Arranged for my hostel to wake me at 7.30 so I could be at my freshest, baldest and fedest for the nine o’clock bus. I was rudely woken at nine o’clock by a group of German mountain climbers having a loud conversation outside my room. I quickly forgave them their mountain climbers fashion sense (I only had one eye open) and ran for the bus whilst frowning at the camping ground manageress. Who looked suitably guilty.
If I could offer one piece of advice to those of you traveling to Greece it would be don’t catch a cab from the airport to the seaport and head straight to the islands. Instead go to the Meteora first. They are amazing and if I had made the quick transfer back to London that I was after then I would have truly missed out.
The Meteora are a group of 24 massive natural stone columns in the center of Greece. Over the centuries some kooky monks have built a number of monasteries on top of them. One of the Meteora, Agios Stefanos, was even use in the James Bond film, For Your Eyes Only. One hundred years ago the monks used wicker baskets and rope to pull prospective visitors up. One English writer who visited at the turn of the century asked how often they change the rope. The reply was “every time god lets it break”. Thankfully millions of tourists since then have impressed upon the monks the need for something a little more substantial. Stairs. Which considering I am a self proclaimed godless bastard I think is a much better idea.
The monasteries whilst beautiful and immaculately presented are all pretty much of a muchness. They all have a church (no kidding), a museum (well most do) and a souvenir shop. In fact the only thing they are missing that most tourist attractions have is an overpriced coffee shop. They also all have a huge sign out front that clearly states that women in short skirts and men in shorts will not be permitted, which is a bummer because I only have shorts. Luckily they all had a selection of embarrassing baggy pants that you could borrow free of charge that helped underdressed tourists like me rise to the required level of decency. But of course they did. In the olden days the monasteries may have survived on selling wine and salvation but these days it’s strictly tourism only at five hundred Draculars (almost a quid) a pop. And if the dozen or so tourist coaches doing the monastery circuit in the off season are anything to go by then they are doing very nicely indeed.
Apart from the stunningly spectacular views of the other Meteora and monasteries (well worth the admission alone) the churches in each monastery have to be the highlight. Each is intricately decorated with paintings depicting the lives and deaths of the various saints (you can tell they are saints from the golden globes surrounding their heads). There were literally hundreds of pictures of the saints being burnt, cooked (roasted, fried, steamed, stewed and boiled) amputated, speared, stoned, squished with heavy stone slabs, squished in wooden presses, eaten by ferocious animals, drown and decapitated (a particularly common way to whack the annoying saint in your neighborhood) to name a few. And the funny (funny odd, not funny ha ha) thing is looks on the saints faces as the were stabbed, burnt or lay on the ground next to their feet etc. If you had asked me before I saw the paintings I would have guessed that the look would be either ‘ouch ouch ouch that hurts’ or possibly ‘whoopee I get to see my good friend god now’ but they are not that at all. The look that every single saint has on his or her face is something akin to ‘I wonder what time dinner is?’ Go and see for yourself, you will see that I am right.