Travel Journal

Mountains, monasteries and meat

(Monday 27 January 2014) by Mariken
Ayias Triadhos
Ayias Triadhos
We are in Greece, the country that invented democracy. The country of Alexander the Great and the Olympic Games. And the country of meat. Heaps of it. Everywhere you look you see signs advertising souvlaki, pork chops, meat balls and more, and when you order a plate, you get something close to a kilo. I ordered a salad yesterday. There, you have my written confession. Yesterday evening, I willingly and by my full mind ordered a salad. And I loved every bite of it. I intend to go along with that order for the coming time, as in the past few days I ate enough meat for half a lifetime. I wonder how many cows the Greek eat on average annually. It must be herds, there is no other option.

On the positive side, Greece is also the country of beautiful nature and up until now there was far less trash alongside the roads we drove than in other countries. I was astonished to see that apparently there are still bears living in the wild here, judging by the road signs that warned us for bears (and other wildlife) crossing. The roads were even fenced off. Beautiful nature is also one of the key features of the place we are now, Kastraki in the Meteora region. Although the country is mountainous everywhere, Kastraki has something special: enormous conglomerate pinnacles rising from the earth that surround half the village like a huge fence. On top of some of the pinnacles hermit monks built monasteries from the tenth century onwards. Some of them are still in use, some for religious purposes, others primarily as a museum, and the monasteries can be visited. I visited four of them about fifteen years ago, when I was still in high-school. I mostly remember climbing an awful lot of stairs while wearing a long skirt (trousers are not allowed for women) while it was over 40 degrees (Celsius!) outside. Right now it is considerably colder (near freezing on some days) and although the stairs do not bother me that much any more, skirts are still obliged. Fortunately, in all their wisdom, the monasteries provide these for the ignorant tourists who climb the stairs in mid-winter, wearing trousers to prevent their ass from freezing off. And it sure looks charming, wearing a flowery skirt (more like a table cloth) over your trousers with army boots underneath. I fully respect other cultures and religions and always try to adapt as much as possible when visiting other places, but I honestly fail to see the logic behind this. If the idea is to make women look feminine (like the Bible says they should look), then this is most definitely one big fail. Jacco had fun taking a picture though and since all female tourists are looking equally ridiculous, I did not mind it so much. And the views up there are simply stunning. Sometimes, you just have to make some sacrifices. :-p

On top of Aghio Pnevma
On top of Aghio Pnevma
Today we combined the stunning views with some highly necessary burning off of calories. We 'hiked' all the way up to the oldest monastery in the Meteora region, Aghio Pnevma (Holy Spirit), built in the 10th century. Although the monastery is situated pretty high up, it only took us 30 minutes to reach it, so either we are very experienced and fit hikers (mwah) or this is a really easy path. Whatever it is, it was really rewarding. The views on top were indeed brilliant and although the monastery is really tiny - it is more like a chapel - it turned out to be a hidden gem when we opened the door. Cut out in the rock, white-washed and full with icons. Very peaceful.

Sunset over Lake Ohrid
Sunset over Lake Ohrid
We have been visiting a lot of monasteries lately, as Macedonia is covered with them as well. The only drawback there was that Macedonia has the disgusting habit of charging foreign tourists more than domestic ones (sometimes twice as much), although I have to admit that my 'youthful' appearance every now and then deceives ticket sellers in giving me a student ticket. I always tell them honestly that I am not a student, but since they never ask my age, I do not feel guilty for letting them assume that I am ten years younger than I am. When buying a drink it can be a pain, when buying an entrance ticket it can be a blessing, so it balances out nicely. With this student ticket in hand we visited one particular beautiful monastery in Macedonia, Sveti Naum, situated on Lake Ohrid. The surroundings must be very touristy in summer, judging by all the restaurants there, but in this time of the year it is very quiet and peaceful, as is Lake Ohrid itself.

Of course the region has a lot more to offer than just monasteries and there should be some good climbing spots in Greece, so we are not yet done here, although we might have to travel a bit further south for warmer weather and dry rocks.

  • Table cloth by Marije
    • skirts, falafel and car by Mariken
  • klimmen!! by Marike
    • Hi by Jacco
      • ach ja sneeuw by marike
  • Zo de wind waait, waait... by Jac
    • Artefacten... alles is relatief by Mariken
  • Oh, jullie zijn er al... by Bibiche
    • Thanks! by Mariken
  • Keep up the good work! by Aafke
    • Stilstaan by Mariken

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