Today we rented a car to drive around this section of the island. We headed north towards the old monastery of Ypsilou that was reportedly still in use. Even from the road, we spotted it easily high up on Mount Ordymnas. Our little white car struggled up the paved road to the small parking lot, and we walked the short distance to the entrance.
Not only was the monastery old (founded before 800 AD), but it seemed to be in the same condition, not having ever been renovated perhaps. We first noticed two things, one of which had several adorable kittens…
…and a very strong odor of sewage. There were also flies and other insects of various sizes everywhere. When we walked through the gate, we saw a monk in a black robe with black hair and a black beard sitting in a chair, and heard what seemed like a lively conversation we could later see included two plain-clothed men on the balcony above.
After playing with the cats a little, we made our way around the premises, trying to ignore the smell and the insects. The area was a courtyard outlined with a two-story walkway. In one corner on the second level there looked like what could be monks’ quarters, with keys in each door. Just underneath this was a small room filled with books and a monk fully clad with monk garb and a laptop that seemed so out of place, who was overseeing the library. Upon closer inspection we saw that many of the books were very old, with old bindings some more intact than others. The oldest we leafed was stamped by the publisher in 1876 but we dared not handle the more fragile looking books.
Continuing around the square we saw beautiful rose bushes interspersed here and there…
…and came across a upward-pointing sign that read “Museum”. Silently, the monk who had been sitting in a chair, rose, walked up the steps and unlocked the museum door. He sat in another chair in the corner of the museum as we looked at the many religious and historical artifacts. These included old documents from the 10th – 11th centuries, jeweled crosses, bishop and clergy clothing from the 12th – 15th centuries, chalices and much more.
Before leaving the monastery, we walked to the roof where the bells were and enjoyed the gorgeous view of the surrounding areas. The blue of the sea and the many shades of green and tan were spotted with patches of delicate yellow flowers or bolder pink ones.
Our car journey continued to the Petrified Forest Park, which was set on a gorgeous hillside with the same scenery as previously described. We must admit, the majority of what we learned about the petrified forest came afterwards from internet sources. While we hiked the hillside, observing the free-like structures that now had all the characteristics of colored stone…
…we had no idea these trees had been petrified approximately 20 million years earlier. Nor did we know that the vast majority of the forest still lay buried under a thick layer of volcanic rock beneath our feet, still millions of years away from seeing the light of day. Only a handful of stumps have been archaeologically excavated, and most likely, that is how it will remain.
Here we are being as petrified as the wood:
The science of a forest becomes petrified still baffles us, but the very simplified equation we can grasp is: lava + rain = petrification. We’ll have to spend more time on Wikipedia to get a better understanding. But, for now, the experience of wandering through such an ancient natural wonder will tide us over.
Check in again soon for more tails of our adventures.
Ligeia and Mindy :):)