*No you didn't miss reading this in December – I wrote it in December, then promptly forgot I had done so...but here it is now for you to peruse at your pleasure only 3 months later...ahem*
We left our hotel early to take the train from Athens to Kalambaka and arriving at the station knew immediately which was our platform: the one swamped with tourists. I thought the train might be crowded but we had a carriage to ourselves. I’m not used to trains with carriages - it was a great novelty! So was visiting the dining car, even though the coffee I got was - to put it nicely - not very nice.
The air was cool and crisp, and the mountain tops and the monasteries on them were shrouded in mist the afternoon we arrived. But the next morning dawned clear and blue as we set out for a day of exploring. We saw our first salamander! And climbed many, many, many stairs.
Our first monastery was the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, built in 1362, and the most difficult (read uphill) to reach. I wish I had done an organised tour to learn more about the monasteries – as it was we wandered through the building, admired the frescoes in the chapel (no photos!) and the view.
Then we continued our uphill walk heading towards the Great Meteoron Monastery, stopping enroute to take photos of the view and scramble along a cow track to get a closer view of one of the hermit caves…there’s no way I’d want to be a hermit in a cave. It was all too dark and smelly - and I don’t like the feeling of tons of rock being above my head.
The hermit caves.
By the time we reached Great Meteoron Monastery and saw how many stairs we had to climb to view it our legs were tired at the thought, but it was worth tight calves and throbbing feet. This is the oldest and largest monastery. The chapel was twice the size - and even more ornate - than the Monastery of the Holy Trinity.
The complex also contained several museums including historic documents (no photo-taking), holy relics, an old kitchen, cellar and display of tools.
The next day we set out to find the “hidden” monastery, not built in plain sight on top of the rock like the others, and after a 6km stroll through the forest we found it - though we would have found it much easier if we had just followed the road … which we did on the way back.