SOCIAL PROGRAMME – EXCURSION TO METEORA
Wednesday, August 29,2018
The Meteora is a rock formation in central Greece hosting one of the largest and most precipitously built complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries. The six monasteries are built on immense natural pillars and hill-like rounded boulders that dominate the local area. It is located near the town of Kalambaka at the northwestern edge of the Plain of Thessaly near the Pineios river and Pindus Mountains. Meteora is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List under criteria I, II, IV, V and VII. The name means “lofty”, “elevated”, and is etymologically related to meteor.
You can find more about Meteora, its Geology and History, following the link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteora
Our excursion is scheduled to include a guided visit to the two of the six remaining monasteries of Meteora, the St. Stephen’s and the Varlaam Monasteries. We will enter the monasteries and at the same time make a trip in time, going back to the centuries to learn the story of the first hermits and monks who arrived at the area that was going to evolve to the monastic community of Meteora, as is known nowadays. We will learn how the monasteries were established and why monks chose to settle at this place, where they would have to climb these steep rocks and use ropes and baskets to move around.
The Monastery of St. Stephen has a small church built in the 16th century and decorated in 1545. This monastery rests on the plain rather than on a cliff. It was shelled by the Nazis during World War II who believed it was harboring insurgents and was abandoned. The monastery was given over to nuns in 1961 and they have reconstructed it into a flourishing nunnery, with 28 nuns in residence in 2015.
The Monastery of Varlaam is the second largest monastery in the Meteora complex, and in 2015 had the largest number of monks (seven) of the male monasteries. It was built in 1541 and embellished in 1548. The old refectory is used as a museum while north of the church is the parekklesion of the Three Bishops, built in 1627 and decorated in 1637.
Next step is the Museum of Natural History of Meteora and Mushroom Museum, in the city of Kalambaka. As you can guess, there are two museums housed in one building (1100 m2) that host two permanent collections:
The first one is about animals and contains approximately 350 species of mammals and birds, while the second one is about mushrooms and contains approximately 250 species of mushrooms. The collection of animals consists of high quality embalmed birds and mammals, made by Europe’s best taxidermists, while some of them are very rare. The mushroom collection consists of handmade mushroom sculptures that maintain the similarity of colors, shapes and size.. The sculptures were created one by one by high skilled sculptors of the wider local region.
Beyond the quality of the exhibits, we will enjoy a rather pioneering presentation of them, a theatrical scenery we would say, as animals and mushrooms are presented into dioramas, which depict exactly the natural terrain where they live and grow into (i.e. woods, wetlands etc.).
Besides the cultural interest of the sites described previously, there is a great scientific interest as well, since the area is hosting the largest Neophron percnopterus population in Greece.
Before getting back to Larissa, we will have the time to rest and enjoy our lunch in the surrounding area under the Meteora rocks. Moreover, a unique display of cooking pasta with truffle mushroom will take place especially for us.