Sunday, 4 July 2010

To hell and back

Just in the Thessaly region of Greece, I get closer to God as I climb with Mr Grigg to Agia Triada (Holy Trinity), one of the many monasteries that perch on the ancient pinnacles of Meteora.

It is a strange place, like something from the set of a science fiction film. I am also reminded of Black Narcissus. Any moment now I expect a crazed nun to jump out on me thinking I am Deborah Kerr.

But I am not and I make it to the top and back to the bottom again in the baking heat, just as storm clouds descend and forked lightning rattles through the mountains.

Then to Ionianna and the tomb of the decapitated Ali Pasha. Down at the coast, we make our way from an overnight stay in Sivota to the Necromanteion of Ephyra, the ancient Greek oracle of the dead. We pass azaleas, hollyhocks, wild thyme and olive groves along the roadside.

This is somewhere I have been wanting to visit properly for several years. On our first visit, the place was closed but Mr Grigg found a hole in the fence where I climbed through. It was too small for him, so he and a solitary tortoise stood guard on the outside.

Back then, I wandered around the ruins of this eerie place on my own. I tried to picture it when the ancient Greeks came to communicate with the dead. Odysseus stopped here for a chat with Teiresias. Stupefied visitors were lowered down by windlass to the chamber below, the palace of Hades and Persephone. In my head was a scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but a silent version.

I found a metal stairway going down into a hole in the floor. Down below it was dark, dank and I had no idea how deep it went. I pictured myself in a thriller, at the point where the viewer thinks 'don't go down there you idiot', so I didn't. I decided to wait another day.

The day has come. We take a boat ride up the lazy River Acheron, which in mythology was one of the four rivers including the Styx that converged at the centrerof Hades on a great marsh. Our bony skipper could be Charon, who ferried the dead across the river to the underworld.

At the Necromanteion, we wander around until we find the hole in the floor. Mr Grigg goes first down the stairs and I follow, clutching the cold metal rail in my clammy hand. The temperature drops, the subterranean room smells earthy and it feels claustrophobic. Not as large as I imagined Hades to be, but other wordly just the same.

And we emerge into the sunlight again, to see a mother stork and a nest of youngsters high up on a lamp post.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x


Jill said...

Hahaha! You didn't know, but you wrote this just for me. I'm reading The Lightning Thief, one of my favorite books and movie is The Odyssey, I have a longing to see Greece and I knew exactly what you meant when you mentioned the crazed nun, that movie creeped me out! I was looking forward to your photos. Thanks!

Reasons said...

Well done on being Blogger of Note! So you didn't sleep with them all eh? I'll believe you ....
Enjoy Greece. Wonderful pics, especially love the last one.

Deb and Barbara said...

I've just added it to my travel list. Sounds fascinating. My kind of hell.