Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021

By Ali Karim
This post is part of a series called Greece 2021
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Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021

After Patra (Peloponnese peninsula), we crossed back onto the mainland of Greece and drove northwards in Greece until about 30 miles south of Albania, we stopped to check out the town of Ioannina, where we had planned to stay a couple of days. Some scenes along the drive northwards from Patra.

First stop was in Arta for a lunch break. Arta is famous for having a uniquely designed stone bridge that was built in the 15th century by the Ottomans and restored several times since.

Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, Original Stone bridge from our lunch stop
Original Arte Stone bridge viewed from our lunch stop
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, Stone Path on Arte bridge
Stone Path on Arte bridge

Next stop was Ioannina, where we had booked to stay at the Kamares historic boutique hotel that was inside the walled city, close to the famous Ioannina castle. A little bit about Ioannina.

Ioannina used to be independent, until many wealthy Byzantine families fled there following the 1204 sack of Constantinople, with the city experiencing great prosperity and considerable autonomy, despite the political turmoil. Ioannina surrendered to the Ottomans in 1430 after the Ottoman commander, Sinan Pasha, promised to spare the city and respect its autonomy. Under Ottoman rule, Ioannina remained an administrative center, as the seat of the Sanjak of Ioannina, and experienced a period of relative stability and prosperity. The first Ottoman tax registers for the city dates to 1564, and records 50 Muslim households and 1,250 Christian ones; another register from 15 years later mentions Jews as well.

In 1611 the city suffered a serious setback as a result of a peasant revolt led by Dionysius the Philosopher, an important Greek Bishop. Using the element of surprise, much confusion ensued as Turks and Christians ended up indiscriminately fighting friend and foe alike. The revolt ended in the abolition of all privileges granted to the Christian inhabitants, who were driven away from the castle area and had to settle outside it. Turks and Jews were to be established inside the walled castle area; with mosques built and Muslim character reinforced, with a wave of conversions to Islam by the local gentry, who became the so-called Tourkoyanniotes.

Despite the repression and conversions in the 17th century, and the prominence of the Muslim population in the city’s affairs, Ioannina retained its Christian identity throughout Ottoman rule, and the lingua franca and native language of most inhabitants was Greek, including among the Tourkoyanniotes, and was sometimes used by the Ottoman authorities themselves.

In 1788 the city became the center of the territory ruled by Ali Pasha, an area that included the entire northwestern part of Greece, southern parts of Albania, Thessaly as well as parts of Euboea and the Peloponnese. Ali Pasha committed a number of atrocities against the Greek population of Ioannina, culminating in the sewing up of local women in sacks and drowning them in the nearby lake; this period of his rule coincided with the greatest economic and intellectual prosperity of the city. Ali Pasha became too “independent” for the Ottomans with his influence in the rest of Europe; such that he was declared guilty of treason and Ioannina was besieged by Turkish troops. Ali Pasha was assassinated in 1822 in the monastery of St Panteleimon on the island of the lake (Pamvotis), where he took refuge while waiting to be pardoned by Sultan Mahmud II, a pardon he had negotiated but got betrayed.

Some scenes of Ioannina below

Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, Inside the walled ancient city of Ioannina
Inside the walled ancient city of Ioannina
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, Patio dinner time was in the very lively area outside the walls of the old city
Patio dinner time was in the very lively area outside the walls of the old city
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, Very lively evening with many people enjoying the balmy evening, just outside the city wall.
Very lively evening with many people enjoying the balmy evening, just outside the city wall.
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, The Fetiye Mosque that used to be a cathedral; with Qur’anic verses, inside the Ioannina castle walls. With the cross on top, seems like it is being used as a church
The Fetiye Mosque that used to be a cathedral; with Qur’anic verses, inside the Ioannina castle walls. With the cross on top, seems like it is being used as a church
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, The inside of the Fetiye mosque, restored, with mihrab and qur’anic inscriptions
The inside of the Fetiye mosque, restored, with mihrab and qur’anic inscriptions

We took a boat over to the monastery of St Panteleimon on Pamvotis island; the monastery is now a museum to Ali Pasha and his relics; but unfortunately, the monastery was closed.

Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, View from the lake
View from the lake

The next day was spent touring the nearby Zagori area, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the Pindus mountains of great natural beauty, with striking geology and two National Parks, one including the river Aoos and the Vikos Gorge, the other around Valia Kalda, to the east of the imposing snow-capped Mt Tymphe. The 46 or so villages of Zagori were interconnected by mountain roads and traditional arched stone bridges until modern roads were opened in the 1950s. With a population density of 3.4 inhabitants per sq km, this is a sparse area. Some scenes from the Zagori area below; where we took a drive & hike.

Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, View at entrance of Zagori area
View at entrance of Zagori area
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, Ancient mountain pathways in Zagori area
Ancient mountain pathways in Zagori area
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, The Vikos gorge is listed as the world's 'deepest relative to its width' gorge by the Guinness Book of Records.
The Vikos gorge is listed as the world’s ‘deepest relative to its width’ gorge by the Guinness Book of Records.
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, Amazingly beautiful frescos inside ancient Paraskevi monastery, a short hike from the village of Monodendri
Amazingly beautiful frescos inside ancient Paraskevi monastery, a short hike from the village of Monodendri
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, Ancient Greek road
Ancient Greek road
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, Ancient water channel for fresh water
Ancient water channel for fresh water
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, Lunch stop in Monodendri; local Greek pie
Lunch stop in Monodendri; local Greek pie

After a nice day in Zagori, we drove back to Ioannina and next day, heading east, to the village of Kalabaka, in Meteora municipality which is located in roughly the center of Greece. Some scenes along the way

Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, Beautiful green countryside
Beautiful green countryside

A view of the rolling hills along the way

We arrived in the village of Kalabaka, and checked into the Monastiri Guesthouse, a small boutique hotel we had booked during the drive. We spent 2 nights here, and explored this area of Meteora, which has unique rock formations, hosting one of the largest and most precipitously built complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries. These unique and enormous columns of rock rise precipitously from the ground. But their unusual form is not easy to explain geologically. Meteora was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988 because of the outstanding architecture and beauty of the complex, in addition to its religious and artistic significance.

