Meteora means between Heaven and Earth. Millions of years ago, the area that is now Meteora in Greece was covered by ocean. Layers of sediment created the sandstone that later eroded away, creating the weathered forms that make up Meteora today. The geography is not unlike Grand Canyon and Brice Canyon in the US South West. 800 years ago, people sought refuge in the then remote area. Climbing up the vertical cliff sides and expanding caves into makeshift houses, hermits seeking solitude with God. Later these settlements developed into monasteries of which 6 are still active.
The once remote area is now serviced by freeways, motels, and restaurants so that the solitude experience can easily be consumed by everyone. Luckily for me, I came outside the tourist season after a drive from Athens and could enjoy the early spring and the shifting light with little interruption from other mortals.
Clearly marked trails for hiking and running are good starting points as are the scenic view points along the road that winds up and down the steep hillsides. Five of the six monasteries are in the main valley which is no larger than a fit person can explore in a day or two. But of course, if your schedule allows, slow down and reflect on life in a landscape that was 60 million years in the making.
It's hard to be in a bad mood after exploring the magical and changing landscape for a couple of hours. Getting up at dawn in time to hear the bells calling for morning prayers was especially nice on the backdrop of the birds singing.
Monks and nuns still live in six monasteries in Meteora. Each are open six days a week and for 3 EUR you can get a sense of the richly decorated and beautifully located places. As you walk around and take in the breathtaking views and ornamentations, and if you come early in the morning before busloads of tourists, you will feel the magic of Meteora.
After Meteora my journey goes to Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece and the city where my friend lives with his Greek wife.