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Climbing the towers of Meteora

Meteora is one wondrous and very unique place.
Towers of sandstone, gravel, stones and pebbles rise up as high as 300 meters,
forming cracks, chimneys, roofs and couloirs that can satisfy the wanderlust of every rock climber.

flower meteora towers doupiani

The style of climbing is very different and the safety not the best it could be, 
so if you're going there for the first time (like I did)
make sure you gather some information from locals about the routes.
You can search for info at the climbers' preferred camping place, "Vrachos"
and/or buy the official Meteora guide book.

meteora climbing gear equipment
One last check on the equipment, Doupiani tower in the background.

My trip to Meteora was short,
but I had the chance to climb multi-pitch for the first time.
I learnt a lot about safety techniques, my equipment and the importance of my rope mates.
In one week I'm setting sail towards the Julian Alps of Slovenia and then probably the Italian Dolomites with a great respect for nature and awe of the summit.

Tzoumerka, a place to return to.

Some information about the places mentioned.

Tzoumerka is a mountain range in northwestern Greece, part of the wider Pindus range.

Kalarrutes (Kalarites or Καλαρρύτες) is a mountain village in the Ioannina regional unit, Epirus, Greece. It is located in the heart of North Tzoumerka (Joomerca or Τζουμέρκα) and is surrounded by some of the most beautiful and challenging mountain summits in Greece.

At the time me and my friends arrived to Kallarrutes it was already really dark.
Still the glowing snow of the summits surrounding the village indicated what would follow and left us with high expectations for the first morning light.

Strogoula, Tzoumerka summit
There is an endless number of possibilities for hiking and trekking in the area.
We only had enough time to navigate through two trails.
With the first being a hike up a hill covered with snow, without following a specific path, but improvising directly to the summit.

This photo was taken a few meters before the top.
They look like wolf prints, don't you think?
Wolf-prints in Tzoumerka mountain region
Summit of "Loula"
Summit TzoumerkaThe other trail was a steep walk down a gorge and then all the way up to the village of Syrrako (Sirako or Συρράκο).
Very scenic route with a great variety of landscape that included walking on snow under melting icicles to crossing a wild torrent over a poorly made old steel bridge.
Unfortunately I don't have any good photos from that one.

In conclusion I can definitely say that I'm going back there and soon.
Maybe for hikes more technical and physically challenging.
Tzoumerka is a place to return to.
Stay tuned :)

(Click photos for better resolution)

Interrail Europe - Summer 2011 - Barcelona

Barcelona is definitely a very interesting city, full of life, peculiar buildings and secrets to discover.

I had some great moments there that vary from climbing the walls of Gaudi's Parc Guell to drinking traditional sangria on rooftops with stunning view to the city of Barcelona to an open stage reggae party, where I danced until my feet wouldn't hold me!
And there are definitely a lot more for me to discover.

The most interesting thing about the buildings in Barcelona for me was to find a way to climb on them!
Next time I'll try to get permission to climb on top of La Sagrada Familia,
but until then L'Arc de Triomf...

Climbing on L'Arc de Triomf Barcelona, Spain
Photo taken in Barcelona, Spain
...and Parc Guell was great fun!

Climbing in Gaudi's Parc Guell
Photo taken in Barcelona, Spain

Important for interrailers

Getting from Grenoble to Barcelona by train was not as simple as I first thought.
In Grenoble we were indicated a route that was supposed to be free of supplements for interrailers,
but it wasn't.

In the beginning everything seemed to work out fine...
Grenoble-Valence (free)
Valence-Avignon (free)
Avignon-Montpellier (free)

But then...
Montpellier-Figueres (+10€)
Figueres-Barcelona (+10€)

Finally after 5 trains and 12 hours on the road we arrived in Barcelona.

