Wednesday’s weather was fabulous using the word in both its common usage of ‘very good’ and its etymological usage of ‘of the nature of fables’. This was the weather for which Greece is fabled and one of the reasons I keep coming back. It started off blue sky and continued so, with just a few small patches of cloud to add ‘a good sky’ to photographs.
I had a walk planned to suss out where the footpath led which I had been tentatively exploring when I came upon the Salamander on Monday. I had a pretty good idea and it would be satisfying to test it out and add on a proper ‘finish’ back to Kastraki..
However, the planned early start was thwarted by the fact that my reading glasses broke on Tuesday evening (I wrote the blog with them tilted up diagonally across my face, looking very odd) and I had to find an optician in Kalabaka to see if I could get them repaired. The optician was very good, he downed tools on what he was working on and said come back in an hour.
So I thought I would rectify an oversight when I packed and buy myself a nail brush. That was the day’s problem solving exercise. First port of call in the UK is always Boots so I went into one of the pharmacies in the town centre. I don’t know whether the Greeks are hypochondriacs like the French but there was an unfeasibly large number of pharmacies in the centre of Kalabaka. I counted 8 and then gave up. I hadn’t expected to be doing this and so hadn’t looked up the Greek for ‘brush’ nevermind ‘nail brush’.
So I resorted to that unerring standby when you can’t speak the language – mime. All the pharmacies seem to be staffed by attractive young ladies which became embarassing because when I mimed scrubbing my nails the light of recognition shone across their faces and they took me to an assortment of nail files. Adding the word ‘katharizo’ (to clean) simply replaced the look of disappointment when I said ‘ochi’ (no) with a look of complete puzzlement and growing fear that I was some kind of lunatic foreigner. In one shop the nail files were hanging up close to babies hair brushes so I pointed to them and mimed again and the young lass twigged ….. and directed me to the supermarket. I suppose there is no reason why the fact that nail brushes are sold in chemists in the UK should mean that they are everywhere else. Different association, different logic.
So I trundled off to the supermarket. Like other larger supermarkets I have been to in Greece this was on two floors with cleaning and washing stuff in the basement. Found the soaps and shampoos and the like but no sign of nail brushes or even facecloths. I approached another young lady who was stacking shelves and by coincidence was taking wire brushes out of her trolley. So I tried the same trick which had been successful in the last pharmacy, pointed at them, said ‘mikro’ (small) and mimed scrubbing my nails again. I thought she was going to run but with an effort of self control she took me to another part of the basement, pulled out a basket of assorted stuff from a shelf low down and gave me …. a smaller version of the wire brushes she was stacking elsewhere. Why different sizes of wire brushes are 3 aisles away from each other is a logic I couldn’t begin to approach.
Then I noticed that there were all kinds of brushes hanging up opposite the shelf with the mikro wire brushes. There were stiff and soft long handled brooms, stiff and soft short handled brushes, scrubbing brushes, shoe cleaning brushes. Just about every kind of brush you could think of and then colour variants of each. I pointed to the smallest scrubbing brush and was just about to say ‘mikro’ again when I spotted them hanging up behind, hidden by the plethora of other brushes, nail brushes in pink and blue. Perfect! And for the princely sum of €0.90. I would have paid more for the entertainment value and the education in logic and association. But I was married to a Cardi too long to give house room to a thought like that for more than microseconds.
Back at the optician my glasses had been repaired and cost €6. A bargain and a great relief to not have to spend the next two months with my specs skewed across my face.
After the nervous exhaustion of the shopping, the walk was a great relief and very relaxing. I wandered along bits of path through the woods, between and around the rocks, to see where they led (the paths, not the rocks) and to try to build up more of a picture of the area in my mind. I found my way to the place I wanted to be and then headed up to the Varalaam Monastery, one of the highest and one which the Rough Guide reckons has the most to see.
I got there about lunch time and it seems that that may be a good time to visit because the coach drivers have taken their loads to the restaurant or taverna where they get the best kick-back. So the number of coaches and hence the visitors at the monasteries is significantly reduced. Of the three monasteries I have paid my €2 to go inside I reckon Varlaam has most to offer. As in them all photography is forbidden in the church but I think my camera went off accidentally a couple of times. Not that any photos which might have resulted will be published on the internet. That would be disrespectful. Suffice it to say that every inch of the insides of the church was covered in frescos painted about 450 years ago and in magnificent condition. Very well worth seeing.
Another great day’s walking. I highly recommend a visit to Meteora. It’s now one of the top 3 most dramatic places I know in Greece, excluding Athens which stands on its own.
I’ll be sorry to leave Meteora because there are still walks I would like to do and others I would like to do again. I might well come back and if I do I will definitely stay in Kastraki again, partly because it’s closest to the rocks and partly because it has a kind of small island feel about it which I like.
Thursday and I move on to Mestovo in the Pindus Mountains and the next stage in my Greek ramblings for 2012.