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jorgesanchez Mount Athos - A travel report by jorge
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Mount Athos,  Greece - flag Greece -  Piraiévs
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jorgesanchez's travel reports

10 days in the monasteries of MOUNT ATHOS

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Mount Athos is a unique place in Greece, in Europe and in the world. There are twenty Christian Orthodox monasteries; seventeen are Greek, there is one Russian, one Serbian and one Bulgarian.


Saint Panteleimon, the Russian Monastery
Saint Panteleimon, the Russian Monastery
First of all I have to inform you that the Mount Athos is forbidden for women and female animals! Only men are allowed to get in with much difficulty after applying to the religious authorities in Athens or Thessalonica. They only issue ten permissions daily and only for a stay of four days. The Peninsula of Khalkidhiki, in the Aegean Sea, has three “fingers”: Kassandra, Khersonisos Sithonia, and the third is called Agion Oros, or Mount Athos, a religious place which first monastery was founded in the IX century. Today the monk’s population is about 1600, but in the past it lodged a maximum of 5000 monks. Apart from the official twenty monasteries, there is what they call skites, or monk’s houses in an abbey’s area, and Hermitages for monks fasting. In Ouranoupolis, every morning there is boat to the port of Dafne. Overland is not possible. After you pass the control you can board it. Once in Dafne you still have to go until Kariai, or Karies, where you present your permission to the religious authorities and then you are free to visit any of the twenty monasteries during only four days. (I was exceptionally lucky to visit ten monasteries during ten days!). The trekking between monasteries is very pleasant and only takes you about four or five hours. On the way you see many wild flowers, blossom trees, butterflies, etc. You cross mountains, gorges, forests, beaches... Somehow it reminded me the pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago, in Spain. As soon as you arrive to a monastery there is a monk of charge of the visitors who will show you a room where you can spend the night (only one in every monastery, no more) and the dinning room where there is always a cup of ouzo and baklava (sweets) as a sign of welcome. Afterwards he will inform you about the mass schedules and other activities. During the meals a monk reads in loud voice fragments of the Bible. Wine is allowed to drink. For you guidance, everything is free. Money is a vile material in Mount Athos.

Favourite spots:
Vatopediou Monastery
Vatopediou Monastery
Dionysius was the most intimate monastery that I visited because the monks allowed me to share their work in the kitchen and in the garden picking up vegetables at the same time that we discussed religious themes. Magistis Lavras, with its colossal size, is the greatest in Aghion Oros. Saint Panteleimon, or Panteleimonos, the Russian, with its Byzantine cupules, was another amazing monastery where I spent one night. There lived monks coming from Sergiyev Posad, from Valaam Monastery (in one island in the Ladoga Lake), and from the Islands Solovetskiye. Simono Petras, with the balconies resembling the Potala Palace in Lhasa, and located in a rocky cliff facing the sea, was my favourite monastery because it was the first that I visited and I was excited to be in such a fantastic part of the world.

What's really great:
Fresco in Megistis Lavras representing the eight angelic orders
Fresco in Megistis Lavras representing the eight angelic orders
Each monastery is a wonder and contains an incredible amount of precious gems, marvellous frescos, old icons, golden lamps, ancient manuscripts, kings’ presents, etc., apart from the fantastic architecture. If you multiply for twenty all these riches, then the treasures in Mount Athos are beyond imagination.

Sights:
This is me in the Dionysius Monastery
This is me in the Dionysius Monastery
Everything and every moment is special in Mount Athos; the nature, the birds, the wind... That journey helps you to appreciate life more deeply.

Accommodations:
Grigoriou Monastery
Grigoriou Monastery
The accommodation is in the monasteries. There is no hotels in Mount Athos.

Nightlife:
Esfigmenou Monastery
Esfigmenou Monastery
No clubs in Mount Athos. But, after the meals, monks and guests gather to talk about religious matters while drinking ouzo.

Hangouts:
Interior of the Iviron Monastery
Interior of the Iviron Monastery
No pubs in Mount Athos. You have to wait to go back to Thessalonica for that.

Published on Tuesday June 21th, 2005


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Wed, Jun 22 2005 - 09:51 AM rating by gloriajames

Hiya!
Another interesting and unique report! btw... you seem to have conqured the world with your travels! where have you not visited?? GJ

Wed, Jun 22 2005 - 09:29 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

excellent report

Tue, Jun 21 2005 - 07:21 PM rating by rangutan

...must have been very difficult to write this report. Interesting and I'm sure a very unique experience.

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