In the shadow of the emblematic rock formations of Meteora, on the main road running through the town of Kalambaka in central Greece, you’ll find another reason to extend your visit to the area: the newly opened Natural History Museum of Meteora & Mushroom Museum, a 1,000 square meter space where wonderful dioramas vividly depict the habitats of some 300 stuffed birds and mammals.
“This is a white scavenger vulture. Only a few remain because they had a tendency to to eat poison bait intended for wolves and foxes,” explained Nikos Pallas, a businessman and one of the three founders of the museum. “The peregrine falcon is the fastest bird in the world, outstripping even a Ferrari, as it can reach 420-440 kilometers per hour at takeoff.”
A nature lover and avid collector of birds, Pallas saw his dream come true in early December.
“I have loved nature ever since I was a child. I collected birds growing up and later joined forces with two friends. The museum is the result of 25 years of collecting birds and other animals from around the world, at a great cost,” he said, adding that 90 percent of the specimens have come from nature parks or other collections and are all properly documented. “We have not done any hunting ourselves,” Pallas assured.
The natural quality of the displays in combination with the overall aesthetic make for an impressive exhibition.
Pallas explained that the displays have been created by some of the best taxidermists in the world – no small feat considering one specimen can cost as much as 10,000 euros – and have been ranked at the top of an international quality scale developed by Safariworks. The dioramas in which the specimens are placed were created by 18 artists, Greek and foreign, commissioned to make the landscapes look as real as possible. Optical fibers have been added to some of the display cases in order to depict the star-studded skies frequented by nocturnal species.
The science behind it all is also solid, as the museum works with the Environment Ministry and the Callisto environmental group and is currently developing ties with the academic community to develop a research center.
The second area of activity, mushrooms, is equally impressive.
“It is the first of its kind in Europe, with a great collection that is constantly being enriched, as we have thousands of varieties in Greece,” said Pallas.
In this part of the museum as well, the displays are placed in natural-looking surroundings, separated into four types of forest, depending on where the species grow: beech, pine, fir and oak. The mushrooms and sculptures are crafted individually to perfectly replicate the real shapes and colors. The scientific adviser here was Giorgos Constantinidis, an international authority on mushrooms, said Pallas.
The museum is hoping to get a lot of work with school groups.
“I personally toured every school in Thessaly and presented the museum to their headteachers,” commented Pallas, adding that he received a very warm reception.
He believes the area’s tourism will also benefit.
“Because of Meteora, Kalambaka has visitors from Japan, China, Russia, all over Europe and many Greeks. If someone comes to spend just two or three hours in the town itself, the museum gives them a reason to stay longer,” argued Pallas. “Tour operators have already shown an interest in the museum and brought visitors here, while the audio tour will soon be available in 10 languages. We have already exceeded our original visitor estimates by far.”
For more information about the Natural History Museum of Meteora & Mushroom Museum, visit meteoramuseum.gr.