Skinnings, Skulls, and Sleeping Mary

June 14

Today began with leaving the creepy-ass hotel for an hour-ish drive to Metsovo, a quaint and absolutely beautiful town of 6,000. We took a short tour of a church there and dispersed for a while. I got some coffee and sat to look at the view. Metsovo is a town surrounded by mountains, full of greenery and flowers, and has a very small-town feel. AND ARISTOTLE BOUGHT US CHEESE! Aristotle is wonderful. Let me reiterate that.

After Metsovo, we headed to Kalampaka for an expensive but yummy lunch. THEN I FOUND A PUPPY. A SMALL, FRIENDLY, FLUFFY PUPPY. Help me. I miss him already. Then we left for the 2 monasteries of the day.

Monasteries in the Meteora area are built on the top of rock formations from a lake millions of years ago that drained. The monks and nuns wanted to get as far away as possible from temptation and normal life–little did they know, thousands of tourists would visit..

I started freaking out on the way up, knowing that those buildings on those seemingly-precarious rocks were going to be under our feet soon. It was a bit scary, but also blowing my freakin’ mind. Once we got up there to the Holy Monastery of Great Meteora, though, the view was incredible. We couldn’t take pictures in the actual church, which is shaped like a cross, but it was covered floor to ceiling in icons and murals.They’re organized in a hierarchy, with Jesus in the top in the dome, and down to scenes from Jesus’s life, to prophets, to saints, to the congregation.

Some/many of the pictures–which surprised me–were graphic and violent, showing saints being tortured and killed. Stabbings, boilings, stretchings, beheadings, roastings on a grill. Nasty shit. It surprised me. More on that later.

I learned that in the Orthodox Church after 3 years, you exhume monks’ bodies. They keep the skulls and other bones in an ossuary. WE GOT TO SEE SKULLS. It was super creepy but super interesting. After that, it began thundering, lightning, raining (as it does when we go to sites, apparently).

Back in the day (I don’t know when the day is, I didn’t hear, so yeah), females weren’t allowed in monasteries (they’re too tempting, apparently) and even female animals couldn’t come in. 

We moved on to St. Stephens Holy Monastery, which was actually a nunnery. It was a bit prettier because there were more flowers decorating the place than in the one before. We once again went in the church (no pics again!) and saw more torture scenes. Quite morbid. Hooks in skin, beheadings, skinning of a person, etc. Aristotle described it as being there to remind people of the saints, and to remind them what happens to them if they aren’t good Christians. All I could think was, this is another reason that religion isn’t for me. Oops. It was a very intricate and beautiful space, though.

We didn’t see an ossuary in this nunnery, but we did see the top of the skull of the saint to whom the church is dedicated. SKULLZ Y’ALL. SKULLZ IZ KOOL.

We drove back down to Kalampaka and checked in to our hotel–not as nice as the last, but definitely in a good way. We headed to a taverna and saw Greece lose in the World Cup. 😦 Then headed back, ate some dinner and some AMAZING DESSERT (which I’m sure you’ll remember, Barnes), and now here I am blogging!

FUN FAAAAAACTZ

1. Some women in Metsovo still wear traditional garb in their everyday life.

2. The first monastery we went to had the finger of St. John and part of his cross, as well as part of the shoulder bone of St. Andrew. Creepy.

3. They don’t have pews in Orthodox churches, they have things like chairs with very high arm rests so that the person sits in a sort of cross-like position.

4. In the mural scene of the “sleeping” (death) of the Virgin Mary, there’s always a depiction in it of an angel cutting off the hands of a Jew that tried to touch her. I saw it and it’s also pretty creepy. 

5. We saw from a distance the Holy Trinity Monastery that was used for the Bond film, “For Your Eyes Only.” The first monastery we attended was featured in one of the first movies of Greece (1911 silent film) in which a real monk goes up the elevator contraption to the monastery as a sort of stunt-double for a much younger and different-looking actor who was scared to go up.

ALL ZE FEELS Y’ALL

I feel good today. Less sick but still a bit sick. The end of the trip is sneaking up on me and WHAT DO I DO. HELP WHAT EVEN DO I DO. SOMEONE’S GONNA HAVE TO DRAG ME TO THE AIRPORT. I’M NOT GOING WILLINGLY YOU GUYS.

I loved the sites today!!! It was so surreal to be on the middle of a rock jutting out of the ground as high as a mountain with a small, beautiful building on top. How do you even explain what that looks and feels like? Looking out over mountain after mountain, seeing lightning slapping the sky in the distance, petting a stray but friendly cat. That’s Greece, everyone. That’s my trip in one sentence, if you add a gyro in my hand and Barnes and Aristotle teaching me things in the background. 

I am so grateful, once again, to be here. I really liked watching the soccer game today, even if Greece did lose. It reminded me of my brother forcing me to watch soccer games I didn’t care about (bittersweet though). 

Right now I have a Charlie horse forming in my leg and I really should go to bed. Pics coming eventually! Sorry everyone! I am a lazy but busy bum. 

Peace ‘n’ Blessin’s ❤

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