In the Epirus Mountains of mainland Greece there is a place like no other I have ever seen. Suspended halfway between the sky and the vast “bread basket og Greece” plateau, stretching for over 300 kms all the way to the sea it is the perfect look-out to the rest of the world far below.
This place is known as Meteora
– “the floating rocks”.
For millenia it has drawn us, and for centuries it has been a place sought for worship, reflection and solitude, and the air and feel of the entire place is ripe and sated with the sense of sacred solace that one cannot help but feel awestruck immediately.
Time and weather have conspired to carve out these sanctuaries, separating them from the rest of the world by leaving these peaks defiant freestanding pillars hundreds of feet tall, accessible only by endless and often precarious staircases or rope-and-pulley basket trams (for goods).
Countless years and lives of dedication and tenacity have seen primitive caves and ledges in the sheer walls rising above the plateau aspire ever higher and grander until six fortress like monestaries grew from the rocks, humbly crowning these peaks tucked in between snow capped mountains and soaring eagles. Like small city states halfway in the sky they offer an incredible floating oasis of peace and tranquility right inbetween heaven and earth.
Being there is a journey in and of itself. The courtyards are quiet and filled with flowering bushes and trees, sheltering benches and bringing life to the unpretentious stone walls. The paths and steps are worn and the whole place emanates the presence of thousands that have come before. And yet, it feels untouched and unmarred. Ready to receive you, as if you were the first to seek its embrace. It feels clean and very very welcoming.
I could not imagine a place more suitable or accommodating to spiritual soul searching and quiet reflection.
I suppose that is why I am reminded of it when I hear the word refuge – and yet, it somehow seems an inaccurate fit. It may off shelter from the world, and respite from things as they are down below “in the real world” but it also compels a sense of duty and willingness to find and embrace new perspectives.
Meteora may indeed with its removed and unique geological location offer respite to its visitors, but it certainly does not feel like a place where one might be able to hide away – from anything. And somehow,… it feels like that is exactly the point.