Katerini and Meteora
Second only to Holy Mt Athos in Greece for importance the monasteries of Meterora should be regarded as sacred but it is easy to lose sight of the sanctity when with the tourist groups. Perhaps not helped by the misspelling on the tickets (yes, there is an entrance fee) saying “Holly Meterora”.
Most people come to see the outstanding views with several monasteries perched on high unwelcoming cliffs. An engineering feat especially for the times they were founded. In times of old Monks and indeed pilgrims would reach the monasteries by windlass and / or by long ladders. When were the ropes replaced? “When the Lord lets them break”. One really should be a believer to use them These days there are steps for the tourist and this is where the tour guides will take visitors.
Joining Natalia and her aunt on their trip meant joining a Russian language tour group. If one wants to experience the sanctity and seclusion of the place (why the monastery location was chosen by the Monks of old) then it will be absolutely necessary not to join or tour group or go when a tour group goes, As it felt like a lifeless place just for tourists.. yes there were a few interesting points not just with the lovely views such as seeing the murals depicting the many ways Christians were martyred, there were a few displays that could be built upon but otherwise it is a rush, take a photo opportunity amid many people. The opportunity of teaching what a monastery is for, how the monks live and the history were not explained in any meaningful way although if one has a tour guide you see it. Further adding to my disappointment was the visit to an Icon studio / shop. With a short talk it was again geared up as marketing. I am not saying don’t go and I am not saying I didn’t enjoy my visit overall but if one wants more than a pretty photoshoot (and you don’t need to enter the actual monasteries to achieve this then time the visit outside of tour group hours and check which days which monasteries are open.
Katerini and Paralia Katerini
Paralia Katerini is a seaside resort popular with Eastern European tourists not far from Mt Olympus. It wasn’t part of my original plan to visit Greece, which to include nearby Thessaloniki but I had changed my plan to meet Natalia who was travelling with her aunt there. Paralia reminded me in many ways of Nikolaevka in Crimea perhaps with a better beach but it was similar in having a mass supply of Kebab shops, some ice-creams stalls, cafes and regular beach shops. I could have been at any Eastern European resort but to be fair, if it primarily a beach holday that the visitor is after (and here it would be) then it is more than adequate. There is also the nearby town of Katerini which is fairly new. There were some pluses, the many cafes, some huge churches but in the context of Greece, there was not anything of note for the tourist but people were helpful. I stayed in Hotel Olympus which is close to the beach and friendly staff. At the time the World Cup was being played. Upon arriving to Katerini (proper) the streets seemed to be dead perhaps because Greece were playing then but at other times it was alive.