meteora-kalabaka-kastraki (48)

Thessaly,  Modern Greek Thessalía, region of northern Greece south of Macedonia (Modern Greek: Makedonía), lying between upland Epirus (Ípeiros) and the Aegean Sea and comprising chiefly the fertile Tríkala and Lárissa lowlands. It is well delineated by topographical boundaries: the Khásia and Cambunian mountains to the north, the Óthrys massif to the south, the main Pindus (Píndos) Mountains to the west, the Olympus (Ólympos) massif to the northeast, and the coastal ranges of Óssa (Kíssavos or Óssa) and Pelion (Pílios) to the southeast.

Olympus Mountain

Olympus Mountain

Thessaly is drained by several tributaries of the Pineiós (also called Peneus) River, which empties into the Aegean Sea after passing through the Vale of Tempe. Several passes carry highway traffic to and from the region, and the main railway from Athens (Athína) to Thessaloníki enters Thessaly by the Coela Pass and exits through the Vale of Tempe.

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Tembi – Peneus River

Generally the most level district of Greece, Thessaly is split by a range of hills into a southwestern sector dominated by the town of Tríkala and an eastern sector centring on Lárissa (Lárisa). To the southeast the Magnesia Peninsula, a prolongation of the Pelion (Pílios) massif, encloses the Pagasitikós Gulf (Gulf of Vólos).

Volos City, Pagasetic Gulf

Volos City, Pagasetic Gulf

The home of an extensive Neolithic culture to about 2500 bce, Thessaly later remained on the fringe of the Bronze Age civilization of Greece, although Mycenaean settlements have been discovered, as at Iolcos near Vólos. Toward the end of the Mycenaean period the Thessali entered the fertile plain from Thesprotía in southern Epirus and imposed an aristocratic rule on the older inhabitants. The rich lowlands became the home of such baronial families as the Aleuads of Lárissa and the Scopads of Crannon, who organized a pan-Thessalian federation under an elected military chief and controlled the Amphictyonic League of northern Greek states in the 6th century bce. The plains proved well suited to horse breeding, and the Thessalians were strong in cavalry.

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Ancient Theatre of Larissa

In the Classical period the natural isolation and character of the people kept Thessaly aloof from the main currents of Greek life. Politically unstable because of tribal rivalries, they never long sustained a concerted action. The Aleuads joined the Persians during the Greco-Persian Wars. After the 4th century they were usually Macedonian vassals until, in 148, Rome incorporated Thessaly into the province of Macedonia.

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Pindos Mountain, Dragon Lake

About 300 ce the emperor Diocletian made Thessaly a province, with its capital at Lárissa; in the Byzantine Empire it was attached to the theme (military district) of Thessalonica. From the 7th century to the 13th it was invaded or controlled by Slavs, Saracens, Bulgars, and Normans. The influx of nomad Vlachs (Walachians) from the Danube was so intensive by the 12th and 13th centuries that Thessaly came to be called Great Walachia (Megale Vlachia); colonies of Vlach herdsmen are still found there. In the 14th century it was overrun by Catalans and Serbs, the latter setting up the capital at Tríkala. When in 1394 the Turks assumed rule, they retained Tríkala as seat of the pasha of Thessaly. In 1881 most of Thessaly was ceded to Greece by Turkey, and after the Balkan Wars (1912–13) the remainder north of the Vale of Tempe passed into the Greek kingdom.

Source: http://www.britannica.com/

Meteora and Monasteries of Meteora

In a region of almost inaccessible sandstone peaks, monks settled on these ‘columns of the sky’ from the 11th century onwards. Twenty-four of these monasteries were built, despite incredible difficulties, at the time of the great revival of the eremetic ideal in the 15th century. Their 16th-century frescoes mark a key stage in the development of post-Byzantine painting.

