Monday, May 9, 2011

Liz Weeden - Meteora - April 17-19

Our last few nights in Greece were spent in Meteora, an area with rock towers that stand out around the town of Kalambaka. Millions of years ago this area was under water, and the current weathered the rocks into smooth formations. Now that Meteora is no longer submerged, these rocks just stick up as if they are huge giants surrounding the small towns. As we drove around the rocks filled with old water caves and crevices, I imagined Meteora as a modern day, dried up Atlantis.

Eastern Orthodox monks were the first people to inhabit Meteora. At first the monks lived in the caves and fissures of the rock towers which provided them with a peaceful and beautiful place to worship. Later the monks built six separate monasteries on top of the largest of the rock formations. The only way to reach the monasteries is over bridges or using cable cars. Built almost seamlessly into the hard rock, they cling to the tops of the shaped mountains and it’s hard to comprehend how the monks originally built them.

The day we visited the biggest monastery, The Great Meteoron, the surrounding rock towers were wrapped in a blanket of mist, giving it a mysterious and yet already spiritual feeling. Inside there were various rooms of religious and Greek cultural history. The most religious rooms also have the most eery items. There is an entire room full of the skulls of the ancient monks. Near it is a room dedicated ot the saints. It is painted top to bottom with gruesome portrayals of various forms of saint murders. The pictures vividly show bloody images of stonings, decapitations, boiling, burning, crucifixions, and beatings. I’m a fairly religious person but it’s hard to feel strongly about religion when it’s gruesome past is the main focus.

But the monastery didn’t just hold religious memorabilia, but also had galleries and museum rooms of Greek history. The Gallery of Admirals had portraits of various Greek military, political, and intellectual individuals. Various writers, politicians, and military generals were presented. The most interesting was the lone female of the group, Laskarina Bouboulina. Admiral Bouboulina was a Greek heroine of the War of Independence in the early 1800s because she selflessly donated all of her property for the needs of the war. In a room full of men this woman clearly stood out.

The rest of our time in Meteora we spent learning about traditional Greek culture. The owner of the guest house we stayed in took us to a dinner where we were entertained by Greek dancers. Costumes and all they put on a great show. After dinner they welcomed us onto the stage where we all got to try our hand at Greek dancing. We all had left-feet syndrome. But it was a great bonding experience as we linked arms, trying to keep time with the live music.

The day we left, Linda, Tom and I were given the opportunity to be interviewed on a Greek radio station. Since I’ve missed my days with WRHU, I jumped at the chance. Thank goodness there was a translator because Greek is way over my head. We were questioned about the US and our trip so far, along with our opinion on the current economic troubles in Greece. The interview was both fun and enlightening for our last day in Greece.

Meteora was a great way to end our stay in Greece. It was full of the natural beauty and traditions of Greek life and culture. I may have left Greece for now, but I know that I’ll be returning in the future.

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