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written byFoodTripGo

Meteora: discovering the Monasteries between heaven and earth

Oct 20, 2023 | Greece

A journey into the soul and beauty of Thessaly, among history, nature and traditional cuisine

Greece, with its rich history and breathtaking landscape, offers travelers the unique opportunity to experience a fascinating natural phenomenon: the Meteors. Located in the region of Thessaly, the Meteors are a complex of monasteries situated on impressive pillars of rock, emerging from the ground like celestial columns. These monasteries, some of which date back to the 14th century, offer an extraordinary and unmissable experience for anyone visiting Greece.

The Meteors have a fascinating history dating back to the 11th century. At that time, early hermits sought refuge in the natural cavities of the rocks that rise majestically, an isolated environment ideal for spiritual contemplation and to escape persecution of Christians by the Turks. These cavities were accessible only by ropes or removable ladders, making the place even more inaccessible and secretive.

Around the 14th century, the first monasteries were built on the tops of the rocks, turning The Meteors into important centers of worship. Over time, new monasteries were added until the total number reached 24. Today, unfortunately, only six of them are still active and represent a valuable spiritual heritage.

The term “Meteora” comes from the combination of the Greek words “Meta,” meaning “in the middle,” and “Aer,” meaning “air.” A poetic interpretation of this name brings us to “In the midst of the air“. This expression evokes a secluded place, a refuge that is a step away from the din of the world and the sins of humanity. It is a place that offers a perspective closer to heaven and peace of the senses. What makes The Meteors even more special is their seamless integration with the surrounding landscape, a combination of natural beauty and cultural significance that led to the inclusion of this monastic complex on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1998.

The ascent to these monasteries offers visitors a sense of adventure as they soak in the beauty of the surroundings. The Meteors are surrounded by breathtaking scenery, with rocks and rock formations rising majestically against the blue sky. The panoramic views offer a unique opportunity for those who enjoy landscape photography.

These sacred sites also offer an opportunity to explore Greek spirituality, art, and history, thanks to the well-preserved monasteries and the religious icons and frescoes within them. The Meteors are truly a place of great beauty and cultural significance, capturing the imagination of adventurous and cultural travelers seeking one-of-a-kind experiences.

The typical dishes of Thessaly

Tsipouro

Among the typical products of the Meteor region, in addition to the great must-have classics of Greek cuisine, is tsipouro, a traditional distillate known for its strong alcohol content and intense flavor, often flavored with herbs and spices. Tsipouro has deep roots in Greek culture, where it has been produced for centuries. It is believed to have originated during the Ottoman Empire, when peasants began distilling grape residues to make an alcoholic beverage. Over time, tsipouro production became an artisanal tradition.

Trakanà and takìni

Trakana is a mixture of wheat flour and fresh milk and is the base for a nutritious and delicious soup, ideal especially for young children. Takìni, a sesame cream rich in vitamins and nutrients, can be customized with honey, cocoa or citrus, offering exceptional energy support. These traditional dishes, are typical of Thessaly, the breadbasket of Greece.

Batsos , Cherries and goat yogurt

The Meteor region, besides being well cultivated, is rich in livestock farms, especially goats. Tasty white cheeses such as Batsos are produced here. Thessaly cherries are famous for their juiciness and crunchiness.

Greek goat yogurt is a distinctive dairy product known for its creaminess and rich flavor. Made by fermenting goat’s milk, this yogurt is particularly prized for its thick and velvety texture, making it ideal for consumption on its own or as an ingredient in sweet or savory dishes, along with honey, dried or fresh fruit.

Meteora Monasteries to Visit

  • Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapofsas
  • Monastery of Roussanou
  • Varlaam Monastery
  • Great Meteora Monastery
  • Monastery of Aghia Triada
  • St. Stephen’s Monastery

St. Nicholas Anapofsas Monastery, Roussanou Monastery, Varlaam Monastery

Il Monastero di San Nicholas is located near the picturesque village of Kastraki, situated just two kilometers away. Inside the monastery, visitors can admire fine works of art, including frescoes created by the famous Cretan painter Theophanes Strelizas.

Roussanou Monastery is one of the most easily accessible monasteries, thanks to a small wooden bridge that connects it to the outside world. Along with its main church, it boasts beautiful stained glass windows and two extraordinary fresco cycles.

Varlaam Monastery, built way back in the 1500s, is the second largest monastery in the Meteors. Its history is fascinating, and it is here that visitors can admire one of the ropes used until the 1930s to supply the monastery and enable hermits to get there. But perhaps even more fascinating are the late Byzantine frescoes by artist Frangos Kastellanos, which decorate the walls of the interior. In addition, inside the monastery, a small museum holds historical and religious treasures that tell the story of the place.

Monastery of the Great Meteora, Monastery of Aghia Triada, Monastery of St. Stephen

On the summit of an imposing rock that rises to an altitude of 613 meters, the Monastery of the Great Meteor stands majestically. This monastery is the largest and busiest in the Meteor complex.

One of the main attractions of the Great Meteora Monastery are the frescoes in the katholikon, the main church. These frescoes depict the persecutions suffered by Christians at the hands of the Romans and are outstanding examples of artistic drama. This monastery is a place of extraordinary historical and spiritual importance, set in the breathtaking beauty of the Meteors.

Although the Holy Trinity Monastery is known to be the most challenging to reach, it offers an extraordinary reward to those willing to overcome the arduous journey. To get there, one must face the descent from a vertical rock followed by a steep climb of 150 steps, but the effort is amply repaid by the beauty and evocative atmosphere of this place.

Its remote and scenic location served as the backdrop for James Bond’s adventures in 1981, and the panoramic views from here are absolutely breathtaking. The interior of the monastery does not disappoint at all, with a 17th-century church adorned with frescoes that tell the story and spirituality of the place. St. Stephen’s Monastery is located just 1.5 kilometers from Agia Triada and is notable for its relative ease of access, thanks to a pretty little bridge that connects it directly to the main road.

The Meteors: An Extraordinary Encounter between Heaven and Earth

The Meteors represent a treasure trove of natural beauty and sacred spirit. These monasteries overlooking pillars of rock bear witness to a history thousands of years old, combining spirituality with the grandeur of nature. Visiting these wonders offers a unique experience amidst amazing frescoes and breathtaking views in the uniqueness of these extraordinary natural conformations. The rich culinary culture of Thessaly, with delicacies such as tsipouro, trakana, takìni, cherries, and goat yogurt, adds flavor to the visit. Each monastery tells a unique story that captures the imagination of visitors, creating a special link between heaven and earth.

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