Section of a wall painting at a monastery in
"How far to the top?" he called out.
He was pounding the bitumen, sweat pouring off his body as he
jogged up the hill. Jen and I were sitting under the canopy of a
huge tree enjoying some shade from the mid-afternoon heat.
"Maybe three kilometres" I replied. "Why don't
you have a break?"
"Got something to prove" he gasped as he pounded on
past the shade and up the winding road.
Maybe those that first came here also had something to prove.
Perhaps through their denial of homely life, company and
comforts, they found the real meaning of life. Was there a time
when a belief and faith in a holy being was sustenance
It could have been the ideal place to find a space where you
could be away from it all. On top of the giant pillars of rock,
company and comfort would be hard to find, denial would come easy
and "God" would reveal and forgive.
First they came as individuals but the sanctuary attracted more
and their communities swelled and the monasteries were built,
spartan, removed (and protected) from the people (and other
temptations) as they perched atop the rocks that stretched
We had started out early that morning
from Kalambaka, caught the local bus which travelled through
Kastraki and on and up to the Great Meteora – the monastery
that has given its name to the region.
We expected quiet, reverence and peace - but found the lay
manning the turnstiles and lines of tourist coaches belching
their diesel fumes (have the faithful discovered something?).
It was still interesting.
And we did find a few quiet spots
– the storeroom had some old wagon wheels, wooden barrels
and clay pots, and someone had encouraged one of God's
spiders to spin a web to make it look like this was quiet place -
a place for contemplation and reflection.
But above, the pilgrims fawned over the display cased icons, the
cash registers were ringing and those that took photos had their
cameras ripped from their grasp and the film exposed (there are
plenty of postcards for sale and God will smile as you shell out
your euros). Those that come in the diesel haze, come to look.
They come to climb the 359 steps that zig zag up the face of the
shaft of stone to the door of the Great Meteora. They come to
look at the glass-encased icons, jewelry and the trinkets of
those that came here first, and then they retreat to the
air-conditioning and their aisled seating and their tour
spectacular, the way the monasteries perched on the tops of the
shafts of rock that marched out towards the valley
But there had to
be more here than we found in the price-tagged shelves of the
Great Meteora. There had to be something that brought the first
ones here. What did bring them to this place.........?
Our decision to
walk back to Kalambaka , down through the shafts of rock, helped
us find it. We sat in the shade of our tree next to the bitumen
strip, and we experienced a gentle feeling of wonder, as we
turned our gaze to the rocks that stretched up towards the great
vastness of the sky above as they marched out into the plain
towards those who dared to barcode faith.
We were away from the sound of the cash registers, and the
glassed displays. The jogger who was proving something was
disappearing into the distance ......
......and there was peace - a feeling that perhaps there is a
higher being who cares and looks over us.
Maybe this place
was created to help us see the value of simple pleasures, what is
good in life; and perhaps every now and again we need to make the
effort, by denying the easy way, to understand and appreciate the
opportunities we enjoy.