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6/1: Day Six, Kalambaka/Meteora to Lamia to Thermopyles to Athens
Wow, typing the trip out this way makes it seem a lot shorter than it felt at the time. I think around this day I couldn't remember much about America (in Athens, things are really odd -- for example, you will see the SAME EXACT AD on three billboards in a row. They even play the same commercial over in a row. Annoying.)
For some reason, people on the bus kept trying to take our seats, which were important to me so I didn't get carsick (they were mostly in the front). So, I snuck on the bus to save them after breakfast, but I had to get Pan to unlock the bus for me. For some reason, he thought that I meant to look for my jacket, and when I didn't come off with one, he thought that I had lost it, so we spent 20 minutes trying to tell each other that no, I wasn't looking for a jacket. He tried to then make me wear the butthead hat again. What a pain. (But a cute Greek pain!)
We drove to Meteora, which is pretty much a bunch of monestaries and convents atop these spectacular hills in the middle of the valley we had been sleeping in. I can't wait to scan those photos to show; they are indescribable. The theory on their development is that the whole area was a HUGE lake, and the rocks formed as a result of that, but then an earthquake caused the lake to drain and left these rocks. I have no idea how anyone built anything on them, because I just can't see it being done, but hey, those monks are good.
Agias Triados (Holy Trinity), atop the super freaky weird Meteora rocks.
Caroline and Alison try not to fall off the cliff.
A view of the town below.
Our first stop, after a photo shoot of Agias Triados (Holy Trinity, a monestary), was Agiou Stefanou (St. Stephan's, a convent). I guess there's some Australian nun who moved there after seeing the place while on vacation, but I never saw or spoke with her (or any of them). In order to enter, you had to be dressed modestly -- shoulders and knees covered. The rental skirts they provided weren't all bad, though. The convent itself was beautiful... I could see why one would want to be a nun. (Men are trouble anyhow.) The view from those high rocks was spectacular (I know, I've said that of all of them, but I can't think of another appropriate word) and the buildings were beautiful. We went inside the chapel to look at the marvelous paintings, which had been somewhat destroyed by invaders, and these extremely ornate wood carvings (someone actually carved the last supper!), which were a present from the nearby town of Metsovo. I enjoyed the peace I felt there.
Agiou Stefanou, the convent ("nunnery" sounds too much like "cannery" to me... as if they ship out little processed nuns...)
Alison wearing the "Butthead" hat in order to pacify Pan's desire to see it on me.
The cathedral inside the convent.
A group shot in the back of the convent, overlooking the valley. Notice the chic rental skirts!
Caroline and Pan. Aww.
Alison, Pan, and Sabrina. When I see this pic, all I can think is, "Damn, I need a haircut!"
Next stop was Grand Meteora. On our way, we stopped at an outcropping of rocks called Psaropetra in order to take a group picture. A group of German tourists stopped by on motorcycles in leather pants, and Alexis, who is fluent in German, asked them to help Sabrina take our photo, so the 47 cameras were gone through quickly. We didn't have a tour guide for Grand Meteora, because the guy the tour group had hired would only take us through one, but it was illegal for Sabrina to lead us, because she didn't have a license and there were licensed tour guides for the monestary. (If she had, she could have been thrown in jail. Yikes!) She did tell us to look out for the room of skulls of the monks, though.
View from Psaropetra.
Caroline and Sabrina. If only they'd back up a few steps...
...taken by these folk! Check out the leather!
A parting glance at the valley.
To get to the monestary, you have to climb through this little tunnel in the side of the mountain and then up these HUGE stairs. Originally, before the stairs, they hoisted people straight up the side of the mountain in nets; I am so glad they didn't do that these days, because I'd fear for my life. Big drop. Yikes.
When I said big drop, I meant BIG DROP.
Once inside the monestary, we wandered around a bit. I didn't like this as much as the convent because it was aimed more at moneymaking, and I didn't feel it to be as beautiful and calm as the other; of course, there were a lot more tourists here than at Agiou Stefanou. We made our way directly towards the skull room, where the stored bones of the monks sit. I felt way sacreligious taking a photo of it, but oh well. The skulls were not labeled, and yet supposedly any monk could tell you who was who. Creepy.
Room of the skulls of the monks. Creepy but cool.
Caroline sneek photos Alison.
Of course, Alison, being the nice sister, lets Caroline pose first.
Ian getting ready to jump.
Mario and Haircut-Needing girl. Aww.
This is where Shayne got kicked out of the monestary...
Shayne Gets Kicked Out Of The Monestary
Instead of a camera, Shayne brought his video camera. He stepped in the side door of this room which held the dining tables, and thus didn't see the sign that said "No Video." Unfortunately, a monk saw him taping, and chased him out of the monestary, speaking angry Greek words. Oops.
Somewhere here we stopped at a little town, and found this bathroom. Irma seems pretty happy with it but Caroline doesn't look nearly as questioning as I do...
After leaving Grand Meteora, we stopped at an icon factory/shop in see how icons are made. (Take wood, carve it. Take linen, cover it with a gluey plaster thing. Paint linen. Glue to wood. Repeat.) I would have felt weird buying anything here, since I didn't know anyone who would appreciate it, so I talked to Pan about how he should stop smoking instead. It was great fun. He tried to make me carry his cigarettes for him for the rest of the trip.
Why does the icon guy look like a hasidic Jew? (The silver bar he's holding keeps his hand steady.)
We played some games on the bus, including this game where you write a prompted sentence on a piece of paper and then pass that one to the next person, in essence making a story. My lines:
Went to that truck stop in Lamia again, had spaghetti bolognese for lunch, Pan asked for an autographed copy of the CD and started calling me "Mama", and then we stopped in Thermopyles to take photos of these statues that commemorated the war between the Spartans and the Persians and the Spartans and the Thespians (damn actors). Sabrina wouldn't let us cross the highway, though, so we did it from afar.
Nike, for the war between the Spartans and Thespians.
King Leonidas, for the war between the Spartans and the Persians.
Dinner was in the Plaka, once we arrived back in Athens. Mario, Shayne, Caroline and I ate at this restaurant where Shayne (sorta due to my suggestion, oops) sent the bread back because we didn't want to pay the mandatory 200 drachs/person charge that Greek restaurants make you pay for bread and service. Suffice it to say that the waiters fully ignored him from that point on, and we had to order his soda for him so he would actually get it. A little duet sat behind us and played music, and we watched the proprietor shoo people who were trying to sell things away from the table. It was nice.
Going to the Plaka took a little while because apparently, only Mario and I knew how to cross the street.
Shayne's too thirsty to smile...
On the way back to the hotel, we took a picture in front of the Arch of Hadrian, built in front of the Temple of Zeus by the people of Athens to celebrate the fact that Hadrian actually got the damn thing built. We then sat and watched people play cards for a bit in the lobby before going to sleep.
Us and the Arch of Hadrian.