Day 11 - Meteora

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I slept in. Slept til 9:30. Yes, that's sleeping in for me. It felt amazing.

Decided to hit up a few monasteries. Grabbed some water, headed out.

So you know when you're packing for vacation and you don't know what kinds of clothes to bring? Can't be just me with that problem. But inevitably, I end up overpacking. Even though all of my belongings fit into a backpack, I brought too many things. I did not foresee that for 12 days in a row, I'd be wearing the same pair of jean shorts. But that's how it goes.

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I drive up the hill and decide to just stop at whichever monastery I reach first. First up was actually a nunnery. I park, walk up to the sign displaying the hours and also written is, "Please dress modestly." Um. Jean shorts. Nothing less modest than jean shorts and a tank top. I wondered just how serious they were about this. I mean, I was already there. Maybe I could play the dumb-American card? So I climbed the steps. I passed a literal busload of women, all wearing full length skirts and tops with their shoulders covered. Damn it. I kept climbing just the same. Maybe I could just quickly pop in, pop out?

I got to the top. And there was yet another sign demonstrating modesty. It showed a woman in a full length dress with her shoulders covered. This is not what I was wearing, not even a little bit. So, out of respect, I did not go into the nunnery. Instead, I took a few pictures and headed back to my hotel for a costume change. I did bring one skirt with me. But it hits at about the knee. So I decided full length jeans was the best bet. Wrong again.

Got to the next monastery. Skirts were required for women. I paid for my ticket and grabbed a skirt out of a giant pile they have waiting for people like me.

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Photography is not allowed within the chapel part of the monasteries. But below are a couple examples to give you an idea of what it was like. The walls are covered floor to ceiling with frescoes. Deep blues, reds, yellow, gold. The ceilings are domed and beautiful wooden doors and seats have been intricately carved. My favorite part was the lighting. Metal chandeliers hang from the ceilings... sometimes with dragons on them? The room smells of incense and Greeks kiss placards and genuflect. I sat for a while in one of the chapels, taking it all in. In my rented skirt.

Okay. I have thoughts and feelings about the whole skirt thing. I get it. And I respect it as a cultural whatever. But, let's move on, folks. The lord has seen me naked. While Daisy Dukes are not appropriate in most of life, forgive me father, sometimes I'm inappropriate. Also, while it showed that men should be wearing full length pants, many of them were wearing shorts. Double standards. It's not like they stopped with a sign that said, "Skirts and pants." No, just skirts.

I went to another monastery and they gave me a shawl to put on my shoulders. Heaven forbid the lord see my friggin shoulders. "You must be careful of the shoulders," the man said. Must I?

Yes, customs are customs. But I don't always like or agree with them. So after one failed nunnery and two skirt-filled monasteries, I called it a day and went back for some more grilled feta.

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Jesus!

Jesus!

Prior to the 1920s when convenient stairs were built for easy access, monks and nuns used rope ladders to access the monasteries. Scary as all shit. Additionally, how do you think they managed to get things up and down? They have a net. And as this is still the best way to lift things up and drop back down, this is still in used today.

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View from hotel room on a rainy afternoon.

View from hotel room on a rainy afternoon.

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Grilled feta, grilled chicken and Mythos, my fav.

Grilled feta, grilled chicken and Mythos, my fav.

After feasting again at the same restaurant with delicious feta, I headed back to the hotel and enjoyed a rainy afternoon inside. Luckily the rain cleared up in time for another sunset. When I got to my rock, I was the only one there for about 20 minutes. I enjoyed the solitude with birds chirping and a gentle breeze blowing.

On top of the world.

On top of the world.

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I pulled over at one point to take a picture of the rocks. And I was not in a designated parking zone. They take that seriously because you're driving on winding roads with blind corners. So while I'm outside of my car snapping a few shots, I hear a car pull up. When I look over to see who it is, low and behold, it's the cops. Um, I did not have my international driver's license with me at the time, so I panicked. I waved nervously, and got back in my car and went on my way. They did not stop me. Phew.

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Skip to later. I'd purchased a couple of Mythos to enjoy while I watched the sunset. After the sun set, I was taking my empties back to the car to make my way back to the hotel for the night. And then I see a cop car blocking my black rental in. UGH! Luckily they were just giving another guy a ticket, but I hung back while they finished up and just hoped that they weren't making a routine stop checking everyone's credentials. 

Short story short, I never had a run-in with the police, thankfully.

Day 10 - Meteora

I left Delphi around 9:30am and set out for Meteora.

Goats outside of Delphi, complete with bells. I kind of wigged out.

Goats outside of Delphi, complete with bells. I kind of wigged out.

There's something sad about moving on from one place to the next. The show must go on, but I have a sinking feeling each time I leave a place that that's the last time I'll ever be there. Will I make a trip back? I don't know. There's so much of the world to see and if I were to go back, would it even be the same? Would what drew me to that place still exist? Or would I rather be filled with disappointment and nostalgia. There's also that fact that the more you relive a memory, the more you destroy its originality from your brain.

I didn't know this was a possible turn the road could take, but it did.

I didn't know this was a possible turn the road could take, but it did.

When I left Athens, right before I got on the train (forgive me if I'm repeating myself, I don't remember what I've said and what I've only thought), the last person I saw was the man at the hardware store who sold me the padlock for the hostel. It was early morning and he was already open for business. You don't see repeats of people when you're on a whirlwind vacation like this, so to see someone that was familiar meant a lot to me.

The drive took maybe three hours? I don't really recall. But it was a perfect drive. Coming out of the mountains, driving along what I would call prairie, it felt like driving in Colorado, just north of Denver with the foothills in the background. Except for the fact that there were mountains all around.

And have I mentioned the air? The air in the mountains is some of the sweetest air I've ever breathed. Aside from being far from pollution, there are flowering trees along the side of the road that infuse the air even as you drive through.

Arriving in Meteora was emotional. I actually even just got goosebumps thinking about it. I had goosebumps consistently for maybe 45 minutes. I cannot believe such a place exists. Dr. Suess was involved, surely.

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I just kept pulling the car over to take pictures. And while I am not a religious person, this is a religious place. And I've never said, "Jesus," in succession so much in my life. There currently remain six monasteries, but I overheard someone say there used to be 22 or 26 or something to that affect. These monasteries were built in the 11th century, Greek Orthodox. Prior to that, for thousands and thousands of years (we're talking 5k to 50k years ago), people had been inhabiting caves in Meteora. People have just always been bonkers about it and it's clear to see why.

My favorite spot was a rock overlook (from where most of my pictures were taken). Depending on the time of day, it would either be packed with tourists and photographers, or it would be just me, left alone to contemplate life.

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Checked into my hotel. Took a walk about the town to find food. And find food, I did.

Probably my favorite dish of the trip was, "Feta cheese on the grill." It arrived in aluminum foil. Just a slab of feta, olive oil, slice of tomato, sliced peppers and oregano. Greece serves bread with every meal (LOVE) and so I sat myself down, enjoyed some demi-sweet wine, cheese and let the goosebumps subside.

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The grill for the restaurant was open as you pass by on the street. I kept walking by, back and forth, and saying hello to the grill master. He was a sweet man. Lived in Brooklyn for years and he gave me an apple.

I went back to my hotel and passed out. Late night, lots of driving and a stomach full of cheese will do that to you. I did set my alarm though to make sure I'd be up in time for sunset. The sun's been setting around 8:30pm here. I got up, drove back up the hill and found a rock. Not my rock, but a good enough rock. The light was golden.

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