Water, earthquakes, wind and extreme temperatures have through the ages given shape to Meteora
The train from Athens is making up for lost time, speeding eagerly across the Thessaly plain as we are approaching the final stop at Kalambaka and Meteora, almost 5 hours later. My fellow train traveller that day speaks warmly about her native region of Thessaly, about the town and the ever changing faces of the Meteora rocks.
I try not to let my expectations rise any higher, so to say. Instead I keep walking up and down the corridor while trying to catch a glimpse of the place. The windows can’t be opened and the train is heading straight towards the town and the rocks, effectively hiding them from view. Moments later we arrive, and there they are, the sheer Meteora rocks, soaring hundreds of meters above the station building and the red rooftops of the town of Kalambaka.
Suspended in the air
Meteora means “suspended in the air”, a fitting name for these spectacular rock pinnacles. The town of Kalambaka and the traditional village of Kastraki are both situated right at the foot of the massive rocks, rising like a sheltering wall behind them, 2-400 meters high. Hermits and ascetics arrived here in the 11th century. The first monasteries were built in 14th century. 200 years later there were 24 of them here.
Perched on top of one of the highest peaks is Megalo Meteoro, “Great Place Suspended in the Air”, one of six remaining monasteries, four of them inhabited. Without them the peaks would have seemed all the more inaccessible, except perhaps to a handful of rock climbers.
…the monasteries seem to belong to the rocks, to have grown out of them, naturally extending them as if on a quest to reach even higher
One can only imagine the hardship of the monks and nuns who built the monasteries and created a life for themselves here. Accessing the peaks is a lot easier today and the remaining monasteries certainly don’t seem to be lacking anything. You might in fact spot a fancy sports car parked by the entrance to one of them. The Monastery Of Aghia Triada was featured in the James Bond film “For Your Eyes Only” (1981).
Meteora is a World Heritage Site.
60 million years
The Meteora rocks are composed of a mixture of sandstone and deposits of sedimentary rocks, formed about 60 million years ago. Movement of the earth caused the seabed to rise, creating a plateau with fault lines. According to geologists there was a prehistoric sea here. Fluvial erosion, earthquakes, wind and extreme temperatures have through the ages given shape to Meteora.
All photos by Asgeir Pedersen, IN Editions
This article was first published in October 2015.