The only free of supplements route to get to Barcelona from South France is via Nice and goes as follows:
Perpignan-Port Bou
Port Bou-Barcelona

Sleeping in the airport of Barcelona

Arriving in Barcelona we had nowhere to go (again :P),
so we headed to the airport ("Barcelona El Prat") to try and get some sleep.
I had the best sleep of the trip under the staircase near the ckeck-in counters, but it didn't last for long!
Around 2.30am the security came and literally kicked us out, because we didn't have a flight ticket!!
So, in any case don't try sleeping in Barcelona El Prat, unless you have a flight next morning.

Hope these helped!

Interrail Europe - Summer 2011 - Zermatt

I arrived in Zermatt late at night.
I was planning to do wild camping, so I had no option, but wear my head torch and follow the hiking routes to get out of the village.

Wild Camping is not really allowed in Switzerland, but as long as you are up in the mountains it shouldn't be a problem to put your tent somewhere.

And so I did, the girls and I put our tents next to a river and fall asleep
accompanied by the sound of heavy rain.
In the morning the clouds had all gone away and we had the chance to see Matterhorn!

Matterhorn north face from Zermatt
Photo taken in Zermatt, Switzerland

This photo was taken just before the sunset of the same day.

No doubt, Matterhorn is the most beautiful mountain I have ever seen.
I promised to myself that I'll climb on top of it someday...

But until then, I just followed the trail to Schwarzsee :P
It was an amazing day and the view of the mountains was breathtaking.
Although it was summer, there was a snowfall last night, which made the high peaks even more impressive!
The nature in full orgasm!
Flowers and butterflies, waterfalls and glaciers.
And we were there to see them and be part of them.

Photo taken near Zermatt, Switzerland

That was definitely one of the most beautiful days of the trip.
(not to mention my life...)

Interrail Europe - Summer 2011 - Florence

After Rome I took the train to Florence.
Getting there was a big adventure, which I'm not going to write down here.
The outcome was that I hardly got any sleep that night, I didn't have enough food left with me and I was feeling exhausted.
So, the first thing I did when I arrived in Florence was get to sleep.

When the girls and I woke up, we were all ready to explore the city.
Ponte Vecchio is stunning, but Uffizi gallery too expensive for me.
The Italian ice-cream delicious and the alleys are all very beautiful!

In every corner we turned we would find a concert! Indie bands, orchestras, covers of the Beatles!
Good music for all tastes!

Florence is one of the most beautiful cities I've visited in Europe
and it gets even more beautiful and charming when the sun starts to set.
This is when the magic happens!
It seemed to me like the city was built to be enjoyed that very moment, when the purple of the sky mixes with the grey clouds and the stone and wooden bridges.

Enjoy a couple of photos from under the bridges of Florence... :)

florence buildings sunset
Photo taken in Florence, Italy

sunset in florence under the bridge
Photo taken in Florence, Italy

Interrail Europe - Summer 2011 - Rome

If you are searching for a quick tourist guide to Rome, this is definitely the wrong place to be.

Rome... This is where the eurotrip started and thefore where I validated my interrail pass.
So this is a short report on my experience there.

I dedicated a whole day walking around to see the most famous monuments of Rome.
Most of the buildings were really impressive and elegant,
the whole city is a journey back in time,
but in the end of the day I wasn't really filled by what I've seen and what I've done...

...not before visiting csoa Forte Prenestino!

I was searching for the pope in the Vatican and I ended up finding him there.
Have a look...

The real pope sculpture
Photo taken in Rome, Italy

Interrail Europe - Summer 2011 - Final Map

I'm back from the eurotrip!
Must admit I had the time of my life.
My time around Europe with my best friends was priceless,
I met amazing and unique people,
had big adventures and learnt a lot from every single day.

My first days back home were quite nostalgic,
although I was very happy to be welcomed back by my friends and family. :)
From now on, I can only keep myself busy by making plans for the next journey!

Anyway- this is the final map of the eurotrip,
the actual route we took and even the trains we changed in order to avoid expensive supplements.
The following days I will be posting some photos from the trip and also a guide about the interrail and keeping it low-cost.

europe political map railway interrail route
Click on the map for better resolution