Greek Guards

One Saturday night we were on our way home when we came across a crowd in the middle of the city. We diverted and were lucky enough to see the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  With our family military history we were keen to see this event and even though we had planned to catch it the next morning this opportunity was too good to miss. We have seen these guys on TV specials but to see them in life is amazing.  The extravagant high arm and leg motion is something to see and the swipe of the hobnailed on the ground is so synchronised it is obvious they are well drilled.  Here’s a video by Shane to watch.


To me the most amazing part is when the Sargent of the Guard approaches each guard.  He then checks their uniform and to my surprise uses the soldier’s hat tassle to wipe any sweat from their brow.  After straightening the uniform the guards take their place by the sentry boxes and every so often set off in their strange marching technique to exchange places and no doubt stretch tired muscles from long stints of standing still.  It is an astonishing event not to be missed if you are ever in Athens.

Post Script: To find out more about the Tsarouchi (shoes) of this elite Greek Guard Unit click here. It is a short story worth reading.

A Meteoric Climb

This next tour is something not too many people know about but it is well worth the effort to come to Meteora to see the monasteries on the gigantic granite rocks.  

The day started early (for us) with a train trip northbound to Kalampaka where we were met by our driver and tour guide.  There was only five of us on the tour. A British couple, a Belgium lady and us.  We had a mini van with a driver, a tour guide and a friend of the guide (freeloader, LOL?) 

When we hit the town just below the ridge we were struck by the vertical ruggedness of these monolithic rocks but straight away we sighted one of the monasteries on top in what seemed a precarious position. The driver shot off in typical Italian fashion, Monte Carlo Racetrack style and in minutes we were on top of the mountains gasping at the views.


People first settled this mountain area about 1000 years ago.  It wasn’t until some 340 years later that the first monks arrived.  Within 10 years St Athanasos founded the “Great Meteoron” and the rest is history. Raids by Muslim Albanians in the 18th century preceded the European discovery of Meteora and its’ monasteries. In the 20th century the monasteries were on decline due to financial problems and a lack of men joining the Orders.  Meteora was World Heritage listed in 1988 and in 1995 a law was enacted to protect the area as a sacred region thus protecting is character.  Now that you have had the potted history let me describe the monasteries……. W.O.W. !!!

Falling over laughing

Shane unfortunately couldn’t face the multitude of stairs due to leg fatigue from earlier tours but I couldn’t let the chance go by without one of us making the arduous journey up the stairs. We both fell into fits of laughter when I returned from the first monastery bragging about my endurance.  I tripped on the very last step and fell almost on my face.

In the actual monasteries you don’t see any monks.  There are lots of visitors from various religious sects wandering about and lots of tourists.  What we all had in common was incredulous looks of amazement.  Naturally there are stacks and stacks of historical artifacts.  The showcase of records and religious writings from the 1300’s is fantastic and the art is beautiful.  Outside in the courtyards the views are just stunning as you’d imagine perched high on mountain top.  It’s when you look across a gorge to another monastery and realise that we are all precariously balancing on single rocks that reality hits.

Try it out now.

If you’d like to give the monastic life a go you have a first year to stick it out,  If you are successful then there’s another two years as an ‘apprentice’.  Then you start your life as a novice monk.  Good luck at that!  The only hint of a mod/con we saw was a box lift with several priests in it being carted across the gorge horizontally to the other side.  I wondered if I could hitch a lift to save my legs from those steps but not likely.  It looked a bit suss anyway. 

There was a huge 12,000 ltr wine barrel from the 16th century but I think in 300 plus years they drank it all.  Seriously the money from wine sales then and the admittance (3 Euro) now is all the income the monasteries have.  The local townspeople regularly bring free supplies to the monks and if needed they’ll help with maintenance.  There is also had a hand wound winch to lift heavy goods up the 50 or so meters to the top of the towers.

Name that Monastery

Oh yeah, the names of the monasteries: The Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron, The Holy Monastery of Varlaam, The Holy Monastery of Roussanou, The Monastery of St. Stephen,  The Holy Trinity Monastery (Agia Triada), The Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas of Anapafsas.  Tours generally only do 3 of these and we did the first 3 named. When you are looking at the photos (particularly of Shane and I) look carefully in the background for these amazing structures.  They are mind blowing.

Another Country Down

That’s it for another post.  In fact that’s it for Greece.  In my next blog post we’ll be in Italy having sailed overnight from Patras (Athen’s port) to Bari in Southern Italy.  So keep an eye out for that and don’t forget to add a comment below.

Bye for now

Garry & Shane

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