Lofty Heights

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 case you’re wondering, yes that’s a power line cutting through the entire image. Unfortunately power lines were everywhere and sometimes difficult to avoid.

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.

107 comments

  1. The blogging community brought this monastery post a lot of interesting conversations!
    Joanne, I wonder at any religion which is “exclusive” and in a very inappropriate way, I hope they find out on the other side, God (or Allah, Lord. . .) is a woman who is Inclusive and warmly accepts those of differences with love and compassion. Wouldn’t it be a hoot? 😀
    Anyway, thank you, thank you for still taking professional looking photos which are gorgeous. The wood which was wrought with a kind of brass like appearance (double headed eagle Crest seemed like a knight or governmental symbol to me) made me think of the craftsmanship of all of these features.
    I liked the wooden shutters with designs carved into them. The stained glass squares darker wooden half and full door set were my favorite, Joanne. hugs ❤

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    • I agree there was a lot of interesting discussion … but you are a much kinder person than I am. I’m less the forgiving type. I’d like to believe there is going to be some serious retribution for all the negative karma some people have created on this earth.

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  2. Marvelous post, Joanne. I enjoyed your insights as much as the gorgeous photos. Wow what views!
    I can understand how the sexist dress code wouldn’t sit well. Almost any day of the week (year!) that would have been a huge turn off for me. I hate self-righteousness.
    Wishing you a thriving Thursday. Hugs.

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    • Thanks Teagan. I’m usually pretty tolerant and take this kind of thing in stride. Life is too short to get worked up about something I can simply choose to avoid. That particular day though, I just wasn’t in the mood to play nice 😉

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  3. The monastery on the cliff is beautiful with a gorgeous view. The doors are fabulous! It’s too bad that the experience wasn’t all that it could be for you. I probably would have been in your shoes…getting yelled at for taking photos and not bringing a long skirt along. It’s always interesting to learn of different cultures and places that have those special rules that we don’t have to abide by here.

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    • It’s why we travel! If it was the same everywhere, the world would be a pretty boring place … although it’s bound to happen that some of it is going to be a ‘disappointing’ experience.

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  4. Joanne thank you for the warning about the rules. I do hope to get to Meteora one day and I had no idea. It sounds similar to our time in Turkey where the rules were very strict. As to the photos I definitely would have been like you. If there are no signs how is one it know?

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    • Exactly, Sue. I simply didn’t understand why photos weren’t allowed, why there wasn’t a sign stating that, and why the guy in charge barked unpleasantly at anyone who did.

      As far as destinations go, it’s beautiful … but I definitely didn’t feel welcomed.

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    • I agree, Janis.

      It reminds me of going to Catholic school in the 60s with our uniforms that were measured by the nuns to ensure they weren’t more than 2 inches above the mid-knee … or, as girls, we weren’t allowed to enter the church if our heads weren’t covered.
      Nah – it doesn’t irk me much 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • No female monks 🙂 … but what is interesting is that the one monastery my husband visited by himself was a nunnery (yup – that’s what they called it. I thought the word was not only archaic, but considered derogatory).
      The same dress code rules applied to women. Go figure.

      I think women today are more inclined to call ‘bullshit’ when something doesn’t make sense. I guess that makes us troublemakers 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. “A stunningly beautiful area” is an understatement. Your photos are gorgeous!
    BTW – I don’t know why, but “reprimanded twice” made me giggle…must have brought me back to my primary school days!

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    • I went to a Catholic primary school and was terrified of the nuns who ran the school. They ruled with an iron fist and were more inclined to slap you first and ask questions later.
      For some reason, the entire experience brought back those childhood memories.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The location is impressive! Am not trying to make you feel “better” but about the sarong – one needs a certain figure to make them look good! I look aweful in them, lol. Being reprimanded in a not-so-friendly-way, I was too, in the museum at the Acropolis for using my flash (this was in the nineties and had not yet a digital camera yet), I ignored it because I saw others doing the same – so maybe it’s more of a cultural thing…

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    • Too bad about your experience at the Acropolis Museum. Luckily, I had a different experience and at least they were nice.
      My issue at the Acropolis Museum was that a no photography rule was being inconsistently applied. Everyone was so confused because we were being told different things by different people. Ultimately I just decided not to bother … and then I ended up wandering around bored. It’s funny how wielding a camera seems to focus my attention better 😉

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      • You’re describing the same experience I had. The strangest was the ruins at the Acropolis itself. In all the art history books it was described (and is) one of the 7 world wonders. To me it was very disappointing – they were just ruins, and after two hours we had seen it all, and decided to leave, while we had planned a whole day out for it (we stayed in Athens) so we walked to the center.