Rocks of Meteora

Rocks of Meteora

‘Suspended in the air’ (the meaning of Meteora in Greek), these monasteries represent a unique artistic achievement and are one of the most powerful examples of the architectural transformation of a site into a place of retreat, meditation and prayer. The Meteora provide an outstanding example of the types of monastic construction which illustrate a significant stage in history, that of the 14th and 15th centuries when the eremitic ideals of early Christianity were restored to a place of honour by monastic communities, both in the Western world (in Tuscany, for example) and in the Orthodox Church.

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Panoramic View of Meteora

Built under impossible conditions, with no practicable roads, permanent though precarious human habitations subsist to this day in the Meteora, but have become vulnerable under the impact of time. The net in which intrepid pilgrims were hoisted up vertically alongside the 373 m cliff where the Varlaam monastery dominates the valley symbolizes the fragility of a traditional way of life that is threatened with extinction.

View at Meteora Rocks with The Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron

View at Meteora Rocks with The Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron

The monasteries are built on rock pinnacles of deltaic origin, known as Meteora, which rise starkly over 400 m above the Peneas valley and the small town of Kalambaka on the Thessalian plain. Chemical analysis suggests that the pinnacles were created some 60 million years ago in the Tertiary period, emerging from the cone of a river and further transformed by earthquakes. The Meteora are enormous residual masses of sandstone and conglomerate which appeared through fluvial erosion. Seismic activity increased the number of fault lines and fissures and hewed the shapeless masses into individual sheer rock columns. Hermits and ascetics probably began settling in this extraordinary area in the 11th century. In the late 12th century a small church called the Panaghia Doupiani or Skete was built at the foot of one of these ‘heavenly columns’, where monks had already taken up residence.

During the fearsome time of political instability in 14th century Thessaly, monasteries were systematically built on top of the inaccessible peaks so that by the end of the 15th century there were 24 of them. They continued to flourish until the 17th century. Today, only four monasteries – Aghios Stephanos, Aghia Trias, Varlaam and Meteoron – still house religious communities.

The area includes forested hills and river valley with riverine forests of Platanus orientalis and species such as the endemic Centaurea lactifolia (found near Koniskos village) and Centaurea kalambakensi. The nearest protected area is Trikala Aesthetic Forest (28 ha), created in 1979, which has been planted with Pinus halepensis and Cupressus sempervivens. The potential vegetation cover is described as supra-Mediterranean, with climax cover of Quercus and Ostrya species and Fagus sylvatica beech forest above 700 m.
Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC

Monasteries Summer (April 1st to October 31st) Timetable

St. Stephen’s Nunnery

Visiting Hours: 9:30 to 13:30 and 15:30 to 17:30.

The monastery stays closed on Mondays.

Great Meteoron Monastery

Visiting Hours: 09:00 to 17:00.

The monastery stays closed on Tuesdays.

Roussanou Monastery

Visiting Hours: 09:00 to 17:45.

The monastery stays closed on Wednesdays.

Holy Trinity Monastery

Visiting Hours: 09:00 to 17:00.

The monastery stays closed on Thursdays.

Varlaam Monastery

Visiting Hours: 09:00 to 16:00.

The monastery stays closed on Fridays.

St. Nikolaos Anapafsas Monastery

Visiting Hours: 09:00 to 15:30.

The monastery stays closed on Fridays.

Monasteries Winter (November 1st to March 31st) Timetable

St. Stephen’s Nunnery

Visiting Hours: 9:30 to 13:00 and 15:00 to 17:00.

The monastery stays closed on Mondays.

Great Meteoron Monastery

Visiting Hours: 09:00 to 16:00.

The monastery stays closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Roussanou Monastery

Visiting Hours: 09:00 to 14:00.

The monastery stays closed on Wednesdays.

Holy Trinity Monastery

Visiting Hours: 10:00 to 16:00.

The monastery stays closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Varlaam Monastery

Visiting Hours: 09:00 to 15:00.

The monastery stays closed on Fridays.

St. Nikolaos Anapafsas Monastery

Visiting Hours: 09:00 to 14:00.

The monastery stays closed on Fridays.