Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Traveler

As a traveler, it's always cool to find a place one did not know existed.

Such is a place called Meteora; it's beauty, its history and its significance to distant and latter-day monks and nuns is stunning.

After arriving in the village of Kalambaka on a dark night, after pulling curbside to a hotel described as My Big Fat Greek Wedding, I woke in the morning and stepped outside on my balcony to a view of sandstone rock pillars scattered on the edge of the city. The pillars looked as if they'd been shaped, formed  by giant cyclops with play-doh, and placed amongst the landscape.

As our bus wound around the mountainous corners, more play-doh pillars came into view. And then the impossible--monasteries built at the very top of each pillar, blended brick and wood with rock. Among ten monasteries, each on its own rock-pillar, we were here to visit two: one for nuns and one for monks.

The question had been asked for centuries by Greeks and visitors alike--how did this happen? There has never been an answer, and for me, only one word comes to mind: tenacity.

Tenacity: not easily stopped or pulled apart: firm or strong
:continuing for a long time
:very determined to do something

The tenacity of men (I assume the endeavors didn't include women, but how wrong I may be), is what drove them to build an impossible structure on an impossible piece of land.

In the fifteenth century, these tenacious monks who sought peace and a place to dedicate their lives to God somehow decided to find an impenetrable place to do so. Was the persecution so horrible? Or was their devotion incomprehensibly deep? Did they want to prove their devotion to God. How long did the construction take?

To build the monastery on top of the rock, it first had to be climbed. Building material had to be lifted. Eventually, a staircase was built, but history tells us, it wasn't until 1922. Then each monk or nun had to make the near impossible climb to the top of the mountain. Many died trying. Perhaps this was a way to cement their devotion to God--once the commitment was made, there was no backing out.

And perhaps the men and women who dared to build, who dared to sacrifice the outside world made a discovery-as travelers, they didn't know their fortitude, or their tenacity existed. They tested the reach of their devotion to God. They dared to find a place they heretofore didn't know existed.

They inspire me as a traveler, as a sojourner on earth, to also find a place within I have yet to know exists.