Posts tagged with 'Greece'

Thessaloniki

By Ross in Travel on Sun 29 June 2014. Tags: Greece

Luckily I did not have to get up too early to leave Meteora, and I got to the Kalambaka train station in plenty of time to catch the 0819 train to Thessaloniki:

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It was a direct train to Thessaloniki, and in order for this to work, the train reversed directions in Paleofarsalos. This required removing the engine from the front of the train and attaching a new engine to the other end of the train. The cars of the train were also misnumbered (the numbering was not even in reverse order, which would be understandable given the direction change; there were two cars labeled #2), so my ticket for car #4 landed me in the first class car. This was great until the six-seat compartment filled with people who reeked of cigarette smoke.

When I got to Thessaloniki, I bought a ticket for Skopje, Macedonia, which the station attendant wrote out by hand:

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I had about a four hour layover, so I decided to explore as much of the city as I could in the allotted time.

My first stop was the Rotunda of Galerius, commissioned by the Roman emperor Galerius at the beginning of the fourth century.

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Like every other ancient building I have seen on this trip, it is undergoing extensive renovation:

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Here are some pictures of the dome of the Rotunda:

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And here are some closeups of its mosaics:

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Nearby the Rotunda is the Arch of Galerius:

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Next, I walked down to the water, where I saw the White Tower, which was constructed by the Ottomans to guard the port of Thessaloniki (it replaced an earlier Byzantine tower).

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I like this small boat with a little tent on top of it.

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As I walked back towards the train station, here are some photos I took of the city.

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Thessaloniki is building a metro system. From the map I saw, they are starting with a single line. Here are some photos of metro-related construction:

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More Monasteries

By Ross in Travel on Sat 28 June 2014. Tags: Greece, churches

After leaving Agia Trias, I set out to hike around the area and explore some other monasteries.

Here is the monastery of Agios Stefanos (St. Stephen). A seemingly endless line of tour buses was pulling up to the monastery, so I elected to enjoy it from a distance:

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Next, I stopped at Rousanu, which is a nunnery. I overheard from one of the tour guides that it has the most residents of any of the Meteora monasteries.

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It has a beautiful garden.

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It also has a barnacle porch. Note the ladder on the wall below the porch.

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This is a nice spot to relax and enjoy the view.

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Here is one fresco from the chapel depicting the martyrdom of various saints, complete with detached heads and everything.

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Finally, a photo of Rousanu in the distance, with the rock cliffs of Meteora as a backdrop.

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The next stop on the monastery tour was Varlaam.

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Here I am outside the monastery (the one in the background is the monastery of Grand Meteoron).

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In the monastery, there is a really huge barrel.

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You can see the traditional and modern goods delivery systems side by side. Here is the traditional winch and net:

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And here is the modern version. The net has been replaced by a metal box, which you can see on the valley floor. The metal cart is also on wheels, and can move back and forth on a short set of rails.

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On my way out, I met two canine caretakers:

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And one feline.

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Finally, I visited the largest of the monasteries, the monastery of Great Meteoron.

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The path up the the monastery involves many sets of stairs, and on one occasion passes through a narrow tunnel. I got a nice view of Varlaam through the tunnel.

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It has for the most part been turned into a museum, and there are exhibits on Greek history and folklife, liturgical objects, and manuscripts. More interesting than these were the rooms which were set up the way they would have been in the nineteenth century.

This is the storeroom:

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With closeups of wine casks, barrels, and presses:

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Here is the ossuary.

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And the kitchen. You can see the food preparation area and the cookpot:

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Here is the balcony outside the kitchen:

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I like these photos taken through the balcony railing and supports.

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After leaving Great Meteora, I still had several hours of daylight left, so I decided to take quick hike down one of the numerous trails in the area. I stumbled across this mysterious staue (the Greek inscription was mostly eroded).

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I also found an abandoned monastery.

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I walked up the stairs leading up to it, but the door was barred.


Monastery of Agia Trias

By Ross in Travel on Sat 28 June 2014. Tags: Greece, churches

I set out this morning to explore the monasteries of Meteora on foot. This is not the most popular option (there are tour buses galore, as well as public buses which shuttle people from one monastery to the next) but it was the one recommended to me and it sounded like the most fun, plus it let me see the monasteries on my own schedule. I headed up random roads to the top of Kalambaka, then set out on a well-marked, paved trail which wound its way up the mountainside.

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I met this cat on the trail.

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When I was near the top, I got some great views of the surrounding area.

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My first stop was the Monastery of Agia Trias (Holy Trinity). It is one of the smaller monasteries, and reaching it requires an ascent of over 100 stairs, so fewer tour buses stop there. For that reason, I found it to be the most intimate of the four monasteries I visited. I am also glad I went there first thing in the morning, since I pretty much had the place to myself. When I neared the end of the trail, the first thing I saw was not the monastery but this cable-and-box contraption which shuttles goods (and people) between the road and the monastery. It was moving when I first saw it. (The monastery is hidden behind the rock on the right).

