Meteora

 
From Pelio we drive northwards skirting Mt Olympus to visit Vergina where the Royal tomb of Phillip 11  is situated.
Alexander the Great who was the son of this Monarch buried his assassinated father in great splendour.
The museum is housed within the Royal tumulus and there are some fine gold and silver burial ware.
Unfortunately we were not allowed to photograph these. Please look on Google to see the images of this finery especially the golden wreaths.
The rest of the site is closed at the moment it says for restoration but the locals say it has been like this for years due to lack of funding, such a shame for such a prestigious site.
 
Mt Olympus.
 
 
Muddy river on route.
 
 
From Vergina we continue eastwards to Meteora and Camping Vrachos at Kastraki, a nice site within easy distance of all the Monasteries and geological site in this area.
The Monasteries of Meteora are astounding as they perch precariously on top of sandstone stacks, all within an area of approximately 10km radius.
As we are here for a few days we decide not to try to visit them all in one day. There are many Monasteries and ruins here but there are only six that are open to the public.
If you intend to visit these Holy places you will need to wear suitable clothing, ie. long skirts and covered shoulders for the ladies and trousers and covered shoulders  for men.
Our first Monastery is Agios Nikolaos Anapafsas.
 

 
Each of the Monasteries normally have a steep ascent so it is best to get there early in the morning before the sun and the bus parties arrive.
 
As the road climbs we pass some self punishment cells set in the natural caves in the sandstone cliffs.
They are basically wooden platforms where the monks would seclude themselves as a form of penance.
 
 
 
Moving up the road we arrive at Roussanou which is now a Nunnery dedicated to St Barbara.
The Monasteries you can see today mostly date from around the 15th century and are marvels of engineering and daring, all in pursuit of their faith.
Up until 1897 the only way up to this Monastery was by rope ladder. This one was founded in 1288 by two Monks.
 





 
The last visit for today is to the Monastery of Varlaam which is the second biggest in the area.
As you will have noticed there are few shots of the interiors as photography is not allowed in all the church areas.
All the churches full of beautiful frescos and furnishings mostly from the 16th century.
Once again check it out on Google.
 



 
This shows Sarah with the winding gear for the original net lift.
There are some great photographs of the Priests being hauled up in this basket.
These days all the working Monasteries appear to have modern cable cars.
 
 
This is the view of Varlaam from the largest Monastery , the Great Meeteoro.
 
 
Even the cat was impressed.
 
 
Day two and off to Agios Stefanos.
This Monastery was very busy with tourists as it is the easiest to access and is closest to the town of Kalambaka.
The views from the balconies show the town at the base of the cliffs and the Pindos mountains in the background.
 



 
 
Just a few shots of the amazing rock formations in the area.
 

 
In the afternoon we go back to the village of Kastraki and try to find the foot path to the Adrachti Stack.
As usual Sarah gift of finding the impossible checks out and we drive up an uncertain lane to the start of the walk as Rob refused to walk from the village playing the old man card.
 


 
The walk took us up through the woods and we arrived at the stack which Rob had a go at climbing but did not get very far as you can see.
 
 
This is a view from the lane of one of the private monasteries called Agios Nikolaios Bantovas
 
 
Our third day we have a very early start and are waiting outside the gates of the Great Meteoro before it opens.
This is the largest and earliest of the Monasteries and is set on a rock rising to 613 meters.
The walk up takes us through two man made tunnels in the rock face and we arrive just ahead of the first coach party.
The church here is a good example of Byzantine architecture and the murals date from the 15th century.
There are three museums on the site within the Monastery, one housing examples from the library and has some impressive scrolls from the 12th century.
Another museum is dedicated to the history of the area during its numerous conflicts over the years.
There are some well preserved costumes and weaponry from the period.
The third is full of religious icons and paraphernalia throughout the generations.
 




 
We finish the day with a trip into Kalambaka to visit the Natural History and Mushroom Museum which was surprising in its diversity and friendliness.
A great display of birds of the world and then a vast display of mushrooms from the edible to the deadly.
Think I will stick to buying mine from the supermarket.
All in all this area has much to offer and is well worth a visit on anyone's itinerary. 
 


Northern Pelio

Today we take a tour of the mountain villages on the west coast.
We climb up through wooded hillsides .
 

 
Stopping off at Vizitsa to walk around this preserved village settlement.
 
 
Many of the Mansion houses have been restored and have an elegant style.
 
 
They all have lovely stone roofs and decorated facades with shuttered windows.
Being on a hillside the steep cobbled cart tracks link the mansions.
 


 
The next village is Pinakates.
 


 
Climbing ever higher up the hillside we get some stunning views of the gulf.
 

 
We arrive at Agios Georgios with its stone built church and also a large monastery above.
 


 
To reach our next village we have to drive down into Agria and then climb up another valley to reach Drakia.
 
 
Drakia has a very pretty square which is dominated by a huge old Plane tree said to be over four hundred years old, or four thousand depending on the translation from the Greek.
 
 
The road from the village climbs steeply and we are soon into Beech trees which cover the slopes of Mt Pelio.
 
 
From Hania we turn left to visit another traditional settlement called Makrinitsa which overlooks the harbour town of Volos which was the home of Jason of Argonaut fame.
 
 
This delightful village is a little touristy but it is pleasant that there are no cars allowed.
 


 
The church of Agios Ioannis is in the square.
 


 
Desperately looking for a café which was open we descended three flights of stairs to an Hotel reception which turned out to be open.
We had a very nice coffee and cake break.
 
 
The following day we head east to discover the beaches on the Aegean side of the peninsular.
 


 
On this side the slopes run straight down into the sea and the roads are very convoluted.
The area seems to be a popular tourist destination and the first beach we arrive at is Papa Nero.
The temperature is climbing and the sea beckons, even Rob managed a swim at last.
 
 
Round the corner is the pretty resort of Agios Ioannis with a shingle beach and crystal clear water, as were all the beaches round here.
 
 
Heading away from the coast we pass through the small village of Kissos.
 

 
And head on up to the Pelion ski resort which we were told only had a one month season usually. This winter was exceptional and they were open for three months.
 
 
From here we re-joined the road down to Drakia passing Beekeeping heaven. This seems to be the main product of this area with hives at every turn.