I could tell you how wonderful Meteora is, but the internet has already exhausted that topic, and besides, there are much more urgent matters to discuss: the squat toilet.
Well, okay, let me explain what Meteora is for the uninitiated. Built atop picturesque cliffs and mountains, this cluster of monasteries in northern Greece is home to the luckiest people in the world. No, they are not lucky because of the views or the sunset, but because they’re not allowed to interact with the outside world. No internet access. No newspapers. These monks and nuns have no idea Donald Trump exists. Meagan Markle wearing pants? No opinion! Toilets you can actually sit on? Never experienced it.
So, Meteora. It’s beautiful, it’ll destroy your calves, and you will be forced by the Greek Orthodox Church to wear an ugly skirt because God does not want to see your legs, ladies. Overall, a wonderful place to visit.
But also, squat toilets.
We have to talk about the squat toilets. Really, we have to talk about the fallibility of the human digestive system.
Though squat toilets in Greece have mostly gone the way of chamber pots and outhouses, they’re actually kinder to your colon than the modern porcelain throne. Maybe sitting lends itself better to scrolling Reddit while waiting out, um, particularly difficult bowel evacuations, but odds are you wouldn’t have any difficulties if you were squatting. After a little bit of research, it’s become apparent to me that modern-day toilets are slowly ruining my life and yours. Yet another reason to book a vacation to Meteora.
When I visited Meteora, I had been in Greece for four days. Coincidentally, that was also the amount of time since I’d last gone to the bathroom. I was in for an afternoon of hiking up thousands of steps with a colon filled to maximum capacity. This was not quite how I envisioned the excursion.
On our way into the mountains, our driver stopped to let us take pictures / make use of an outhouse. I didn’t take a picture of said outhouse because I never envisioned myself writing or even thinking about it again. I hoped to eradicate it from my memory, because the inside looked like this:
Baby’s first encounter with a squatty potty. My brain was scandalized, but my bladder doesn’t discriminate. I had to go. And now, some instructions, should you find yourself in a similar predicament (and if you go to Meteora, you will, because all of the bathrooms here look like this):
- Place your feet firmly on the treads. They are there for your safety. The floor may be slippery, because, well, you know, and these will keep you from slipping.
- Pull down your britches. Some of you may be wondering how exactly one avoids soiling their pants in this scenario. I’m not sure how to explain it, but they just…didn’t get in the way. No, I didn’t take them off entirely, because that would’ve put my socks in direct contact with the toilet, which was simply not an option. I don’t know what to tell you. Bunch your pants around your ankles. Pull them forward or backwards if necessary. You are an adult. You can handle this without my help.
- Do your thing. I trust this step doesn’t require elaboration.
- Prepare for the unexpected. Though you may only intend to pee, there’s a chance your digestive system has other plans. For the first time maybe ever, your anorectal canal has been straightened out. It has never been so unencumbered, so free. If it decides to take advantage of the moment, please be understanding.
- Clean yourself. See number three.
- Revel in your success. You are a changed woman, a soul at the foot of enlightenment. Now you understand why those seeking religious truth reject modernity and embrace provincialism. Here is the way to keep yourself pure and clean, both in body and spirit. Relieved of your worldly burdens, you may now ascend the hundreds of steps that take one closer to Christ.
Which, of course, is what I did, and I had an awesome time. You’re probably familiar with Meteora’s stunning landscape, so let me introduce you to some other highlights. This painting of Hitler falling off a mountain, for example:
I had no idea Greece was even involved in WWII, but the Nazis did, in fact, bomb and raid Meteora. Fortunately, they left behind these skulls.
If you’ve ever visited any European monastery or crypt, you know that Catholics love bones. The Great Meteoron Monastery has a whole collection of them so guests can get acquainted with the monks who once lived there.
Most of the monasteries have small museums, and one of them (I forget which, sorry!) allows you to step into a monk’s bedroom.
In addition to learning about Meteora’s monks and nuns, you’ll want to acquaint yourself with the region’s lesser-known inhabitants: the cats.
Look at them.
I know feral cats are common in Greece, but how did they get up here? Was it Jesus? Did Jesus do this?
So there you have it. Meteora: a place where you can buy Acropolis refrigerator magnets from nuns, rock a maxi skirt and hiking shoes, watch an absolutely sick sunset, and totally eliminate your bowels. You can’t get closer to Heaven than that.
Toilet recommendations? Yeah, we want those in the comments.
Experiences using squatty potties? Those, too.
Want to see more bones? Check out the Capuchin Crypt in Rome, also known as the bone chapel.