Saturday, September 12, 2015

Suspended in the air

In the 14th century, monks came to mountainous central Greece, looked at the towering cliffs and said, "That looks like a good place to build a monastery."

And they did -- 24 of them, most on top of or built into the mountain. 

Did I mention this was in the 1300s? They had to climb up, build pulleys and then haul the materials up. One monastery needed 70 years just to get the stone up. 

Meteora, which means "suspended in the air," now has only six monasteries; the rest were all abandoned a century or many centuries ago. Four of those actually were abandoned as well, but the locals climbed up and maintained a few of the bigger ones, and the monks returned in the 20th century. Or in two cases, nuns came. When the monasteries opened women were not allowed in them for any reason, and then there was a fire and women from the village were the first responders. The monks let the women in, which allowed nuns, centuries later, to move in. 

I only went into one; I took a sunset tour instead of my planned hike. The guide pointed out a brightly colored cave, which was decorated with scarves. It dates back centuries to a young Muslim couple who moved to Kastraki. A tree fell on the man, badly injuring him, and his wife ran to village to get help. The villagers came back with her but said he was hurt too badly and would die. In desperation, she pulled off her head scarf and offered it to St. George if her husband would survive. He did. Now new scarves go up annually to remember the miracle. 

Scheduled tours really are not my favorite thing, but I love hearing stories like that.

We also saw hermit caves, in which people, usually monks, would climb to a cave, build a scaffolding of some sort and live there, depending on locals to bring them food, water and other needs. Yes, if you're wondering, it gets cold here. I assume they just dealt it. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow - stunning pictures. Did you do any climbing?