Volos and Meteora Monasteries

Mea culpa! I try to blog on even days, but life on this cruise has been grueling with port after port, shore excursions, lectures, and “Desk Hours” as assigned by the cruise director, often without reason. I’ve put in 7.5 hours and seen a total of 15 people, 25% of whom just want to compliment me on my lectures (which is fine!), 25% of whom want to ask why we moved to Panama (which gives me opportunity to push my ESCAPE TO PARADISE book which is for sale in the gift shop – also fine!), 25%.   I guess just feel sorry for me just sitting here all alone and drop by to say hello (also fine!).  25% to ask something pertinent to the cruise or ports which is why I’m supposed to be here. He assigns me hours when NOBODY shows up because everyone is eating a relaxing dinner (after I’ve wolfed mine down in the Staff Mess and had to run missing out on all of the crew gossip) or watching us sail out of a beautiful port like Haifa, Israel with the Baha’i World Center all lit up at night. Oh well . . . I could be a greeter at Wal Mart!

So, not much time to blog, but I promise as soon as I can find the time to share about some of the exciting places we’ve been visiting.

Volos is a small city in Greece with a population of around 142,000 and the third largest port in Greece serving an important agricultural area as well as being a hub for ferries to many of the Greek Islands. It is from here that the mythical hero Jason sailed in quest of the Golden Fleece. Some of you may recall that Volos was the site for soccer competition of the 2004 Olympic games. Most of the city was destroyed by earthquakes and floods over the years, so modern day Volos isn’t that interesting for tourists. What IS interesting is the Meteora area in the foothills of the mountains, about an hour outside of Volos.

In the middle ages a monastic movement rose in the Christian church where people thought that because Christ suffered on our behalf for our sins, that we ought to also suffer for Christ and for forgiveness for our sins and shortcomings. And so you had people going through all kinds of suffering, fasting and isolation as a means of doing penance. There was a fad of sitting on pillars, totally alone, never coming down for years and years and years until one died on the pillar. This all gave rise to a monastic movement that prized cutting ones self off from the world and getting as far away from everything to meditate, pray and focus on God. So the monastic movement began and continues to this day, although with greatly diminished numbers.

The tall rocky pinnacles of Meteora proved the ideal place to get away from it all. And so various monks established monasteries on the pinnacles of Meteora. Now any of these structures would be a challenge to build today with helicopters and cranes, but can you imagine building these structures in the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries? The ONLY way up was to sit in a basket and be pulled up the sheer face of the cliff. In addition to the monks, all the workers and materials had to be pulled up as well. How did the first monk get to the top? As I said in our Reflections Cruise Video, “It was a miracle!”

So I thought you’d enjoy seeing some of these remarkable monasteries that we were able to visit in Meteora. Today of course being a monk isn’t quite as cool as it was in the Middle Ages and some of these complexes, some of which are pretty vast although precariously perched, have only 10 to 20 monks, and one only has a single monk.

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