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        • I can’t say I was disappointed by the Acropolis, because I was suitably impressed, although I agree, we spent only a couple of hours there before moving on.
          What did blow me away, and still remains the highlight of my trip, were the ruins at Delphi – the size and grandeur of the site, as well as the artifacts on display at the museum (btw, one admission price for both the ruins and the museum). Here we did spend hours and hours.
          Only after we returned to Athens and discovered more of the ruins sites did I get a bigger appreciation for the Acropolis and the size of this ancient city.

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  7. Happily I wasn’t the only one would loved the look of the stone and wood together!

    I’m now in love with Greece and fascinated by her history, her geography, and her wonderful people.

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  8. I’m not at all clear on what is offensive about the legs of either sex. It’s ridiculous!

    One of my friends went to Rome with her family and realised her son would not be allowed into St Peters because he was wearing shorts. So his father went in and when he came out they disappeared into the toilet and the boy came out wearing Dad’s trousers. It was only later that they realised how that could have been misinterpreted…..

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    • Oh dear – yes, that could have been an awkward explanation 😉

      I do acknowledge that some people don’t always exercise good judgement in their dress, but a dress code is not unreasonable. What is unreasonable is when it’s applied in a discriminate way. If men were also required to cover their legs in a long skirt, I wouldn’t have blinked.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I love that door with the colored glass insets! I get in a tizzy when people are rude..especially in “attractions” or shops. My mom knows me well, and can read the change in my face, so when I walked outside of a store in Edinburgh to wait while she finished shopping, she knew a worker had pissed me off. I refuse to spend money in a place once they’ve offended me by being short (or rude) with me. Sorry you had a bad experience, but you managed to get some lovely photos!!

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  10. wel I am glad you got such a beautiful doors (and I do mean beautiful with the color glass and other details in the others- ooo- nice) and in my very humble opinion – delivery is key – and so often some folks (and hate to say it but religious ones) are the meanest and coldest – when love and warmth should be there trademark above all else –

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a great collection of doors. Your photos sure capture the beauty of this country. It’s a shame that rude and thoughtless people cast a cloud over this sightseeing excursion.

    I get that there’s an acceptable way to dress when in a monastery, but it seems to me when that monastery is turned into a tourist attraction, those rules need to bend to accommodate people on vacation.

    Glad you had time to visit with one of the homeless cats! No doubt he just loved the attention. And it gave you a chance to let off some steam. 😄 —-Ginger—-

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    • Thanks Ginger. I was completely onside with an ‘acceptable’ way to dress when in a monastery … but when the access given isn’t really even in the monastery, then is it still appropriate, or just a mountain out of a molehill? That was my bone to pick.

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  12. Someone has her sarong in a tizzy! We actually have a trappist monestary here (Our Lady of the Angels) where the nuns make cheese! They welcome you with a big smile and huge wheel of homemade Gouda. It is pretty good, too! Doors aren’t as nice as what you’ve shared here, though. So if you want friendly, head my way Joanne.

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    • I’m with you …. the thought of living on the top of a cliff sounds so isolating. I’m thinking snow and ice and being house-bound during stormy weather.
      … and apparently they do get snow. We saw old photos of the monasteries in winter snow – although with global climate change, perhaps it’s not such a factor anymore.

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    • It wasn’t so much a bad experience as it was not what I was expecting … which is why I should never have expectations!

