Sunday, December 3, 2017

Greece | Thessaly | Meteora | Kastraki

I am staying in the village of Kastraki, which is almost but not quite coterminous with the much larger town of Kalambaka. My hotel is .9 of a mile from the Kalambaka train station. I had intended to walk but just as I started off a downpour ensued. I had already gotten drenched walking to the train station in Thessaloniki but had pretty much dried my clothes with my body heat on the train. I did not want to get soaked again so I took a cab. My hotel, a small guesthouse, actually, is like many such places around here run by a couple who live on the premises. The on-line reviews said they “treat you like family,” which I definitely do not consider a recommendation. I prefer anonymous places with receptionists like those in “American Horror Story: Hotel.” It was one of the cheapest places in the village, however, so I thought I would take my chances with the dreaded “family treatment.” It turned out my fears were ungrounded. After checking in I came and went like a ghost and never saw the owners again for four days. 

The spires and peaks of Meteora loom over Kastraki. I am staying here because the village offers better access on foot to most of the Meteora monasteries than does Kalambaka. It is also much more quiet and laid back than bustling Kalambaka, which caters in large part to big tour groups. Indeed, zoning laws forbid buildings of more than two stories in Kastraki and any new buildings must be made from traditional local materials. This is an apparent attempt to keep out large hotels and maintain Kastraki’s ambience as a traditional Greek village.

On-lines guides rave about the cuisine in Kastraki and there does seem to be an inordinate amount of restaurants for a small village, but the tourist season has peaked and most now appear closed for the winter, even though it is only the last week of November. The one place I do find open at mid-afternoon serves only the most generic Greek grub at ridiculously inflated prices (the house wine, produced locally. is not bad at all, quality-wise, but at €5 a half-liter also overpriced). Fortunately the village boasts of a fine little bakery with excellent spinach and cheese pies and chocolate croissants. These sluiced down with a bottle of local red wine (€4.00 for three-fourths of a liter) make a sufficient repast, even after a long day’s hiking on the roads and trails out of town.
Kastraki from Great Meteora Monastery (click on photos for enlargements)
Another view of Kastraki
Another view of Kastraki
Another view of Kastraki
Another view of Kastraki
Another view of Kastraki
Small church in Kastraki
Massif behind Kastraki. The cliff face is dotted with caves and fissures that were once inhabited by solitary meditators, anchorites, recluses, and misanthropes.
Another view of the massif
Another view of the massif
Another view of the massif. If you look closely you can just make out the ruins of a hermitage in the exact center of the photo.

Church in Kastraki
Upper Kastraki
Valley above Kastraki

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