Columns Of The Sky

Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
 or what’s a heaven for?
~ Robert Browning

Perched precariously atop the pinnacles of steep sandstone cliffs, resembling lofty aeries of some giant predatory birds, the monasteries of Meteora beggar belief! Built in the 14th century to escape persecution by the invading Ottomans, with no access save baskets and ladders pulled up with the help of manual pulleys, these amazing spiritual retreats bear testament to the indomitable human spirit. Of the 24 monasteries only six remain and have significantly better access today than that used by those intrepid monks.

Despite vehicular access and bridges there is still a considerable climb involved. Agia Triada or the Monastery of the Holy Trinity is the hardest to get to involving rock tunnels and a climb of nearly 140 steps. Not surprisingly this was the dramatic setting for the closing scenes of the Bond movie “For Your Eyes Only”. We only had time for the Great Meteoron Monastery (below)

Visitors are also expected to follow a strict dress code: All shoulders must be covered, men must wear long trousers and women, long skirts. Skirts and scarves may be borrowed from the offices up front. Photography of the gilded icons inside was sadly forbidden.

This gallery of scanned images of the breathtaking, magical monasteries whose name translates from the Greek to “in the heaven above” is my interpretation of Jakes Sunday post – From a Distance

Until next time……..happy travels, no matter where life takes you.

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on instagram.com/theurgetowander

126 thoughts on “Columns Of The Sky

  1. Madhu, ah, majestic Meteora. The highlight of our time there was hiking to a few of the monasteries. Approaching them on foot put their grand scale (and construction feat) in perspective.

  2. These photos are incredible. The story behind them is so interesting. I felt like I just
    sat through a short lection and was left with a want to know more. I went to a private school that was in a monastery. It was not high in the hills. This is a place I would love to see. It looks like it requires a bit of good physical health and stamina. I will just have to wait for you to post others. I love this. Thank you for posting, Madhu. Great …..

    1. Delighted that you enjoyed this Isadora. Yes it does require a certain degree of fitness to reach the top, but they are just as awesome viewed from below. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  3. If it weren’t for your wander lust, I wouldn’t know as much about the world’s architectural riches – thank you!

    1. Yes, I am happy with the way these turned out. I have to find time to digitise the rest of my prints somehow.

  4. “Perched precariously atop the pinnacles of steep sandstone cliffs, resembling lofty aeries of some giant predatory birds, the monasteries of Meteora beggar belief!”

    This is so poetic. Wow!

  5. Do they tell you how the FIRST guys got up there? This is just magnificent, Madhu. How do you take it all in? And you write so beautifully about it too. You are something else, Child. I just shake my old head when I think about you! 🙂 Do be careful in your travels. Your work means a great deal to a lot of folks, you know.

    1. They don’t actually! Can you imagine climbing up those cliffs? And then lifting the others up with a rope? I believe supplies are still sent up in a basket!
      Thank you for the kind words George, cannot ask for more 🙂

  6. Well, Madhu — I got vertigo just looking at your photos of these unbelievable locations. But I’m very grateful that you were there, you did it, you brought back these incredible souvenirs for the rest of us! Thank you —

  7. Hi Madhu .. I often visit this lovely blog. The photos and the details are exciting and educative. No better way to educate geography to students. Thank you.

    1. I know Dilip, I have seen your ‘likes’. I just don’t have enough hours in a day to respond to everyone of them…apologies. Shall try to visit as often as I can 🙂

    1. Thanks Nabadip. We work hard towards achieving our travel dreams, and sacrifice quite a few things to get there, but I do count my blessings 🙂

  8. Stunning. Really…I can’t wait until the country stabilizes so I can finally go visit! My MIL and I were just planning our trip. 🙂

  9. Amazing. Amazing too that you made it up to one of these monastaries. Some days, remoteness like this would be most welcome 🙂 Nice take, as per your norm.

