Monasteries and Meteora

The Greek section of our wanderings started when we parked up at the edge of a large lake near Kilkis.  It turned out that this lake was home to a particularly rare and endangered species of waterfowl (and no, the dog did not catch and kill any) and also to a large itinerant herd of water buffalo.  They woke us up the next morning as they plodded slowly past the vehicle, giving the dog something to worry about – she watched them closely but seemed unwilling to leave the van and go and introduce herself.

The next day dawned misty and wet and as we trundled south the weather got worse.  Time, we decided, to treat ourselves so instead of camping out in the bush we headed for the luxury and morale-boosting surroundings of a proper campsite.  This one was near Meteora and what a belter it was.  The backdrop consisted of seemingly endless huge rock columns separated by narrow gorges, and on top of some of these towering rocks you could just make out buildings – monasteries, in fact – that had been built around 800 years or so ago. 

Sadly, though, the weather put a damper on things so we had to settle for a day of admin, cleaning, checking tyre pressures and the like.  All very necessary and worthy – but dull.

Day two was totally perfect – not a cloud in the sky, the forecast suggested that it might carry on being sunny and warm for ever – so we shoved some scran in a daysack and headed off into the hills with the dog.  We picked up an ever growing collection of random village hounds as we went, but they gradually lost interest and went back home the higher we went, until the only dog left was the one that relied on us for food, drink, walks, and so on.  The hours passed.  We got warmer and climbed higher until we hit a road, then there, right in front of us, was the most amazing building, teetering on top of a column of rock only just broad enough to support it.

The monastery itself was just so much better than we could have hoped – no amount of photographs could really do it justice, least of all capture the gut-twisting vertigo induced by peering over the edge of pretty well any wall you chose.  Everywhere you looked there was a stunning view just waiting for you to try and get it into your camera.  I managed a couple of snaps:

– but the redoubtable Mrs H managed to pull off a cracker:

Five hours of this kind of thing left us all, dog included, feeling a touch weary so we trudged off down the hill back to the campsite.

At one point we came across a wild tortoise, which caused the dog to display bursts of  intense curiosity, alternating with abject terror each time the tortoise moved.  Eventually one crawled off into the scrub leaving the other to sniff the ground carefully with one wary eye cocked for any reptilian ambushes.  Strangely, the Russian words for skull and tortoise share the same root, if I remember aright.  I have no idea what they are in Greek but I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t  a link somewhere.  Musing over linguistic coincidences we made our way back for hot showers, scoff and a few more episodes of Game of Thrones.  Living the dream, eh?