The Adventures of the Roving Route #1
Welcome to The Roving Route. We are a couple who love to travel and experience destinations and we hope that our experiences teach you how to plan your next adventures fully! Subscribe to our email list to get notifications about weekly updates and new content on our website.
It was interesting to go from the underdeveloped tourism scene of Sicily to the well- developed scene of Athens. Athens is full of people and we are still in the shoulder season! It was also interesting to see the cultural and historical similarities between the two. Prior to the Roman conquering, the Greeks controlled Sicily and built some of the most significant sights on the island. Generically speaking the Athenian temples were larger however, the Sicilian locations were (what some would say as more) gorgeous often sitting on hilltops overlooking rolling hills with Mt Etna on one side and the sea in the distance. We also had them completely to ourselves versus the mass crowds and tour groups at the Acropolis.
Derek has been to Athens before (2012) but cannot believe how much has changed in such a short time. The dirt and unemployment that was extremely evident in the midst of the crisis have subsided allowing the restaurants, art, and culture to come alive again. While the food in Sicily was never lacking, we are happy to switch out some of the carbs for meat and vegetables.
Our highlight of this week came when we left Athens to explore Kalambaka and the famous region of Meteora. Perched on top of rock pinnacles (think the badlands or Cappadocia but 100x bigger) hundreds of feet above the valley below, sit a series of still active and abandoned monasteries. Over two days we zigzagged between dozens of these otherworldly formations to find some of the most secluded and stunning monasteries in the region. Starting in the 14th century, monks climbed up these sheer rock faces and lived in caves or developed complexes on the tops in order to be closer to God and to achieve solitude for prayer. It is an understatement to say that the sheer guts these people had was incredible but the sites now are some of the most gorgeous buildings (religious or not) that we have seen in our lifetime. While there were once about 24 active monasteries/nunneries and many previous cave churches or residences, only 6 are active today.
In addition to the beauty in the buildings and area, two specific reasons will forever solidify this spot in our minds. The first, happened on the first day as we started our walk out of town. A stubby orange village dog came sauntering towards us and lead us up through the paths to the top of the mountain where our first monastery sat. Though she didn’t talk much about the local area, she was the best guide we have ever had and was just the motivator we needed to keep going!
The second came on the second day which resulted in a 20+ KM hike. With limited information from the visitor center, we knew of trails that would take us to some of the old abandoned or ruined monasteries - it was just a matter of finding them. Well, that we did! With the thousands of people pushing their way through the main monasteries on buses or tours, we climbed off the back of a hill and down a dirt trail with a vague idea of where we were going. It was the perfect decision. After a couple of KMs and only seeing one person, the most stunning monastery of them all popped out of nowhere. Tucked inside of a large cliff sat Ypapanti. Started in the middle of the 14th century with no way up except scaling the vertical wall, neither of us could believe it is still standing. Continuing through the forest we came across several more monasteries in ruins, as well as a hermit cave which a goat now calls home! Though it was a long day, it will always be remembered for the breathtaking views and a reminder of the sheer will of people!
This Upcoming Week
We sit here today writing this message at the base of Mt Olympus - the home of the Greek Gods. From the top of the mountain above us, the Gods discussed and decided the fate of the aspects of the mortals' lives they controlled. We prepare for our grueling hike tomorrow and can only hope the Gods are in our favour!
The interesting part of booking and traveling on a whim is you never truly know what next week could hold. We always have ideas in mind but are always open to let the world (and price!) dictate where we go. Our original plan was to make our way north from Greece into Bulgaria but when we started to look into booking trains we found our train routes are no longer direct. Due to the increasing time and transfers, flights became more interesting. With airlines like RyanAir, once you open up those gates in Europe, the world becomes your oyster! The last week our focus has been researching into the different Islands off the coast of Greece or even Jordan/Israel. But after the excitement subsided, we decided the best thing for us was to stick to our original plan and head to Bulgaria. Our flights are now booked to Sophia for Wednesday. Stay tuned for next week's update!