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An Atheist In Athos — Part three: Greece’s Most Famous Monasteries On The Looney Front

If my cheating in ‘following within the footsteps of intrepid Brit traveler Patrick Leigh Fermor’ was main-league huge-time from Stavronikita to Megisti Lavra, I’ve turned it into an extreme sport for the onward journey.

Leigh Fermor obtained a fishing boat to take him to the west coast the place he resumed his hoofing, however there’s no boat now. I had each intention of walking to slightly cheap stone island clothes uk pier at a spot called Kafsokalivia, whence there’s a boat crusing up the west coast.

Karyes, Athos’s ‘capital’
I did, trustworthy. But, the stroll takes two to three hours, includes plenty of upping and downing, and the boat leaves at 9.30 A.M. It doesn’t take long for my psychological computer to crank itself into overdrive. With a reasonably heavy backpack, who is aware of how long it’s going to take me And what of my predilection for getting lost And my predilection for falling down

And if I miss the boat it’s no less than a 1,500-foot climb again up to the path and then a 5 ½- hour stroll on to Agiou Dionysiou, my cease for the evening.

Karyes’s ‘bus station’ throughout rain squall on first day
So right here I am comfortably at Megisti Lavra, ensconced on the 6.Forty five A.M. minivan in cool however good weather on my manner again to Karyes, whence I’ll take a bus to west-coast Dafni, and thence a ship to aforesaid Dionysiou.

The deep orange sun is rising blindingly from Homer’s wine dark sea (as the sea is dark blue is Homer telling as that in his day wine was darkish blue ).

Sunrise with Thasos in the distance
The many humps of Thasos Island are humping it out of the Aegean, the snow-capped peaks of the Rhodope Mountains are glistening on the mainland beyond, and again on the peninsula the cloudless white summit of Mt. Athos is turning to burnished gold within the sun’s up-slanting rays.

Golden Mt. Athos
The clack-clack-clack of clicking fear beads from the back of the minivan gives pause to suppose that my fellow passengers are a gaggle of aspiring flamenco dancers mistaking their beads for castanets.

In Karyes’ predominant sq. adding a contact of native colour, a really ancient monk has just hobbled on from stage left with a long, wildly flowing grey beard and a peg leg – Athos’s Lengthy John Silver.

Waiting for the minivan in Karyes’s essential sq.
Both weather and scenery are superb because the Agia Anna plies down the west coast from Dafni. The sea, although, is billowing with massive translucent white jelly fish ballooning this way and that.

The Agia Anna
Mt. Athos on the journey south

The primary monastery we drop in at is Simonopetra. Leigh Fermor is absolutely right when he compares it to the Potala in Lhasa, Tibet. Perched some 820 feet up on a crag in a steep hollow ravine, its wood balconied upper floors jut out above an almost windowless vertical stone wall a number of stories high.

It is a lot smaller than the precise Potala, but it surely certainly seems as if it’s straight out of Bhutan or Tibet. I tried to reserve however they’re doing a little repairs.

Shut up
I must say Leigh Fermor was handled right royally 80 years in the past – a single room at every cease, plenty of meals at proper times, not just a single each day chow-down of pottage cheap stone island clothes uk at 3 P.M. I am wine-dark with envy.

The subsequent monastery, Gregoriou, is a little bit sea-stage fortress with the inverted-V peak and massive snowy flanks of Mt. Athos blazing away as backdrop.

Now we come to another little fortress, this one on a precipitous crag 100 or more toes above the sea – Dionysiou, with a really steep path leading up.

Waterfall near Gregoriou
When Leigh Fermor arrived here in 1935, he wrote: ‘It’s constructed fortress-like on an overhanging crag, and its huge windowless walls, jutting battlements and machicolated tower smack of the Dark Ages.’ But he discovered the iron-coated doorways locked.

Dionysiou from afar
After he banged on them ceaselessly, there was ‘unbelievable clanking and capturing of bolts’ and he was ultimately allowed in as he was a foreigner, although he’d committed the sin of arriving after sunset.

Getting closer
Right now the partitions, battlements and tower are the same, but the gates are large open, since it’s only 1.30 P.M.

Even closer
This time I get a room with just one other person, a pleasant Greek pilgrim. But the only real meal continues to be the 3 P.M. pottage of greyish liquid with an odd carrot – fairly tasty, though – additionally some olives and bread as laborious as teak.

From underneath the walls
One other pilgrim, a bearded historical Greek (ancient in years, not a Plato contemporary) is puffing assiduously at a cigarette, his grey moustache jaundiced from a long time of smoking. He says with nice satisfaction in broken English that he swam from Piraeus to Newcastle in forty days.

Swam, quoths I, with great amazement. Yes, quoths he, by boat. In his English swim means journey on water. Athos’s historic mariner.

To cap all of it off, I’ve just been informed I can not visit the library or look at the 16th century frescoes, a flapping monk has informed me off for taking a photograph of an outdoor courtyard as cameras are verboten here within the partitions, not simply throughout the buildings, and one other has just told me sternly the four P.M. service is starting ‘Now! I said NOW!’

Nicely, I am not going, so there, Your Grace.
The ‘verboten’ katholikon within

I do go and have a decko at 6, although. The church is incredibly ornate, dripping in heavy gold and silver chandeliers. An enormous silver chaplet hangs over the center and the walls and ceilings are bursting with brightly colored gold-haloed icons.

Another verboten photo
The abbot is standing beneath the chaplet and they’re all lining as much as kiss a row of richly embossed silver relics in front of him. To all people’s nice shock I additionally skip the midnight to 5 A.M. service.

More icons

Sunset from Dionysiou
As an alternative of taking the Agia Anna straight back to Dafni I choose it up on its southward descent to see some of the opposite monasteries.

Transferring south from Dionysiou
Mt. Athos is blazing away in good however chilly sunshine. The terrain is even wilder on the peninsula’s southern finish, an impenetrable, impassable, tortured land of large crumpled crags. You may, of course, penetrate and move, doubtless with a lot torture and crumpling, on the track round to Megisti Lavra.

Agiou Pavlou
Hermitages and shelters for solitary monks perch atop unimaginable pinnacles with precipitous drops to the frothing sea hundreds of toes beneath. Some are mentioned to haul themselves up with pulleys and ropes. Olive groves and vegetable gardens dot the gentler slopes.

The rugged south
Another view

Again in Dafni you have to undergo customs earlier than boarding the boat for Ouranoupolis – they’re checking that no icons or different artwork are being smuggled out.

Back previous Dionysiou
Back previous Simonopetra

Again past Panteleimon
All in all, a fascinating time in magnificent surroundings amid spectacular structure, even if the religion thing would not really work for me. Not for me the ethos of Athos.

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