Caves in the area of Meteora were inhabited continuously up to 5,000 years ago and many Paleolithic and Neolithic artifacts of human occupation have been found within the caves. The first people documented to inhabit Meteora after the Neolithic Era were an ascetic group of hermit monks who, in the ninth century AD, moved up to the ancient pinnacles. They lived in hollows and fissures in the rock towers, some as high as 1800 ft (550m) above the plain. This great height, combined with the sheerness of the cliff walls, kept away all but the most determined visitors. Initially, the hermits led a life of solitude, meeting only on Sundays and special days to worship and pray in a chapel built at the foot of a rock. However, monasteries were not built until the fourteenth century, when the monks sought somewhere to hide in the face of an increasing number of Turkish attacks on Greece. At this time, access to the top was via removable ladders or windlass. Currently, getting up there is a lot simpler due to steps having been carved into the rock during the 1920s. Of the 24 original monasteries, only six (four of men, two of women) are still functioning, with each housing fewer than ten individuals.

Below are some incredible scenes from Meteora

Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, Rock formations of Meteora at Kalabaka
Rock formations of Meteora at Kalabaka
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, Lunchtime in Kalabaka
Lunchtime in Kalabaka
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, View of the valley from Meteora; amazing how the monks built these monasteries
View of the valley from Meteora; amazing how the monks built these monasteries
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, Monastery perched atop a rock
Monastery perched atop a rock
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, Amazing rock formations everywhere
Amazing rock formations everywhere
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, This monastery of the Holy Trinity was featured in the 1981 Jame Bond film; For Your Eyes Only.
This monastery of the Holy Trinity was featured in the 1981 Jame Bond film; For Your Eyes Only.
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, Another monastery perched atop the rock on the left
Another monastery perched atop the rock on the left
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, Sun rays peeking out from the clouds over Matera
Sun rays peeking out from the clouds over Meteora
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, Sunset over the moonscape-like rocks of Meteora
Sunset over the moonscape-like rocks of Meteora
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, Interesting other rock formations
Interesting other rock formations
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, Town of Kalabaka from Meteora
Town of Kalabaka from Meteora

Panoramic view of Meteora rocks formations and monasteries

We visited only one monastery, the Varlaam Monastery, as the climb up the rock sides to the top involves a lot of steps up and down again.

Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, Varlaam Monastery
Varlaam Monastery
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, Part way up to the Varlaam monastery
Part way up to the Varlaam monastery
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, Viewed from the stairs up to Varlaam Monastery; how did they ever build this…
Viewed from the stairs up to Varlaam Monastery; how did they ever build this…
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, About Monks
About Monks
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, A Monks life in the Monastery
A Monks life in the Monastery
Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, The descent; lots of stairs up and down
The descent; lots of stairs up and down

After getting totally awed by the scenery in Meteora, we went back to Kalabaka and got dinner in the town and next day, we left for Thessaloniki

Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, Kalabaka town scene in the evening
Kalabaka town scene in the evening

Thessaloniki next

Our trip so far

Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021, Trip till Meteora
Trip till Meteora
This entry was posted in Greece, Ioannina, Meteora

13 thoughts on “Ioannina & Meteora, Greece, June 2021

  • Noorallah Jooma May 18, 2024 at 4:26 pm Reply

    Very cool! Beautiful mosque. Thank you for sharing.

    • Ali Karim May 18, 2024 at 4:28 pm Reply

      Thanks Noorallah for the feedback; glad you enjoyed it.
      The Fetiye mosque was indeed nice to visit and enjoy.

  • Mubina Esmail May 16, 2024 at 11:31 pm Reply

    Wow Ali we are always thrilled to see where you have been and love your photos and stories. Beautiful!!! Thanks for sharing.

    • Ali Karim May 17, 2024 at 2:12 am Reply

      Thanks so much for the warm feedback Mubina.
      So glad you enjoy the blogs.

  • Mahamud Jinnah May 16, 2024 at 2:16 am Reply

    What beautiful scenery. OMG.

    Loved the climb part to the monastery. The vows of the monk can teach us a few things especially about attachment to worldly things.

    Interesting to see a mosque with across. True pluralism.

    • Ali Karim May 16, 2024 at 2:19 am Reply

      Thanks Mahamud; Good observation about Pluralism.
      Thanks

  • Dilu Mamdani April 16, 2024 at 9:19 am Reply

    Ali: to experience these places, you have to take me with you.
    Have not heard of some of these cities.
    You are blessed, stay blessed.

    • Ali Karim April 16, 2024 at 9:23 am Reply

      🙂
      Indeed, we always count our blessings and give thanks always.
      Thank you for the kind wishes

  • Marco Marchetti April 14, 2024 at 11:51 am Reply

    Hi Ali,
    I’m glad to see you guys are doing well and travelling.

    • Ali Karim April 14, 2024 at 11:52 am Reply

      Thanks Marco; yes doing well.

  • Lin April 12, 2024 at 5:16 am Reply

    Good place,thanks for share ,Ali👍

    • Ali Karim April 12, 2024 at 12:59 pm Reply

      Most welcome Lin; glad you enjoyed it

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