. Nicholas, we were walking behind a small group of European tourists.  They were loud, ignoring the posted signs to be quiet.....and they were taking photos, ignoring the signs to not do so.  How rude!  I scurried past them....happy to have left them behind.

We stopped for a few minutes to watch the cable car in action.  I was surprised to see a young man exit the car.  What the ???



The monastery's very modest bell tower.

We eventually made our way to a small terrace with views overlooking the valley.  Bro pointed out the white dots to me and wondered what they were.  I told him they were beehives.


We watched climbers scale a rock face.

As we were enjoying the views, the boisterous European tourists caught up with us.  Ever so friendly, they struck up a conversation.  Turns out they were from the Czech Republic and obviously, having a wonderful time.  We chatted with them for quite a while before parting ways.  They left as loudly as they had arrived :-)


Walking through the woods, back down to our car, I noticed some pretty flowers in bloom.  My *in-house expert), Bro, told me that they are native cyclamen.  As he is the plant lover and collector, he tried to dig for the corms but the dirt was too compacted and the corms too deep.  So, he left empty handed. Just as well since he's not allowed to bring vegetation back into the US which I think is how corms would be categorized as.

Our time at Meteora has been short but we're leaving feeling very satisfied with what we saw.  The only thing that would have really improved the experience for us would have been if we had had a guide explain much of what we saw, to us. Otherwise, we truly enjoyed our visit to this very special place and we'll most certainly remember this day for years to come!

Prettiest of the walks up to a monastery at Meteora..  Seriously.

Leaving Meteora behind, we are continuing our road trip, which will loop us back to Athens tomorrow.  On the way, we'll be spending the night in a small seaside town called Kamena Vourla.  That's where we headed next.  Onward we go!