In an earlier post I briefly introduced the Meteora in Greece.
Located about a 4-hour drive north of Athens, Meteora is a stunningly beautiful area of giant rock pillars. I read somewhere that the word itself means “lofty” or “elevated”, but I can’t seem to verify that. It does seem appropriate to me though.
On the top of these rock cliffs are the last 6 remaining Eastern Orthodox monasteries that were built in this area.
The first inhabitants on these cliffs date back to the 9th century, however the building of monasteries began throughout the 11th and 12th centuries. These 6 remaining monasteries can trace back their origins to between the 1400s and 1600s. They are now a World Heritage Site.
Four of the six facilities are virtually empty now, with only a small handful of monks remaining in residence.
The monasteries are open to the public on various days of the week. It doesn’t appear that all 6 are ever open at the same time, and there is a strict dress-code for access.
Legs, arms, and shoulders must be covered, however in particular, women must wear a long skirt to completely cover the legs … pants are not acceptable.
At the entrance to the facility, a basket containing long sarong-type garments are available for women to cover the legs. I’m actually making them sound a lot more attractive than they really are.
My first reaction when I read about their dress code was ‘their house, their rules’, even though it felt rather archaic and discriminatory towards women. However, that initial reaction changed during our visit to the second largest monastery, Varlaam.
The public isn’t really given access to the monastery at all, which left me questioning why women were only considered ‘acceptable’ if dressed in a long skirt.
Access was restricted to a public area that included a large open-area balcony to admire the view, a tiny chapel that was over-crowded with 6 people in it, a small museum, and the obligatory gift shop.
In my opinion, a big to-do was being made out of nothing, and the entire experience left me questioning the value of visiting the other monasteries that were open that day.
Ultimately I decided not to, although Gilles did visit one more while I waited outside playing with one of the many feral cats we saw. I was told the experience was the same.
Don’t get me wrong. Many others were highly impressed with their visits, I just happened not to be one of them.
I wanted to see beyond the many doors that were private, and it would have been nice if the people working there that day had been even a little bit pleasant.
Do you get the impression I might have been reprimanded while I was there?
Well, you’d be wrong.
I was reprimanded twice – once for my stupid skirt thing, and again for taking a photo in the small museum. In my defence, there were no signs saying photos weren’t allowed.
Do I recommend visiting Meteora? Of course I do! It’s beautiful … just manage your expectations on what you’ll see when you visit a monastery.
This post was inspired by Thursday Doors, a weekly photo feature hosted by Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0.