Climbing up Mt Olympus ...by car.. got us the closest to a visit at the abode of the mythological famous 12 Greek Gods.
Busy.. somewhere else that midday... we encountered non of them, but the pine forested steep mountain slops with its pointy 52 snow capped peaks and spectacular panoramas, definitely elevated us the closest to the Divine, in addition to only the mountain's actual height.
Driving from Saloniki on the fast paid Hwy 90 then 75, got us in an hour and a half to Litochoro village- from where the 13 KM drive up the mountain on the paved road landed us at a parking point named Preonia. From this spot on there is a short distance walk to the water fall and cascades, and further up the seasoned mountaineers, can continue the steep climb up the mountain by foot, throughout the forested terrain.
This small charming village with its winding steep allies, only few km from the sea, on the western shore of the Thermaic Gulf, serves as the eastern gate to Mt Olympus. Situated on the foot of the mountain it is a popular destination for mountaineers to start a climb. Almost all climbing routes begin to the southwest of the town, or up the village from where the Police station is based, at the entrance to town.
Mt Olympus was much more beyond of what we could imagine .
The huge glacier cut mountain walls and its vertical rocky peaks are “ in par that of Yosemite .
Shaped and formed of sedimentary rock laid down 200 million years ago in a shallow sea, and razed by glaciers which covered Olympus around one million years ago, then melted, the mountain's plateaus and depressions, water falls, streams, crushed rocks, and alluvial fans were created and were further morphed by wind and rain.
The mountain rises as an isolated tower almost straight from the Aegean Sea to 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) above sea level, with many peaks and an almost circular shape making it the tallest mountain in Greece and the second tallest mountain in the Balkans. Its lower slopes are broken by narrow, densely forested deep gorges marked by waterfalls and caves, and exceptional biodiversity.
It has been a National Park, the first in Greece, since 1938 and is also a World Biosphere Reserve.
We lucked out on the weather, so visibility of the snow covered summits and the views below were most vivid.
Prionia - Waterfall/Cascade Spot
The heart of the mountain at an altitude of 1,100 meters
We departed enamored with this majestic captivating massive force of nature mountain, on which mythological Gods assembled for consultations on humans' fate, for the fractured gray rock pillars, on top of which men-made cliff-hanging Eastern Orthodox Meteora's Monasteries complex provided shelter to humans in service of God.
Away from the mountainous area, the agricultural land spread blazed in also green yellow and red full bloom. We drove through Larisa, Trikali
It was way after 4:00pm in the afternoon when the imposing Meteora rock formations revealed its grandness in the horizon .The change in weather and the looming clouds hanging over the Rock Pillars, gave a gloomy feel to the dramatic scenery, while the weeping rain, sadly banished the last spectators.
Meteora - Unesco World Heritage
The name means "lofty", "elevated", and is etymologically related to meteor.
The monasteries are built on immense natural pillars and hill-like rounded boulders, that dominate the local area. It is located near the town of Kalambaka at the northwestern edge of the Plain of Thessaly near the Pineios river and Pindus Mountains.
These unique and enormous columns of rock which rise vertically from the ground, are composed of a mixture of sandstone and conglomerate formed of deposits of stone, sand and mud from streams flowing into a delta at the edge of a lake, over millions of years. About 60 million years ago a series of earth movements pushed the seabed upwards, creating a high plateau and causing many vertical fault lines in the thick layer of sandstone. The huge rock pillars were then formed by weathering by water, wind and extremes of temperature on the vertical faults.
As early as the 11th c monks occupied the caverns of Meteora. but monasteries were built as of the 14th c, when the monks sought somewhere to hide in the face of an increasing number of Turkish attacks on Greece. At this time, access to the top was via removable ladders or windlass. Later steps carved into the rock during the 1920s replaced the old ways. Of the 24 monasteries, only 6 (four male, two female) are still functioning, with each housing fewer than 10 individuals.
Most are open for visits between 9:00am -2:00pm and charge about 6 Euro a person.
A paved loop road starting from Kalambaka village and leading back
circling the entire site, provide great scenery when driving by car.
Varlaam (1517) and the Grand Meteoran (~1400) monasteries were the most recommended to us, so in the following glorious sunny early morning we climb up and visited the Grand Meteoran, which also dedicated a room for a museum.
Caricature at the museum of Greek's perception of WWII Germans
Once the caravan of huge tourist buses started flooding the narrow widening steep roads and ejecting loads of mainly visitors, the entire site lost its appeal to us, and we escaped as fast as we manged out of this tourist trap.
Metaora Kalambaka village
The village was overflowing with tourists vacationing here over the Ester Holiday, thus finding an accommodation for the night was a real challenge we didn't anticipate. Eventually another guest's cancellation was our luck, and won us the last vacant room at the newly opened Grand Meteora hotel, after David befriended its French owner
Grand Meteora Hotel 302432077707 email@example.com
A recommended medium budget hotel is "Divani" Hotel
A recommended low budget but good value Hotel "Orfeas"
To be continued.....