      Everywhere we went in Greece, people were so friendly and warm, so it was a bit of a slap to experience the opposite.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Meteora
    The Metéora (literally “middle of the sky”, “suspended in the air” or “in the heavens above” — etymologically related to meteorology) – is a formation of immense monolithic pillars and hills like huge rounded boulders dominate the local area.

    It is also associated with one of the largest and most precipitously built complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece, second in importance only to Mount Athos. The six monasteries are built on natural sandstone rock pillars, at the northwestern edge of the Plain of Thessaly near the Pineios river and Pindus Mountains, in central Greece.

    P.S. I’m with you . . . I’d enjoy the lofty views without putting up with the resident’s “lofty” attitudes. 😀

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  14. How interesting, Joanne. I guess the Eastern Orthodox folks are sticklers and a bit cranky. But what a beautiful place and such gorgeous doors! But where’s the picture of you in the lovely sarong??? That’s what I want to know. 😉

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  15. Don’t get me started on arcane overly strict religious rules about “modesty” rick’nfrick’nfrack’n-grrrr!!
    Instead we’ll just admire the scenery and all of the truly lovely doors you found along the way.
    And thanks for taking one for the team Joanne 😀

    Liked by 1 person

      • No I was raised Anglican but growing up I had enough friends in the Catholic system to witness a lifetime of their brand of holier-than-everyone hypocrisy.
        See, I told you not to get me started 😀

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        • Well, I’m a product of the Catholic school system run by nuns. There is just so much of this religious shit that makes no sense to me.
          Like – why is it that those who claim to be ‘Good, God-fearing, Bible reading, religious people’ are the worst at demonstrating peace, love, and kindness towards their fellow man?

          Yeah, don’t get me started either.

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  16. I love the pictures but missed the one you wearing the sarong. 🙂

    I am with “Theunassuminghiker” Religion is -and has been- always unfriendly to women. In their eyes, it’s still a man’s world.

    “Meteora” μετέωρος meteōros, “raised from the ground, hanging, lofty”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know how on earth women got such a raw deal by the religious types. Most of the time I let it roll off me, but every once in a while, I get my back up.
      I was accepting of the idea of covering my legs with a long sarong, until I realized how limited the experience was. What was the point?!

      … and yes, there’s a good reason why you’ll never see me in a photo sporting the latest in lumpy potato sack couture 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • I almost arrested in the Vatican when I took pictures -back then it was a camera with a flash and film- in the end they let me go, but confiscated the film. I was not allowed in a cathedral in Germany, because I wore a tank top and shorts.
        A group of rebels and I ate our dinners in a hotel foyer in Spain, because the men refused to wear a borrowed tie and jacket.

        The only place I always obeyed by the rules was Asia and Africa. I knew when not to bother with pictures and I covered my head and showed respect, while I “played” by their rules.

        I am very rebellious (surprise) when it comes to rules and regulations. Some I will follow, while I will fight others. It’s not just religion I am afraid. I was born a rebel. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  17. Perhaps when women show off their legs, monks become less interested in their vows. But I understand your ire. I went on a cruise where they had formal dining one evening. I was not allowed entry to this event because I was wearing shorts. On the other hand, women with skirts were allowed in. I gave them a piece of my mind, but apparently legs may bend, but the rules against legs don’t.

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  18. Do I detect a rather grumpy Jo here? Have a glass of wine dear, what’s that? it’s only breakfast time? No matter. 😀
    I recall going on a trip to the temples in Bangkok and making the mistake of wearing cropped trousers (so my ankles were showing), but fortunately they had a tie bottom which when let down was deemed acceptable. Just. I fully respect their dress codes, but baring an ankle is offensive? As for the monasteries, I’d leave them to the monks. But you did get some good doors and that last one is a real doozy – such light!

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Gorgeous doors, Joanne. Like you, I wouldn’t have been impressed by the unfriendliness, the limited access or the dress code. I get the fully covered, but what exactly is wrong with pants?

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    • It was totally worth the visit.

      I know men have to cover their legs and arms too, but I don’t know what happens if they show up in the summer with shorts on. At least if they’re wearing long pants they’re considered appropriately dressed!

      Liked by 1 person

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