Pérama to Metéora – Day 9

Monday 16th September

The alarm woke me up at 7.30 but I refused to believe it was this time as it was dark and foggy, yes I said foggy, outside. So foggy, I couldn’t see the huge looking mountains that I knew were directly behind our hotel.

So I went back to bed and then heard an all too familiar sound that I also refused to believe – rain! And a lot of it.

We set off to the Pérama caves, and unlike most major tourist sites we have visited, they had a massive sign pointing to where they are. In fact the sign stretches over the street, with the words “Stop Cave”. You can’t miss it.

There were three staff outside the cave who looked thoroughly miserable at our arrival at 9.20am on this wet Monday morning. After a 20 minute wait, our guide, a student, took us on our own exclusive tour as no one else turned up. She soon livened up and was horrified that we were English as she thought her English was bad, but it certainly wasn’t. The majority of tourists she takes around are Russian who can’t understand a word of English, so it usually doesn’t matter.

This cave was impressive, I’ve been to quite a few in the UK and this beats them all. There’s less health and safety, you don’t have to wear silly helmets and you get up close to the stalagmites and stalactites. The amount of these things and the variety of shapes was nothing like I have seen before. We couldn’t use flash photography in the caves, so ISO was up to the top. The tour lasted 45 minutes and we ended up at the other side of a hill and followed a path back to the town where most things are shut on a Monday, including the museum that shows stuff from the cave.

Apparently there are 1000 year old bear bones in there that were found in the cave. So we headed out of Pérama, stopping to take a few photos of the cloudy mountains from the very secluded road.

We headed to Métsovo because my guidebook said we should. Apparently it’s unique among Greek Mountain villages and inhabited by Vlach Shepherds who hang out in shelters… you read this stuff in guide books but don’t actually think it will happen. But sure enough, loads of these old guys with shepherd’s crooks were hanging out in groups in what looked like wooden bus shelters around the main cobbled square. Were they teenage and wearing hoodies, the police would have moved them on. They didn’t appear to be doing anything apart from a small bit of chat. It was raining too because the mountain was in a cloud, so not a nice day to be out.

We were going to have lunch there but it was so expensive and not a lot of choice. We got in the car and then the rain came down so hard, it was impossible to see. Glyn drove a while and I was glad of this.

We headed towards Kastraki, which is at the base of the rocks where the Metéora Monasteries are. At this point I drove for a while along the mountain roads. A few years ago, if I’d driven on foreign, winding, steep, narrow mountain roads in thick fog on the wrong side of the road with the gears on the other side, I would have totally crapped myself. I can’t believe I wasn’t even scared although rather cautious!

We got to Metéora around 2.30pm and went for the biggest Monastery as it’s shut tomorrow. Megálo Metéoro or the Great Meteoron was full of tourists, though thankfully many of the coaches were pulling away as we arrived. From outside of it and it’s balcony, you do get spectacular views of the vertical rock mountains and some of the other monasteries.

Now being religious, you’re going to get your dose of misogyny, so yes, women have to cover up but men don’t. And it’s nothing to do with exposed skin, the monks (who you don’t see anyway) just don’t like women to wear trousers. ‘No shorts, no slacks, no pantaloons’, it said on the sign. I had trousers down to mid calf but was given a wrap-around skirt that was shorter than the trousers to wear. I saw other women with full length jeans with these ridiculous skirts over the jeans, whilst other women who had come in their own knee length skirts and dresses did not have to wear them, but were exposing skin below the knee. But men could wear shorts. Oh and this rule applies in the nunnery too, so it’s not about the poor monks not being able to handle seeing the shape of women’s legs, nuns can’t handle it too, or maybe its because convents are ultimately ruled by patriarchal religious types?

It was €3 to get in but to be honest, the monasteries are more impressive to look at from the outside. The best bits inside are all ‘no photos, no videos’ and are mainly paintings with a few old costumes. They do have lots of intricate gold work and some colourful and expensive looking paintings, mostly of saints being martyred or men with insanely huge moustaches.

It didn’t take long to get around this biggest of monasteries, so we headed to Moni Agias Varvaras Rousanou as it’s the only monastery open until 6pm and it was after 4.30. This had a wooden bridge up to it and was run by nuns, but yes, I still had to wear a silly skirt. It wasn’t worth the €3 to get in as there was about 3 things to see. The best bit was a good view of other monasteries across the valley. It did have a tiny chapel with rich paintings and lots of gold that took a few minutes to look at.

We went up a lot of steps outside the monastery where lots of other tourists had beaten us to a good view point of the valley and as we walked back down, a few bells chimed which was authentic. We then went back into Kastraki to find somewhere to stay. The first hotel we looked at said there was no room and to be honest I was glad because the amount of icons and religious stuff plastered over the walls was a bit unnerving. So we went down the street to the Sydney Hotel that was a lot friendlier, was just €35 and for the first time in days has wifi!!!!

After a meal at the Tarvena Paradisos, Glyn drove us up to the great view point again to get some sunset photos over the monasteries but that stupid sun set in the wrong place!

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About the author

Having only one cat, Claire is currently failing at being a mad cat lady, but she does have a mad cat, Bod. When Claire isn’t chasing cats and other animals with her camera, she works as a Graphic Design Manager.

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