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I then climbed many sets of stairs:

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And finally reached the entrance to the monastery, where I paid my 3 euro entrance fee (they all charge the same amount). The cable-box drops you off at the same place.

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I really like this cute little porch which attaches to the monastery like a barnacle. The hook can be lowered to the valley floor to resupply the monastery.

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Once through the door, I climbed up the main steps:

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And I reached the inside of the porch. The winch is used to raise and lower the hook, but as the cable is secured in place, I do not think it is in regular use any more. (My guess is they use the cable-box instead.)

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Here is a closeup of the winch. Supplies are placed in the net, which is then attached to the hook.

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I like this picture of the roof beams of the porch.

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I then passed through this room:

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And arrived at the entrance to the chapel.

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These ornately carved doors are opposite the chapel entrance.

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Once again, I took some illicit, flash-free photos of the chapel.

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Here is a photo of the dome frescoes.

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And the stalls.

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And finally a closeup of one of the frescoes.

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After leaving the chapel, I walked out onto the top of the rock monastery.

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Where I got spectacular views of the valley and some of the other monasteries:

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There is a nice, small garden on top of the monastery.

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I spent a peaceful hour in the monastery before heading down to see the rest of the area. As I walked on to the next monastery, here are some photos I took looking back on Agia Trias:

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Meteora Sunset

By Ross in Travel on Fri 27 June 2014. Tags: Greece

It was blistering hot when I got to Kalambaka around 1400. After having dropping off my bag, I decided to take a walk around town in spite of the heat (probably not the smartest move.) I headed uphill to visit the Byzantine church of the Assumption. 

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I managed to snap a few illicit flash-free photos of its frescoes (I seem do do this quite often). If you look carefully, you can see Constantine on the left of the second photo. 

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Although I only walked for about an hour, it was time for a siesta, which in my case involved taking a shower and catching up on my journal entries. I left the place I was staying around 1900 to grab a bite to eat. When I got outside, I saw magnificent puffy clouds in the sky and immedately abandoned any plans for food in favor of finding a place to watch the sunset.

I walked west towards Kastraki, the next town over.

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I took a side road which led me to this hill. I saw a few people up there, so I decided to scramble up (they had left by the time I got up).

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The hill was covered in moss, and you can see the dominant gametophyte stage of its lifecycle:

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I got a nice view of the surrounding area from the top of the hill, and as the sun started to set, the light took on an almost magical quality.

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The moss on the hill and the stone cliffs behind the hill looked golden in the sunset.

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I took an absurd number of photos of the sunset itself. Here are some of the highlights.

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Finally, here is a panorama of the sunset over Kastraki.

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As I walked back towards Kalambaka, I ran into the two couples I had met in Delphi. They had told me they were going to Meteora next, but the area is large enough that I did not expect to see them again. I joined them for some fruit at a local restaurant, and they generously bought me some souvlaki for dinner since I had not yet eaten.

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Delphi to Meteora

By Ross in Travel on Fri 27 June 2014. Tags: Greece

This morning I woke up at 0500 to go to Meteora, which was also highly recommended to me by several people. All I knew about it was that there were monasteries on the top of rocks. That sounded pretty cool to me, and I was excited to check it out.

The only problem is that getting from Delphi to Meteora is not straightforward. There are many threads on websites like TripAdvisor about this, but no one seems to have found a good solution. One way is to take several buses in succession (Delphia -> Lamia -> Trikala -> Kalambaka), but I was doing this on a Friday, and the first bus does not leave early enough on Fridays to make this happen. 

With the advice of the attendant at the bus station, I found another way.

  • Take the 0530 bus from Delphi to Livadia. This drops you off at the bus station in the center of Livadia about 45 minutes after leaving Delphi. (About 4 Euro)
  • Take a taxi from the bus stop (the taxi stand is right across the street) to the train station. The train station is about 8 km away and is essentially in the middle of nowhere. (About 9 Euro)
  • Take the 0953 train directly to Kalambaka. This train originates in Athens and is scheduled to arrive at Kalambaka at 1318. It ended up arriving almost 45 minutes late (About 12 Euro)

Note: it might be difficult to do this in the other direction, since the train station is so isolated that getting a taxi back to the center of town could be tricky.

This itinerary was a little inconvenient -- it required getting up before dawn and involved a three-hour layover at an isolated train station -- but it worked perfectly. Had I known how isolated the train station is (and what time the train was scheduled for), I might have hung out at a cafe in Livadia for a few hours and taken the taxi around 0900. In any case, I got to Kalambaka in one piece with plenty of the day left to explore.

Here is the middle-of-nowhere Livadia train station.

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When I arrived, I was the only one there other than the two canine station attendants.

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Most of the train cars in Greece are covered in grafitti.

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