Sunday, August 5, 2007

Meteora memories

While many tourists and adventurers go there to do mountain climbing and hiking, Meteora is to the Greek Orthodox what Rome is to Roman Catholics. The place is famous for its monasteries carved on the rocks of the mountain range that towers over the plains of the Greek region of Thessaly.

Since there's a considerable distance between any two monasteries, tour operators regularly organize bus trips from the towns of Kalampaka and Kastraki to some of Meteora's seven monasteries. Budget travelers like me could opt to take the footpath from Kalampaka and walk about an hour (and I'm talking about brisk walking up a steep and rocky mountain path)... to reach the paved road to the first monastery (yup, it's that grueling!).

The monks in the olden days were so clever that they were able to devise a manual elevator that could hoist one person at a time to and from the monastery. These elevators, like this one in the Monastery of the Haghia Triada (Holy Trinity), are not used anymore but are preserved for their historical importance.

In Haghia Triada, I was greeted by the monk in charge of the monastery on that day. And no, he's not a bearded old man dressed in black. He's about my age, I guess, and was dressed in everyday non-monk attire. I first spoke to him in English and he responded in English, as well. He then asked me where I was from and I told him I'm from the Philippines. Thinking that all Filipinos speak Spanish (fortunately I do), he gave me a tour of the place in Spanish. This was something not usually done neither in Spanish nor in English, I was told later on. He told me afterwards that he wanted to practice his Spanish with me. It turns out that he had learned it from a Colombian priest who took up the same course as his in Rome.

Why am I telling you this? Well, just to justify why I got to munch on some homemade monk muffins after the tour, hehe :-)

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