My pursuit of Greek mythology as a hobby in my childhood has inculcated an inexorable fascination for the Oracle of Delphi as well as the origin of the Olympic Games in ancient Olympia.
Beholding the remains of the Temple of Apollo presided by the Oracle at Delphi, as well as the first Olympic Village in the World (that housed the chryselephantine statue of Zeus – one of the Seven Wonders of the World) at ancient Olympia where the Olympic torch is lit to this day, were sublime yet powerful experiences indeed.
Our daughter Uma was simply amazed by the ‘first Olympic stadium ever built by man’ and ran around the race track with a level of zeal and sportsperson’s spirit that did her parents proud!:-) It was gratifying to behold how well the remains and artifacts from both the Palace of Apollo in Delphi as well as those from the Olympic stadium in Olympia have been well preserved in the museums surrounding the historical sites.
Please plan on investing a couple of days in both Delphi and Olympia to do justice to these historical cities that have contributed to shaping the Western civilization and the Olympic spirit, that we celebrate with such incredible fanfare every four years.
I have always been in awe of the mystery, the mystique, and the spirituality invoked by monasteries, temples, churches, and synagogues, perched on a mountain, or especially those that hang off the side of a cliff.
One of the finest examples on this Planet, is METEORA (literally “middle of the sky” or “suspended in the air” or “in the heavens above” in Greek) in close proximity to the town of Kalambaka in Greece, which is a formation of immense monolithic pillars and huge, hill-like rounded boulders, which has spectacular, well preserved, and sacred Greek Orthodox Churches, built between the 14th-16th centuries that are perched on rock pillars 1,300 feet above the ground.
The isolation and difficulty of access suited the monks well — though it was a drag to send a letter, distractions were minimized, allowing for quiet contemplation. The lofty locations were also handy for fending off invading hordes of Turks, who, by the end of the 14th century, were tired of their clashes with the Byzantine Empire.
The six monasteries (of the 20 originally built which have survived the ravages of time) are built on natural conglomerate pillars, at the northwestern edge of the Plain of Thessaly near the Pineios river and Pindus Mountains, in central Greece.
The pick of the six is the Great Meteoron Monastery, which is the highest and the oldest. All of the six monasteries are open to visitors. You don’t have to get hoisted up in a basket, but getting there still involves an element of difficulty — steps and bridges were added in the 1920s.
You’ll also need to dress conservatively, although a monk at the door will lend you a shawl, skirt, or pants if you arrive overexposed.
We had the good fortune of checking out one of the six monasteries on our drive from DELPHI to METEORA on our Grecian Expedition over Christmas in 2007 which was a surreal experience to say the least – we absolutely need to return to experience the other five.