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Postcard from Meteora on TravelSnapz

icon in Meteora

Section of a wall painting at a monastery in Meteora.

"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 enough?

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 upwards.

This was Meteora.

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 chaperone.

It was spectacular, the way the monasteries perched on the tops of the shafts of rock that marched out towards the valley below.

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.

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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.

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