Larissa city tour

A walk around the long paved roads of the modern city will give us the opportunity to see the ancient theater and the fortress on the top of the hill of the city. A visit to the diachronic museum of Larissa will follow, where the representative finds of Thessalian culture from Paleolothic Era to the 19th century are presented. The approach of this route to time and space is succeeded through the notions: society, state, institutions, authorities.

Moreover we will have the opportunity to visit the folk museum of Larissa and the museum of wheat processing. In the afternoon, a free time for shopping and rest in one of the numerous cafes and bars of the city will be available.

Duration: approximately 3 hours

Cost: 40€ (per person for a group of minimum 10 people)

Excursion to Meterora and Kalampaka

Today, we will visit the extraordinary group of vertical rock formations, standing up to 300 meters high, which have been weathered by erosion into a variety of bizarre forms. Perched on these rocks are the monasteries of Meteora, which take their name from their setting – “ta meteora monastiria”, the monasteries hanging in the air. The monasteries were built from 1356 onwards. There were once 24, but decline set in during the 16th century, and only six monasteries are now still occupied. We will visit two of them, VARLAAM Monastery famous for its frescoes and ST STEPHEN’S MONASTERY. (No trousers allowed for women, a long skirt is recommended and no short trousers for men either).

Meteora has been proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Additionally, we will visit the Geological museum and the museum of Digital Representation of Meteora formation.

History and construction of the monasteries

The exact date of the establishment of the monasteries is widely believed to be unknown, however, there are clues to when each of the monasteries was constructed. By the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries, a rudimentary monastic state had formed called the Skete of Stagoi and was centered on the still-standing church of Theotokos (Mother of God). By the end of the twelfth century, an ascetic community had flocked to Meteora. In 1344, Athanasios Koinovitis from Mount Athos brought a group of followers to Meteora. From 1356 to 1372, he founded The Great Meteoron Monastery on the Broad Rock, which was perfect for the monks; they were safe from political upheaval and had complete control of the entry to the monastery. The only means of reaching it was by climbing a long ladder, which was drawn up whenever the monks felt threatened.

At the end of the fourteenth century, the Byzantine Empire’s reign over northern Greece was being increasingly threatened by Turkish raiders who wanted control over the fertile plain of Thessaly. The hermit monks, seeking a retreat from the expanding Turkish occupation, found the inaccessible rock pillars of Meteora to be an ideal refuge. More than 20 monasteries were built, beginning in the fourteenth century; only six remain today. In 1517, Theophanes built the monastery of Varlaam, which was reputed to house the finger of St. John and the shoulder blade of St. Andrew.

Access to the monasteries was originally (and deliberately) difficult, requiring either long ladders latched together or large nets used to haul up both goods and people. This required quite a leap of faith – the ropes were replaced, so the story goes, only “when the Lord let them break”. In the words of UNESCO, “The net in which intrepid pilgrims were hoisted up vertically alongside the 373 meters cliff where the Varlaam monastery dominates the valley symbolizes the fragility of a traditional way of life that is threatened with extinction.” Until the seventeenth century, the primary means of conveying goods and people from these eyries was by means of baskets and ropes.

In 1921, Queen Marie of Romania visited Meteora, becoming the first woman ever allowed to enter the Great Meteoron monastery.  In the 1920s there was an improvement in the arrangements. Steps were cut into the rock, making the complex accessible via a bridge from the nearby plateau. During World War II the site was bombed.

Duration: approximately 4 hours

Cost: 60€ (per person for a group of minimum 10 people)