The early boat, the Agia Anna, took us to Dafni on the 8th of April 2019. The clouds hung low over the peninsula. The Holy Mountain was covered by grey cumuli. In Dafni we found a small taxi bus that would take us to the capital Karyes; our starting point. The road zigzags up into the woods. Every time we visit Athos the dirt roads seems to have broadened. The clouds came nearer and nearer. At about 200 meters altitude we disappeared under the blanket of fog.
like to start the photographic journey by showing some pictures of misty Karyes.
The mist that makes the world smaller, the sounds softer and makes the colours
disappear. Like the greyness we experienced earlier in the winter of 2014-2015.
See the blog the day the colour disappeared.
The main street of Karyes with black and gray men.
We found the well-restored Protaton, the oldest church on Athos, closed. It looks quite different from our 2017 pilgrimage.
Protaton with its bell tower and in the background the stairs leading to the Holy
Epistatia, where the government resides.
under the crimson Camellia.
Opposite the bakery, with its irresistible spanakopita, puff pastry filled with spinach, we saw a deserted alley with cobblestones between the ruin of a house and a high wall. The drystone wall was covered with a rich variety of plants, like a hanging garden. Behind the wall some bright white flowering fruit trees.
On the way
to Koutloumousiou we saw some very mysterious trees in the fog.
In post 2018 I showed you the pictures I bought on the internet, made by German ‘Wehrmacht’ soldiers during the Second World War. Some of the pictures were taken on the hills above skiti Timiou Prodromou, where the German flak position once stood. On our last pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain in September 2018 I wanted to investigate if I could find the exact location of this flak position. Could there still be any ruins left, because it is said that the buildings were totally demolished after the war?
Even on Google maps you can still see the contours of a building, and on the next picture, found on the internet, a building is even better visible.
With the help of monk T. from Simonospetras, who drove us over the peninsula that day, I took a hike to this building. A Romanian monk of Prodromou told father T. that this should be the place where the flak position had been during WW-II.
I started walking the monopati that leads up from Prodromou and after a few hundred meters a path goes up to the left (in blue on the map below).
On the Holworth map the (ruined) building I went to is marked as a chapel named “Timios Prodromos”: this is how it looks like today.
The building is in a desolate state: the walls of the two room are crumbled down, except for the wall on the right on the last photo. In this room two wooden beams are still in situ. Might this has been the tower like structure that has been used by the Germans to overlook the NorthEast and South coast of Athos? (see picture below). Any signs of a road leading to this spot, as you can also see on the picture below, are totally gone. And I did not find any signs that this building used to be chapel.
I look some photos of the surroundings, to make sure I ended up at the right spot:
After visiting the Holy Mountain I continued my holiday and we booked a hotel in Porto Koufo. I found out that on Sithonia, between Porto Koufou and Toroni, there also has been a flak position made by the Germans in the second WW, called “Two Cannons”. This the route we walked to visit this spot:
And this is how this flak position looked like:
The architecture of these structures differ completely from the ruins I found on Mount Athos. These buildings are made of concrete and they are clearly made for war purposes. Next to this place, where the cannon was positioned, the soldiers quarters were build, also in concrete. Such buildings lack on Athos. Furthermore they did not use any concrete on Athos, but on the other hand no cannons were placed on the flak position above Prodromou, and only 2 to 4 men were were accommodated there.
My conclusion: I am still not quite convinced that the German flak position is on the place I found on the Holy Mountain. More investigation has to be done!
And my best wishes for a good pilgrimage to the Haarlem-team and my brother Herman, who will be visiting Athos next week!
Wim Voogd, update 6 april 2019
Theodosios sent me some photos of the spot he claims to be the flak position, see below. From this view you can see Prodromou and cape Akrathos. The ruins on Theodosios’ photos are different then the one I saw and the spot is more open. The mystery remains: where is this flak position exact located?
This weblog is about Athos. But every now and then I have to report something not directly related to the Holy Mountain, because of its importance or beauty. Today I will show some photos of the Greek orthodox monastery Mar Saba – Saint Savvas – in Palestina (or Israel if you like), that I visited on the 2th of March this year.
Its history is unique and amazing and the founding dates back to the year 483, when the Holy Father St. Savvas gathered with other hermits in the Judean desert, in the Kidron valley. The hermitage grew slowly and in 502 AD the first main church was build. And until this day we can count 1536 years of unceacing monasticsim on this spot. Read the full history here on the site of Mystagogy.
I took a taxi from Bethlehem and payed 120 shekel to get there (about 10 km). The cab driver waited for me to take me back. On arriving at the monastery religious women from a East European country were standing at the main entrance to pray and kiss the walls. Just like on Athos, women are not allowed to enter the monastery! Today only 12 monks remain: according to the monk I spoke it is difficult to find novices who want to live here in the (hot) desert……
The relics of St. Savvas are still in the main church and where shown to me by a nice monk, who gave me a quick tour in the church (and who spoke perfect English). The story about the remnants of St. Savvas is extraordinary: the crusaders stole the corps during the first crusade (1096 -1099) and took it to the church of Saint Antonin in Venice. The relics of St. Savvas were returned by the Catholic church in 1965, read more about this here.
Let’s have closer look at the monastery, first at the interior of courtyard chapel – nr 5.
Wasil told that is possible to sleep in the monastery and stay the night over. Beware, non-orthodox pilgrims are not allowed in church. The monk I spoke had many reasons not to include other Christian believers, because they made the wrong choice……. But he was thankful for the gift I gave him: incense made by Father David from kellion Timiou Stavrou in Provata-Athos!
More than 10 years I published two posts in nr 646 and 649 about two articles from 1957 in the Dutch magazine Katholieke Illustratie, written by the Dutch writer A. den Doolaard, who was accompanied by the famous Dutch photographer Cas Oorthuys (1908-1975).
His complete collection, consisting of 447 contact albums with ten thousands of photos, is kept in the National Photo Museum in Rotterdam. Last year the museum started a crowdsource project, named “Captions for Cas”, a part of a large project aimed at preserving, digitizing and describing his archive.
I was lucky to do my share and describe the photos he took when he went to Athos in 1957, together with his friend A. den Doolaard.