Meteora: to the heights, a pain in the neck and views from prison

Sunday and my legs were tired after doing the planned walk twice yesterday in order to repeat photos with the sun in the right place.   So, like the over-optimistic man-of-the-mountains I fancy myself to be, I planned a walk which was shorter … but with a lot more ‘up’ (height gain).

The plan was to go up the rock named ‘Agios Pnevma’ – The Holy Spirit  – which towers above the upper part of Kastraki and then go to Roussanou Monastery, one of the more dramatically located, seeming to be wider than the base of the pinnacle of rock on which it stands.

That there is a path up Agio Pnevma is surprising to the point of being truly amazing.  Like many others the rock is just enormous and vertical, rising about 1000 feet from its base and about 3000 feet above sea level.  The path goes gradually upwards along its base  and then suddenly turns through 180 degrees and clings to the rock face to go diagonally and increasingly steeply upwards.  It reminded me of Jack’s Rake in Langdale in the Lake District.  Impossible to see until you are on it and then very narrow with a vertical drop to the left as you go up.  Great fun!!  There is no climbing involved but some sections are definitely ‘rock scrambling’ .  Once again not a walk for the trepid.  A tiny chapel in a cave at the top of the main climb and then a bit more of a scramble to the top of the rock itself which is furnished with flags and a bell.  Very exposed with vertical drops all round.  Fabulous views.

This is the point at which the ‘path’ starts going diagonally up to the left

Looking straight overhead the rocks seem to close in.  You can get a real pain in the neck craning upwards to look at the crags

At one point the path is ‘protected’ by a wire fence. Unfortunately all but two of the posts supporting it have snapped off.

The path emerges near-vertically under a massive overhanging rock with the door ……

….. to a tiny chapel.

Higher up still on the top of the rock of Agio Pnevma with flags and bell

…. and views vertically down to Kastraki

On the way down, clinging to the side of the rock, the view is straight ahead to Roussaneu Monastery, my target for the day.

Drop back down to the base of the rock and then cross the col to descend through scrubby trees into what the walking guide admits is an area of confusing and overgrown paths.  It is.  The guide stopped being any help here but I managed with little repetition, hesitation or deviation to find a path which led to the Monks’ Prison.  I had wondered what the monks had to do to be committed here but it seems that they committed themselves if they considered that they had failed in their holy duties or personal devotions or lifestyle.  This could save the judicial system a fortune if it were re-introduced.  And if people had consciences.  Perhaps better stick with what we’ve got.

Approaching the Monks’ Prison


Note the remains of the wooden platforms cantilevered out in the roof of the cave

Looking straight up inside the prison cave

The view out from inside prison

Another view from prison

From prison it was a relatively short if somewhat difficult-to-find and  prickly path to the main road and the way up to the Roussanou Monastery.  A bit of a road trudge because the path described in the book to cut off the hairpin bend doesn’t seem to exist.  I checked on the internet when I got back and someone else had had the same problem looking for it.

Approaching Roussaneau Monastery

Looking down over the monastery from the rocks above it

From the car park at the base of the pinnacle on which Roussanea stands there are steps winding upwards to the entrance but also continuing up behind the monastery to emerge at the top of rocks with panoramic views looking down across it.  I need to go back there earlier in the day to get the sun at a better angle for the serried rank of huge rock pinnacles opposite.

The weather was great.  Sunshine the whole day.  No thunderstorms anywhere in sight or sound.  That bit about being over-optimistic?  This was only the second day of walking in the mountains in Greece this year and I do tend to overestimate how fit I am and underestimate the effect of the heat.  Living in Grey Britain offers no preparation at all.  By the time I got back to Kastraki my legs were telling me I had been for a walk.  But I survived the day and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I had earned my glass of beer.

Just a reminder that not everything in Meteora is large scale

Tomorrow the blog will be on the rocks.  I promise, no more pics of monasteries.  Maybe.

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