Meteora is a group of 6 active monasteries on top of rock pillars. The Holy Monastery of Varlaam is second in the row from top to bottom and also the second largest. I went without a tour bus and so walked from the Grand Meteoron along the road to the turn off for Varlaam. On the way in there were several of the bald rock pillars with paths to climb up and get incredible views of the valley and the monastery itself.
Up Up and even more Up
The same fog that writhed Grand Meteoron remained for my time at Vaarlam as well. It was still rather eery looking up at this building perched on a spike of rock. The basket house juts out and feels a bit like a claw retrieving the basket from below.
The monastery has a gate at the bottom of the pillar before you can climb up the very steep stairs. Looking up from the plaza across from the stairs I could watch them winch supplies for the building above up on a long rope swing. I remember reading that the baskets were the original means to access the monasteries and the story goes that they only replace the rope when it breaks. This showed their faith in the Lord as well as a pretty neat sense of humor.
If Only I had a Slinky
I didn’t have to trust the rope and had stairs to walk up. Like most of the monasteries of the Meteora group, the cliffs that support the buildings are straight up and down. This leads to some very steep and winding staircases, as well as dizzying views down like this one.
Once inside Varlaam monastery the care is evident. Monks have lived here for centuries and still take care of their building. The decoration was fine and detailed, but not opulent or over the top. I liked that it still felt contemplative while nice and kept up. The dress code is as in a conservative church, no shorts or tank tops, though they offered coverings as needed.
There are several courtyards to wander about as well as one building containing a museum. Through the winding pathways were a view vantage points that gave excellent views of both the Grand Meteoron and the valley with the rest of the active monasteries. Walking up or down the steep stairs offered some of the best views of the area in my opinion.
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