    1. Thank you Lynne 🙂 I read a while ago about the possibility of a retreat with the monks in one of these monasteries. Not able to find any info now. Wouldn’t that be lovely?

  10. OMG, I have so wanted to see these. Thanks for the beautiful photos. I hope to one day see these for myself.

    1. It would be cliched to say you will love it…but you really will 🙂 My images don’t do the place justice.

  11. Wide eye WOW! I always love looking at cliffs, this ones looks so cool. Did you take the 140 steps?

    1. No, not 140, although it felt like it was! We visited the Great Meteoron Monastery with far fewer steps – can’t remember how many 🙂

  12. absolutely wonderful thank you madhu! i remember seeing them from a distance when we were in Greece with our three little boys in 1979 🙂

    1. Thanks Boomie. I agree there is a magic about Greece and all the literature that we have been exposed to have heightened that aura. But do include Turkey if you are a fan of ancient ruins.

  13. These are beautiful Madhu…so glad you posted them. I, sadly, will never see these with my fear of heights…there is no way on earth I could climb up there…hehe

    1. Thank you Jo! I was so glad I had these few prints at least to scan from. I don’t make prints any more, but I am wondering if that is a mistake.

      1. I still drag out the albums from time to time, Madhu. Always meant to scan them all but who has the time. No, we’ve not done prints for a while either.

  14. Madhu, may I sit beside you and share the state of awe your post brings? Yes, the human spirit! Tool by tool. Supply by supply. Is there any reason to doubt that Love, world wide, is possible after seeing this?

    1. I have never doubted that possibility Amy or man’s capability. Just the determination and strength of character that is required for a feat like that. Wish I could feel more optimistic 🙂 Delighted to see you here, thank you for the comment.

  15. These shots are breathtaking! These are the kinds of places you think can’t really exist. I can’t imagine building them. I can barely imagine trekking up there now. Beautiful!

  16. It amazes me that men were able to construct places like this, and like the Great Wall of China back in the day when heavy equipment did not exist. I would guess many lives were lost during the process. Just beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

    1. Me too Carol! Imagine the effort required by the first monks to get up there! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  17. Oh Madhu! These pictures are fabulous! Meteora is on my plan when I go to Greece next week, after I do some of the islands. I hope it’s as magnificent as your photos! 🙂

        1. More than these images 🙂 You will need a week, at the least, for the mainland to fit most of it in. I think Meteora can be done in a LONG daytrip from Athens, including Delphi on the way. The rest – Olympia and Epidaurus are better accessed from Nauphlia in my opinion. Have fun Cathy 🙂

        2. Oh noooo!! I leave Santorini on the 8th and have to leave Athens on the 13th, so that only leaves me 5 1/2 days on the mainland. I guess I’ll do the long day trip from Athens for Delphi and Meteora. About the other, I’m not sure!!

        3. Find out if you can fit the others into another LONG daytrip. You will likely need another vacation by the end of it 😀

        4. Ok, I guess they are worth it then!? I’m sure I will need another vacation after I get back…. Sadly, I’ll have to go back to work… 😦

        5. Actually Olympia is more a case of ‘Imagine the rest’. Rather disappointing after the magnificent sites of Turkey. But we went there before so…. 🙂 Epidaurus would be just like Aspendos, if you have been there. Meteora is a must do.

        6. Thanks so much for the advice, Madhu. I definitely will make it to Meteora. I haven’t been to Aspendos, so maybe will consider Edipdaurus….

  18. A perfect quote to introduce these monastic remains. I am in awe of the beauty of this landscape.You have given me another region to explore, Madhu.

    1. Yes, rather different from the standard ruins in Greece 🙂 Believe me, breathtaking seems an understatement when you stand below one of these!

      1. I don’t think there are words to describe these monasteries…
        Thanks for showing me doors to worlds I know nothing of…
        Keep travelling… and sharing 😉

    1. You should, they are incredible! I lost most of my photos unfortunately and these are scanned from prints I had made for an album.

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