Lady Writers of the Poconos,  Writer's Life

Euros From Heaven

The history of Greece can be traced to the Minoans almost five thousand years ago. And this presents problems for all sorts of infrastructure improvements in the cities. Everywhere they try to put in a new Metro line or construct a new building, they find ruins of structures from long ago, mosaics and/or pottery or grave goods. Everything stops while the archeologists document the site. But still, these ancient sites attract tourists from all over the world. And I do mean the entire world. On my way to the Acropolis the first morning hundreds of passengers from three cruise ships joined us. By late morning maintaining a safe distance between me and the hordes became an impossibility. But I had high hopes that crowds would disperse when we headed north to Thessaloniki and other parts of northern Greece.  But these are tales for another time. More of Thessaloniki and its nightlife later.

The hanging monasteries of Meteora, located outside Kalabaka in the heartland of northern Greece, present geology that staggers the imagination.  In the 14th century, twenty-four Eastern Orthodox monasteries existed. Now only six remain active. Only a handful of monks reside in four of them now. When two were deserted, groups of about thirty nuns took them over. The buildings themselves hang from massive stone pillars that even geologists can’t readily explain. How the monks built the monasteries required an act of faith that would daunt almost anyone and probably killed many. The pillars aren’t hard igneous rock leftover from volcanic activity but a conglomerate of sand, stone, and mud left over from an inland lake that disappeared millions of years ago. Water eroded parts as the seabed rose. Baskets and ropes got building materials up to the top.

I wish I could tell you which one I visited. I still have the ticket and a picture, but it’s in an odd form of Greek that I can’t read. Or more accurately, sound out from my years of using Greek letters as symbols in math and physics.  I remember a one-hundred-forty-step staircase that led up to the monastery proper, without railings. I admit I didn’t make it to the top due to an injury acquired in Athens. So I sat below in the courtyard at the foot of the stairs and enjoyed the views. I watched as a monk made the journey across a chasm a few hundred feet deep on a tram suspended by a rope. When asked how often the rope is replaced, the common wisdom is when the rope breaks. As I sat swallows buzzed me catching insects. Workmen hauled building supplies up and down via a pulley system.

Well, now to the Euros from Heaven part.

Monastery transport to avoid

The winds picked up and the sun clouded over. The air got downright chilly. Women must wear skirts and cover their shoulders. The sundress I wore billowed out in the howling winds and gave me too much ventilation. From above, two twenty Euro bills and an entrance ticket fell from the sky and blew toward the retaining wall near my seat. I rushed over, trapped them with my walking stick, picked them up, and tried to find the owner to no avail. What to do with these gifts from the skies?

At dinner that night at our hotel surrounded by five hundred Asian guests who spoke no English (or Greek), but had hearty appetites, my dreams of a quiet meal were dashed. However, have no worries about the flying Euros, the money found went to our guide and our magnificent bus driver. The adventures of a large bus and narrow hairpin turns in the mountains deserve a story all to themselves.


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