Religion has always been playing an important role in the Greek culture and history. Greek monasteries are interconnected with the Greek natural beauty and its amazing landscapes.
Located in steep rocks, cliffs, on windy slopes above the sea, lush green valleys and olive groves, these monasteries are actually witnesses of human efforts to come closer to God through silence, simplicity and harmony. Based on religious worship, miracles, built by experienced local craftsmen and decorated by remarkable religious painters. Greek monasteries played a valuable role in different periods of Greek history protecting and sometimes preserving the Greek language, arts and tradition through generations of monks. Even today many monasteries teach arts such as religious painting, protection and preservation of ancient manuscripts, wine-making, biological agriculture, traditional cheese making etc.
Many Greek monasteries (away from Mount Athos) are open to the public for restricted hours and will admit men and women if properly dressed - no shorts, mini skirts, bra-tops or vests. Some will provide clothes to put over your own but be prepared for the indignity of looking like a 1970s Soviet peasant in front of your loved one/friends if you go for this - the 1980s, let alone the 1990s never happened, sartorially speaking, for your average Greek monastery. If you are off the beaten track, you could take advantage of an old tradition that lingers in remote areas of the mainland of providing accommodation for travellers (strictly single sex, women in convents, men in monasteries).
It is worth making the effort to get off the beach and seek out sacred places in Greece, and not just monasteries. The countryside is dotted with tiny whitewashed churches, packed full of icons and set in tranquil locations. Most have pine trees strategically positioned beside benches in the grounds so the weary, sticky walker can cool off and contemplate. One of the more enchanting habits of the Greek Orthodox church, and one which has been adopted by Greeks building houses today, is to position their places of worship smack on the top of hills. The views are usually fantastic. Monasteries do not generally charge admission but they often sell postcards (much more charming than the tourist cards), miscellaneous iconography and sometimes home produce - honey, lace and so on. It is the done thing to buy something, or to make a donation.
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