When it comes to travelling in Greece, most people immediately think of ancient ruins, beautiful beaches, and pristine islands dotted with small white houses and surrounded by the blue expanse of the Aegean Sea. On this journey however, we will take a departure from the unexpected. Apart from visiting Delphi, the site of holy ancient ruins where the ancient oracle was located and long considered the centre of the world in ancient times, we are also going to the mountainous part of the mainland to visit a stunning holy Orthodox Christian site called Meteora. At this location, we will view suspended rocks where monasteries were miraculously constructed on top of natural stone pillars, making them appear as if they are hanging in mid air.
Located on the southwestern spur of Mount Parnassus, a walk into Delphi is like making a trip into a time warp—one that takes you back to the classical Greek period. At this time, Delphic oracle was the most important oracle, the spiritual foundation of Ancient Greece, and it was also a major site to worship Apollo. While history lessons and stories can be learnt from the invaluable artifacts in the museum at the entrance, the archaeological site itself offers much more to take in than just that. The most intact building (reconstructed), located upon the slope from the main entrance, is the treasury of Athens which was built to commemorate the battle of Marathon and to house dedications. Climbing upward along the hill, the colossal pillars indicate the former site of the Apollo temple, once one of the most important temples in the ancient world where an eternal fire used to burn. Staring at the huge Doric columns and gazing upon the sheer size of the rectangular site, one can only imagine the gigantic size and grandeur of this historic temple. Continuing up the slope from the temple is an amphitheatre which once sat 5,000 spectators in ancient times. Further along the journey brings us to the site where the Pythian games (which later developed into the Olympic games), used to be held. Impressive structural ruins of facilities such as the stadium can still be found here. Outside the main archaeological complex and on the other side of the museum, lie the gymnasium and the Athena Pronaia where the magnificent ruins of Tholos still stand. Within the entire archaeological complex, these majestic remnants of ancient buildings, with their breathtaking circular bases and Doric columns, is arguably the most iconic and photogenic scene which simply can’t be missed.
A little more than 200 kilometres north of Delphi near the town of Kalambaka, in an area which boasts some exotic geological formations, a group of six Greek Orthodox Christian monasteries are together known as the Meteora. Each of these monasteries perches on top of a series of different natural sandstone pillars, and from a distance looking from different angles, appear to be actually carved out of the stone foundation, suspended half-way in the air—thus earning their name Meteora. Today, most of these monasteries are open for visitors, but because they are regarded as holy sites, many rules have to be respected.
While it may appear as if they are only reachable by helicopters, the monasteries are actually all connected by a winding road at the back of the hill. The largest complex of the six is the Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron, which can be reached by a long climbing staircase from the main road. Since the 9th century, monks have started coming to this area, and by the 11th century they started living in the caves and cutouts in the rocks. The architecture visible today are structures mostly built from the mid-14th century to almost the mid 18th-century. One of the most notable sights is the Monastery of Holy Trinity. It was built on the top of a rock isolated from its surroundings; at first glance, it looks almost as if it were built on a floating platform. In fact, it does not look like it is connected to any road, but upon closer inspection a footpath can be seen along the bottom, providing access to the monastery from the main road. Because of its spectacular location and stunning construction, a James Bond film, “For Your Eyes Only” selected it as a filming location.