Postcard From Meteora, Greece
When I mentioned to the hostess at the reception that we wanted a room with a proper view, I wasn’t prepared for what was about to unfold. It was our second day in Greece and we had just checked into the second hotel in Kalabaka. This was after seven hours of driving from Athens, with a ninety-minute tour of Delphi.
The first hotel in Athens was a total waste of money; a five-star with tiny rooms and uninspiring views of ancient buildings. The only saving grace was the view from the rooftop bar which was only opened from 11.00am to midnight -a time horizon that did not find us at the hotel- making it worthless for us.
We did not have much say over the second hotel as it was simply a resting point slated in a two-day tour package. I didn’t really care if they were going to put us up in a shoe box. All I yearned for was a hot meal and a bed, preferably one that did not squeak. After all, we would be heading to Santorini in a day’s time and that was going to be the highlight of our trip. I had planned the Santorini bit to perfection and nothing was left to chance.
But here we were in Kalabaka, Greece; home of the Meteora Monasteries which we planned on visiting the following day. As she handed over the room pass card, the hostess informed us that we were lucky to have checked in when there were not too many visitors.
“I put you up in best room. You will be in awe.” She said in broken English as she gave off a smile that seemed almost forced. Her diction carried a heavy Mexican accent, reminding me of Salma Hayek. Have you seen her in action in the Hitman’s Bodyguard?
We took the lift to third floor and dragged our trolleys as we searched for room 313. And we found it, looking lonesome at the far end of the corridor. I hadn’t thought much about the “best room” and “you’ll be in awe” promise, and it was only when I drew the curtains that I saw the truth in those words.
A few yards from the wide glass door where we stood was a gigantic awe-inspiring rock with what seemed like an estate meticulously balancing at the top. We stared at it in silence, its austere grandeur overwhelming us.
“How did they do that?” I asked the mister, referring to the baffling construction on top of what seemed like a 600m tall rock.
“I guess we will find out tomorrow.” He said as he tinkered with his camera- like a butcher sharpens his knives before embarking on the big responsibility of skinning a bovine.
The next day we went to visit this colossal wonder. Our driver extraordinaire steered the coach up the hill for about half an hour before we could finally access the mystical monasteries. All the ladies visiting the monastery had been advised to wear frocks, understandably so. I carried a dera which I wore over my t-shirt and pants just before getting in. We all heeded to the request, except two white girls in booty shorts, who were quickly given wrap arounds at the reception by a stone-faced nun. The monastery was a place where man connected with God and such distractions were not welcomed. It would be unfair if the monks were left thinking about thighs when they had pressing items on their prayer lists.
The nun did her business (of verifying our tickets) in silence and whenever she spoke, her barely audible words were dry. Two monks in black habits passed us. Their heads were slightly bowed and they had rosaries in their hands. I wondered why anyone would want to live a life of absolute isolation and deny themselves things like WIFI and running at Karura Forest. I envied the willpower of those monks as I imagined it takes a lot of resolve to maroon oneself in a house on top of a rock.
But when we finally walked past the reception, I found my answer. The prodigious monastery was spectacularly designed with beautiful pathways and gardens full of colourful flowers. And it had the world at its feet. It dwarfed as humans and dwarfed our expectations. It’s something that I am ill-equipped to capture in words because my words will abuse its magnificence.
So, I shall do what any sensible person would do; let these pictures take you there.