Given a weekend in Greece before starting work on the Monday, I was looking at things to do. Obviously there was the whole “Ancient Greece” thing in Athens. But my brother suggested something he’d come across online – a train trip to Meteora and a guided tour of the monasteries perched atop rocky features hundreds of metres above the valley floor.
It was supposed to be five hours on the train, four hours touring the area, and then five hours back – 8:30 am – 10:30 pm, for about a hundred Euro. It would be a long trip but hopefully worth it.
First thing Sat morning I jumped in a cab to the central station. I had visions of a grand central station like they have in Rome, London and Paris. Ahhh, no. two or three outdoor platforms, a small coffee shop and announcements in greek (which I don’t speak). Let the adventure begin.
The carriage was like the old red rattlers we used to have in Vic – little cabins with six people. My carriage was a group of older greek women, and a Japanese girl I later found out was doing the same trip.
I’d taken my laptop and a book. Reading wasn’t bad – documentation, including screen captures for lab guides was quite a challenge. No food!
At some point there was an announcement which one of the ladies had to translate – due to train line works, we would have to get off and on a bus, before continuing the trip on train later.
I did get to see some amazing country on both the train(s) and bus. Mighty snow-capped mountains, great valleys with the ocean creeping in and rolling fields. Nothing that I’d imagined in Greece.
We arrived two hours late (i.e. seven hours rather than five) into Kalambaka, the town below the monasteries. So, instead of four hours touring the sights, we had two as I had to be back on the 5:30 train back.
Meteora is amazing. As the train pulls into the station you see the cliffs and outcrops rising 300-400m above the valley floor. Perched atop you see some of the monasteries.
The tour involved a local taxi and driver taking us around. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, so I was a but hungry. The taxi driver produced a kebab which I started scoffing down. Big mistake – 10 mins up the road was the first stop, where one had to climb a steep driveway up to the monastery and I felt every mouthful. This was the Monastery of Áyios Nikólaos Anapafsás (St. Nicholas).
Due to the short time, this was the only one we were able to go into. We drove around and visited the others. The guide obviously does this every day as he knew every spot for a great photo.
All too soon, we were back at the station and repeating the process to return to Athens. Like most, dinner was chips and a drink from a little shop beside the station after the bus leg.
Despite the fourteen hours of travel, it was well worth it. Ideally you’d go up on one day, observe the sun coming up over the valley the next morning and return.
My photos can be found at: http://davidedwardsphotos.com/photos-p/index.php?/category/157