Friday 7. February 2020
Day Trip to the Meteora
I slept late this morning – recovering from all the travelling on Wednesday and Thursday. For breakfast this morning I walked to a bakery nearby and had μπουγάτσα – bougatsa (filo pastry pie filled with custard, with sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on top): My favourite!
I started off by walking down towards the lake. The Sun was shining and while I set off in my coat it was actually quite warm – no need for my coat in the sunshine.
The view across the lake to snow topped mountains in the distance was quite impressive. A reminder that it is still winter even though the Sun has made an appearance.
I had originally planned to get the boat over to the island but as time was getting on and I wanted to get to the Meteora at a decent time I decided I’d do that tomorrow instead.
I returned to the hotel and got the car out of the garage, ready for my journey to the Meteora. Nowhere near as much driving as yesterday though – Just under 2hrs drive away so I’d be able to get there without stopping.
The Meteora is the name of a rock formation in central Greece (in the Thessaly region) upon which a complex of monasteries were built. Of the original 24, there are now 6 which are open all year round. In the Greek Orthodox church, the Meteora Monasteries are second only in importance to those on Mount Athos.
This time of year is actually quite a good year to visit. After the Acropolis in Athens the Meteora is the second most visited place in Mainland Greece…
There are days with traffic jams occurring outside the most popular monasteries because of the big coaches and the many cars that will arrive from nearby places to do a day trip at Meteora monasteries. During those days you won’t be able to find a parking space anywhere near the monasteries and most likely you might end up stuck in the traffic. That’s why we highly recommend if you can avoid taking your car for the visit then, by all means, please do so! Choose either to join a local tour, take the public bus, a taxi, a wonderful bike tour or walkVisit Meteora
In February though – perfect! Loads of parking outside each monastery, not too many visitors although they were there… I kept seeing the same 3 or 4 cars every time I stopped.
I had good weather today too, always a plus. 13 degrees according to my car, clear blue skies and bright sunshine, a light breeze.
It’s a €3 entrance fee for each monastery and they’re all open all year round. In Greek law the Meteora is a designated Holy Place so it is worth remembering that there is a strict dress code for entering the monasteries – for men: no sleeveless shirts, no shorts. For women: long skirts, and shoulders must be covered at all times. Long skirts for the women are provided. Under 12s don’t have to comply with the dress code. Also: Taking photos inside the monasteries is forbidden.
As I paid my entrance fee at one of the monasteries one of the monks asked me ‘Ελληνάς είσαι;’ (Are you Greek?): I do quite enjoy that the Greeks can’t figure out where I’m from!!
Not all the monasteries were open as I arrived a little too late but that wasn’t too much of a problem. To have the best chance of getting in to them all it really needs a good couple of days here anyway – but I saw enough to have made the trip worthwhile. The last time I was here was in 2014 when I came up from Athens on the train to stay the night while on the way to Thessaloniki – Back then I didn’t have a car to get around in, so I only saw 1 monastery. This time I saw a decent amount!
After visiting monasteries I headed in to Καλαμπάκα – Kalambaka – the main town in the area – and had a hot chocolate before I got on the road to drive back to Ioannina.
From Kalambaka to the A2 (Egnatia Highway) it is a good half hour, possibly even 45 min drive, on single carriageway twisty, winding roads (I’ve now got the Beatles song “The Long and Winding Road” playing in my head), but with little traffic that wasn’t a problem. I set off in bright sunshine and it was dark by the time I made it back to the motorway – 30 miles of motorway then 7km from the motorway in to the city centre.
This evening I went for a pizza and enjoyed a Basil Pesto pizza… Very good – Freshly made on site too (I watched them make it through the window!) The temperature does drop at night. I was wandering around in a t-shirt during the day, and driving with the air con on. After dark the jumper, coat and scarf come out as the temperature drops (-3 tonight according to the TV weather forecast); the header gets switched on in the car, and overhead electronic signs on the motorway warned of low temperatures and the possibility of ice.
Moving on to Kastoria tomorrow and I’ve just seen the weather forecast. It will be cold!