Edit: More photos from John now available here.
More photos from Fr. Dn. Nathaniel available here.
We left the monastery around 7:30 Wednesday morning and made it to Meteora around 9:15, just as the monasteries opened. It was raining a bit, and there was a very heavy fog on the mountains, such that we couldn't see more than a few feet in front of us. We made our way first to the women's monastery dedicated to St. Stephen, where we venerated the skull of St. Haralambos. Stephen mentioned that his patron saint was St. Stephen the First Martyr, and the nun very kindly brought out one of his fingers for us to venerate. We then had a coffee and a nice visit with some of the nuns before we headed to the next monastery. The photo above was taken a short distance inside the entrance to the monastery.
As it happened, three of the six monasteries of Meteora were closed that day, but we only had time to visit three anyway, so it worked out perfectly. Our second stop was the men's monastery dedicated to St. Varlaam. Above is a photo of Fr. Joseph as he finished the long climb to the monastery's entrance.
We were fortunate to run into a young monk who actually remembered Fr. Joseph's and Kh. Sophia's names from their visit over 3 years ago. When asked how he remembered their names in particular out of so many tourists who flood the monastery, he replied with great simplicity: "You asked us to pray for you."
He gave us a full tour of the monastery, including the private sections, and allowed us to venerate the monastery's relics. Above is a photo of the group inside the monks' chapel that they use for their daily services.
Above, we are walking through the courtyard of the private section of the monastery -- the monks' refuge from the waves of visitors. We also were treated to a coffee and a nice conversation with another of the monastery's monks who has been there for the last 42 years.
Above and below, the views on the way down. As you can see, the fog lifted so that we could enjoy some fantastic views of the monasteries and the area in general.
We stopped at a lookout point to get some better views.
Here is our group up on a lookout point from which we could see five of the six monasteries.
Our last stop was the men's Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapafsas. We were given a kind tour and coffee with Fr. Dimitrios, one of the monastery's two monks. Fr. Dimitrios, a relatively young man, was tonsured a monk on Mt. Athos by Elder Ephraim (now of St. Andrew's Skete; see earlier post), but came to this monastery to help.
We first surveyed the impressive iconography by Theophanis the Cretan in the small katholikon. Fr. Dimitrios also told us that at one time there had actually been a jail cell in the area for monks who were guilty of serious infractions. After they were released, they would spend their first days at this monastery, which was known for its more favorable weather. This, according to Fr. Dimitrios, is how the monastery got the epithet "Anapafsas," which is related to the Greek word for comfort or rest.
A photo of Theophanes' depiction of Adam naming the animals, in the narthex.
Our trip to Meteora had a fitting and memorable conclusion when Fr. Dimitrios allowed us to use the "elevator" to get back down, as he had when I visited with my father back in October. It seems this is a special treat for clergy. You can see Fr. Joseph, with the door open for a better view, in the photo above. He went back up to get Fr. Dn. Nathaniel and John, whom you see descending in the photo below.
We then grabbed some fuel and a small snack and headed back to Thessaloniki, hoping to get home by 6:00 so that we could spend some time with the babies before they went to bed, as this was the group's last day in Greece. We had come along the coast of Greece from Thessaloniki to Volos, and now we were returning via the mountains in central Greece, thus making a big full circle.
Thus ends this adventure.
For many more photos of the trip, click here to see 735 very nice photos from Sava and Stephen.
I hope to soon get the rest of the guys' photos (hint, hint), so that I can also post them here.