5 Oct 2012

James Bond's 50th anniversary - S:t Cyrils monestary

"S:t Cyrils. Where we used to hide from the Germans..." 
Today we celebrate "Global James Bond day" - October 5 2012 marks 50 years since Dr No premiered on the big screen in 1962!

Celebrating the Golden Jubilee, we look at one of the most beautiful Bond locations in the world, namely the monasteries of Metéora, just above the town of Kalambaka in the Greek mainland.
In For your eyes only, Bond turn to his friend Columbo in order to find Kristatos who has disappeared with the A.T.A.C. transmitter. Columbo takes Bond to the Greek mainland and an ''abandoned'' monastery called S:t Cyrils, where Columbo and Kristatos used to hide out while fighting the Germans during the war. Kristatos is awaiting General Gogol, head of the KGB, in order to sell the British transmitter to the Russians. Bond has to rely on a few of Columbo's men and Melina's crossbow to infiltrate Kristatos' lair and get it back before it is too late.
While Bond has to climb up the right side of the cliff, which is away from the buildings, Columbo and his crew waits for Bond to send down a basket with an electronic winch. In reality there is a small cable car that connects the monastery with the adjacent cliff and steps cut into the rock on the left hand side.

"Only Kristatos would make an abandoned monastery his personal retreat."
The small shed with the basket and the electronic winch (later recreated in Pinewood Studios) 

Kristatos' is in fact hiding in 'The Monastery of the Holy Trinity', built in 1475. It is given the name "S:t Cyrils" in the film and lies on the very top of the cliffs, still inhabited by monks today. The monasteries are today a tourist attraction and there is a nice mountain road that takes you all the way from Kalambaka and around the different sites. The high cliffs standing alone in the landscape, combined with the surrounding mountains creates a stunning scenery and it is a good idea to park the car and walk around. The monasteries are sometimes open to the public and 'The Holy Trinity' is also possible to visit. You should check the opening days in advance if you only have one day on location. 

The filming of the scenes in Metéora were filled with problems since the monks did not like the presence of the film team and the commotion. Apparently they didn't know that Sir Roger was the saint... They tried to sabotage the filming by putting up big pieces of plastic and bed sheets on the roofs. The people down in Kalambaka understood the value of the filming taking place on location and at one point they were prepared to drive away the monks to help the film team, fortunately it never came to that! The film crew used the adjacent cliff and created a replica of the monastery where the exterior scenes were filmed. The rest of the monastery was recreated in Pinewood studios by production designer Peter Lamont and his crew.
The cliff to the right was used for the exterior shots. The big rock in the middle can be seen in the film.
*Metéora consists of six monasteries, all built on natural sandstone rock pillars and it is one of the largest and most important complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece, all built between the 14th and mid 16th century.* Wikipedia
The pictures do not do this magnificent location justice. It needs to be seen in real life, before you can fully understand the greatness of the landscape. It is definitively worth a visit and can easily be combined with a week or two in Corfu. From the town of Kalambaka you have a nice view of the surrounding mountains and it is a good idea to spend some time here and have a nice dinner or lunch. Driving to the west coast, and the Corfu ferry terminal, takes about two hours and you can either go via the new highway or drive through the amazing mountain roads (which takes approx. an extra hour).
View over "S:t Cyrils" from a restaurant in Kalambaka

"-We should have brought more of my people. 
                        -James is counting on surprise. 
-But we are only five men. 
                        -And one woman..."
Happy 50th Anniversary to James Bond and congratulations to Sir Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Sir Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig for 50 magnificent years! ...and 50 more to come!

Long may they live.

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