Years ago, when I was scouring the internet for the best places in the world to go rock climbing, I stumbled across a single photo that left me in awe. At first, I didn’t think it was real… maybe some sort of advanced photoshop job. It was the most unbelievable scene I’d ever discovered. In the photo, the sun was setting over a small village in a valley surrounded by massive rock mountains, many of which were laden with stone monasteries on their peaks – an unbelievable feat of architecture. After studying the photo some more, and then googling the location, I came to realize that there actually was such a place on this earth. Its name: Meteora.
I was mesmerized by the image. At sixteen years old, I was trying to come up with any sort of means to fly out and visit this small village in Greece. But wrapped up in school and other aspects of everyday teenage life, I was never able to make the trip.
Fast forward to two months ago when I got the phone call asking if I would like to work on one of Lindblad/National Geographic Expeditions charter ships in Greece and Turkey. The Sea Cloud is a legendary ship on her own, not to mention the added bonus that she was sailing in the Mediterranean, a part of the world I’d never visited before. Not a second passed, and I immediately accepted the position. The next day I was already looking at flights, and it dawned on me that this was my chance to visit the legendary Meteora; a place I’d wanted to visit for years. I planned my trip to spend a couple extra days in Greece at the tail end, that way I could catch a train up north and travel a bit on my own after disembarking Sea Cloud.
Simply put: visiting Meteora was the best two day trip I’d ever taken. The little known town is an absolute dream come true for a mountain lover like myself. After being stuck on a ship for the past three weeks so it was a warm welcome to be able to stretch my legs on the many trails that led up to the various peaks. And not only were the hikes great, but the views from the summits were breathtaking. In fact, I would go so far as to say that in all my days hiking and climbing around the world, I’d never in my life seen such a beauty in nature. Watching the sun set across the distant valley, the final rays of light peeking through the clouds and painting the surrounding rock walls, each with their delicately perched monastery on top, glowing red and fading to orange as the day concluded… it was truly a magical experience.
If there is a heaven on earth, then surely I’ve found mine. Never before had I been somewhere where I could conclusively say it was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen, until visiting Meteora. And with that, I’m already back on the train heading to Athens – my trip here in Greece is finally coming to an end. Short and sweet, and I’m fine with that, but one thing is for sure... someday, sooner or later, I will find my way back to this incredible land of enchantment.