Floating monasteries: So high in the sky

in Haveyoubeenhere3 months ago

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What may have induced these believing men to flee to these mountains? Nobody knows for sure, but it must have been a pretty terrible thing, a major threat that left no other option but to escape up into the clouds. Was it robbers? Were they enemies? Or was the crazy plan to settle at the top of the steep cliffs east of the Pindus Mountains near the city of Kalambaka in the Greek city of Thessaly just the desire to be closer to God?  Follow me to Greece, to the Meteora monasteries deep in the mountains.

Houses under rocks, on rocks
Houses under rocks, on rocks

For visitors who arrive today at the bottom of the plain at the foot of the towering cliffs and look up, it is inconceivable that the first hermitages here in Meteora were supposed to have been built as early as the 11th century. Back when there were no cranes, no concrete and only hand-turned sides, monks set about building a monastery on top of the rocks. They weren't even the first - according to tradition, someone has settled before the 10th century. The Theopetra Cave, one of many holes in the rock, is even thousands of years older: this cave is home to the oldest man-made structure in the world - a stone wall that closes two thirds of the entrance to the cave. It was built 23,000 years ago.

Fog and floating monasteries
Fog and floating monasteries

But only with the arrival of the monk Athanasios, who fled from Athos in 1334, the real expansion of the monastery community began. Steps were made, rope ladders hung up, caves were driven into the rocks and a monastery community was formed, which spread out over several hermitages on several peaks. Athanasios is said to have founded the first real monastery in 1344 together with his spiritual foster father Gregorios and 14 other monks, to which he named Metamórphosis, now also known as Megálo Metéoro.

They’re living in the clouds
They're living in the clouds

Tourists who want to see what is left after 700 years of the strictly managed holy community, which still lives according to the rules established by Athanasios today, no longer have to climb rope ladders or struggle up narrow bridges. Over the centuries, the widely scattered facilities were expanded more and more, roads and paths emerged, supported by pious regional rulers such as King Symeon, who hoped that financial help for the holy men in black robes would benefit them for their own salvation.

It’s a stony world
It's a stony world

In the past, all of this was only accessible via rope ladders and pulling baskets, but since 1923 real rock stairs lead up to the most important monasteries. Thousands of thousands every year used them!

A view in the valley
A view in the valley

The best way for visitors to hike from the village of Kastraki through the impressive rocky landscape is to see the Metamorphosis Monastery on the Platis Lithos (Broad Rock) from afar It was given the nickname "Meteoron" (the hovering) because it sometimes seems to swim or fly in fog, like the insane illustrations that artist Roger Dean created for the record covers of the band Yes, which later inspired the director James Cameron to make his film "Avatar - Departure to Pandora "- but the original can be found here in the middle of Greece.

On the left - a ”cable car”
On the left - a "cable car"

The cold wind blows 613 meters above sea level through the rocky landscape, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One sees few monks, although the monastery buildings of Metamórphosis, Varlaám, Rousánou, Agía Triáda, Agios Stéfanos and Agios Nikólaos Anapavsás are still inhabited today. But there are even more tourists, so that the wise men of God have come up with a clever solution to satisfy the curiosity of strangers, but still have their peace: Each of the monasteries has a day of rest on a different day, so that they are never closed at the same time .

A brave passenger
A brave passenger

As strict as the rules for the monks are also for visitors. Men are not allowed to wear shorts, and mini-skirts and off-the-shoulder tops are taboo for women. You should also do without trousers, but rather wear a dress or a skirt, if you do not stick to them, in some of the monasteries you have to wear an apron that can be borrowed at the entrance. God wants it that way, they say.

The net to get food
The net to get food

The mummery is worth it, however, because in the old buildings there are testimonies from all epochs of the settlement. Wooden floors that must be centuries old, trodden by millions of steps. Icons from old times, gloomy prayer chamber and wooden winches, which used to be used to pull supplies up using muscle power. there is even a small cable car that people could use to go up the mountain, at that time still hanging on hemp ropes. Today there is a motor-driven modern winch next to it.

Thank you for reading and if you like my work please follow me           on HiveTravelfeed or Steem or visit my homepage koenau.de

A few more pictures for you:

The rope to get it up
The rope to get it up

Many tourist, a few monks
Many tourist, a few monks

It looks like Roger Deans cover paintings for the band Yes
It looks like Roger Deans cover paintings for the band Yes

or like James Camerons ”Avatar” world
or like James Camerons "Avatar" world

Where are the dragons?
Where are the dragons?

A flat floating
A flat floating

They carried every stone up on their backs
They carried every stone up on their backs

Every single one
Every single one

For every house
For every house

Nearer to god
Nearer to god

Away from they’re enemies
Away from they're enemies

Green is the valley
Green is the valley

so green
so green

Wide view
Wide view

The town in the back
The town in the back

Between two rocks
Between two rocks

Under a cloudy sky
Under a cloudy sky

A rock like a tooth
A rock like a tooth

Molar tooth
Molar tooth

The stones are made from sand
The stones are made from sand

Sometimes the sand comes down
Sometimes the sand comes down

Icons, hundreds of years old
Icons, hundreds of years old

It’s a long way to go up
It's a long way to go up

The other side of the mountain
The other side of the mountain

Tourists are flood the monastery
Tourists are flood the monastery

A craftsman
A craftsman

and a cross
and a cross

The rope
The rope

A 360° view if it works for you
A 360° view if it works for you


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Dooood, I've been there! Thanks @pinmapple for showing me this one. My wife and I were in Meteora two years ago and saw all the same monasteries, I had to write about it too. Thanks for the memory. 👍🏿

Congrats on the feature.

This place is mind-blowing. It always amazed me how ancient Greeks were so intelligent. To make a monastery on top of a hill? Even with today's technology it's not that easy...
Beautiful travel story and photography. Keep up the good work!

This place is so amazing. @martibis and I went here after seeing a post on pinmapple (or steemitworldmap as it was then). Also your photos are way nicer than mine! 😂

thank you, it was unforgetable for us and I think for everyone who was there

Hiya, @choogirl here, just swinging by to let you know that this post made it into our Top 3 in Daily Travel Digest #1188.

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Congratulations @koenau! You received the biggest smile and some love from TravelFeed! Keep up the amazing blog. 😍 Your post was also chosen as top pick of the day and is now featured on the TravelFeed.io front page.

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It seems like Bhutan’s tiger nest hill area side

What an incredible place! Thank you for posting.

Thank you for reading!

Wow thats quite the place. I can only imagine what life would be like living up there. You cant beat that view, thats for sure. Its awe inspiring

Beautiful !!!

wow incredible photos! I can hardly imagine living there;)

muy bien hermano