There are many that now know me throughout Greece as I love to stop and talk to people as I go. It not only lets them figure me out but also allows me to ask them where I might get some unique shots from, after all no one knows a place better than someone that lives there. This I found on my recent trip back to the country I love so much. Late September which is a normal time of the year for me to be in Greece, this time however I was for the first time to be let down by the weather. OK at that time of year I know I am taking a chance but in the 10 years I have been visiting this was the first in which bad weather played a part. That is not to say I did not make the most of it though, it gave me a chance to meet old friends and spend some quality time in Thessaloniki talking, drinking good coffee and having some laughs along the way.
This is where for a change I am going to let those of you that do not know into a little secret. You know how you see the stunning images of coastal areas, beaches, resorts, stunning sea shots etc., YES I am guilty of taking many in my time, and to be honest when armed with a camera it is impossible to resist, not forgetting the normal shots of the Parthenon, Tomb of The Unknown Soldier and many other iconic places that come to people’s minds when you say the word Greece to them. Let me throw a curve ball into the equation, if you really want to experience Greece at it’s very finest there is only one thing for it, head inland. You can go anytime of the year, in some cases you would welcome some heavy cloud cover to add to a scene and as for any rain, that is not an issue, you can also let that become a worthy prop for any upcoming of the cuff photo you may want to take.
On this trip I did just that. Having stupidly changed my destination back in June I lost a golden opportunity to return to a place I have a massive respect for. Meteora. Many of you have seen the shots, know the history but surprisingly have never been. I can understand why many may not have gone, why bother when there are so many images to see? Let me tell you this, when you get there, everything makes perfect sense. From the second you lay eyes on it to the second you leave you are transfixed on taking in so much scenery it nearly overwhelms your senses. On this occasion I chose to drive there from Halkidiki, a route I know well due to driving to Lefkada last year so for me it was something to look forward to, driving along the E90 towards Ioannina through the incredible mountain ranges, along the many tunnels now dug through the mountains along a new road to get to the centre of the country. Only 3 toll booths as well so no real extra cost on the journey. The drive time was estimated for 3 and half hours, so I left in the morning and made good time. 2 hours later I left the E90 at Grevena, joined the Grevena to Kalampaka road and at that point I joined what I now consider the best road I have ever driven. 52kms of pure bliss, long straights, tight twisty mountain sections, and a stop off point at a ravine near the half way mark. This was just amazing, as at the top of the hills I had to stop and just be amazed at the stunning scenery on view. It took me near to 4 and a half hours due to the constant stopping and starting along the way. At the end of the road you turn left towards Meteora, you then round a bend and WOW, there it is in front of you, getting bigger as you get closer, the amazing Meteora.
Had I known just how amazing the trip would have been I wold have left even earlier in order to stop at more places along the way, but, I was happy with what I had seen, got some great shots and that was before even getting to where I was going. Something inside me told me that it was going to be a good day. The weather was perfect, blue skies and a lot of heavy white broken clouds, the temp was around the 28-degree mark so just right. Even going through the town of Meteora the scene was just amazing, even though I went last year it was then pouring down with rain so everything looked totally different to what I was seeing now. Now going up the hill towards the top which is where I intended to start the official photography for the day I had to stop. Leaving the car and looking out over the edge it happened again. The clouds broke right in front of me, and again this time not one ray of light but multiple rays, this could not be happening. Even a Dutch bike rider standing next to me uttered the words “Good God”. I also said words similar but not so polite but that was it, I hit the shutter trigger and the day had started, before I had even got to the top.
When I eventually got to the top it just got better, for a while the cloud dispersed leaving me a clear vision of Meteora, this was it, the moment I had been waiting for, for so long. I got to work straight away taking shots of anything and everything, my time here was going to be short, around 4-5 hours but a lot longer than the last time, so, I spent a lot of time making sure I got to places that most others dare to tread and it paid off. This time there were a lot of people around so it was imperative to make sure I got shots that did not include dozens of tourists peering under every rock which made things a little more difficult, but, the good news is that with Meteora being so big most tourists all gathered in the same places to get the “normal” everyday shots. For me that was great leaving me to get on with what I was doing. So it went on, I walked miles uphill, downhill, over hills and to the cliff edges to get those vantage points that were not the norm and I loved every single second of it. Eventually I ended up on the rocks at the St Steven monastery, while there I heard a lot of commotion behind me, luckily I had got the shots I wanted, but, all the noise, I looked around and there was this group of Koreans all piling off a coach coming my way. At this point I decided to rest up, found a comfy rock and parked myself there to watch a hilarious display by these wonderful people having their photos taken. I thought I was nuts for taking shots of everything, I can tell you this these folks put me to shame, they photographed anything, stones, rocks, leaves, other people, shoes, even the parked cars, nothing was immune to them. I asked where they were from, they told me then seeing my camera shouted, photo photo photo…. Hahahahahaha, So I did, I took a few frames of them and they were happy enough with that. They soon left leaving a small group of us behind to have a few laughs and to wonder just what in God’s name we had just seen, it was brilliant. So rested up I then decided to climb up some rocks to capture the monastery from what I hoped would be another good vantage point. So again there I am, clicking away, not taking any notice of what else may be going on below me, and WOW. Talk about lucky, a flash of light caught my eye, I looked down and, Noooooo this cannot be happening. A bride and groom are there having some shots taken of their wedding day, this was too good to be true, so, I scampered down the rocks and lurked waiting for a shot I could only dream of getting and then it happened, there photographer asked them to pose, hand in hand looking out over the Meteora, this was it, I got it, this for me is the absolute dream shot and one I am going to push for all it may be worth. I was totally stunned not only by that but by how well the day had gone, the sun was now going down and unfortunately for me the cloud rolled in obscuring what I had hoped would be a good sunset session. Alas that was not to be, all that was left was to drive back to Halkidiki, but, being as it was now the night time the journey would be a lot quicker due to not having to stop on the way back. And so that was it for me, yet again what I hoped would be a good day turned out to be a fantastic day, not only because of Meteora but the people I met, even so briefly as to smile and say hi to it was just perfect. So my advice to any of you is this, if it looks to be cloudy, cold or even maybe some snow, go inland, just because the sun is not out it does not mean there is nothing to do, for in Greece there is always something. ☺