2099 – The waste and litter problem on Mount Athos

dumping ground

In 2014,  very close to the monastery of Filotheou , waste and rubbish are still dumped in the valley. I don’t know if that is still common practice. I hope not.

car wreck

On the path from Pantocratoros to Vatopedi  in  2019 we suddenly encountered this car wreck. The dirt road was not that far so they have pushed the “deceased” truck on the old path leaving it there to rust.

Garbage location at the top!

Burning the garbage, as pilgrims do, on the top of the Holy Mountain is a very bad idea. My brother Wim made this picture  when he climbed the Mountain in 2019.  Don’t burn garbage, take it back down.

the burnt ground after the 2012 fire

A huge fire in 2012 burned at least one sixth of the peninsula ’s surface.

beach close to Vatopedi

The plastic that is polluting and disfiguring the Athos beaches is also a disgrace.  Burning it is not the solution, the possibility that sparks will ignite bushfires is very much apparent.

Garbage truck

A positive development is that I saw a garbage truck in front of the entrance of Sk. Profitou Eliou, also in 2109,  collecting the waste of the skiti. So our appeal is: “bring back your garbage to the place where you will spend the night”. It will be collected by these garbage trucks.

garbage station

The waste is  brought to a special garbage disposal station near Dafni along the road to Karyes. Here a truck is getting rid of his load.

So what can we do about the waste problem on Mount Athos?
Always bring your waste back to the monasteries, don’t ever litter. Clean the beaches by taking plastic and other garbage in your backpack.

What can we do about this?

A monk from Simonos Petras , also very concerned  about the increasing pollution on Mount Athos,  asked us to give everyone this message, please spread the word on your Athos related websites, blogs and social media:

Please be aware:

You enter the Garden of the Holy Virgin.

If you litter waste on the Holy Mountain, it is an offence to Her. 

Help to keep Her garden clean and bring your waste to a place where it will be collected in a proper way.

Herman Voogd, Wim Voogd, Bas Kamps

In response to the comment of Vasilis: this is what is washed up by strong winds in the harbour of Prodromou. almost halve a meter with plastic waste – styrofoam – from fishing boats. Wim Voogd, 28-1
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2098 – Panaghia and the hike to the peak of Mount Athos

the bell at the Panaghia refuge

It took us 5 hours to walk from Kavsokalivia to the Panaghia refuge (see post 2095) and we arrived at one o’clock PM. We planned to arrive as early as possible, hoping to get a place to sleep in the dormitory in the refuge. But a large group of Serbian pilgrims had arrived earlier and all beds had been taken. But the weather was fine and we decided to roll out our camping mattresses and sleeping bags that we brought, and sleep under the open skies on the terrace outside.

The dormitory in the refuge: all beds were taken.
After a long and warm climb: relaxing in the warm autumn sun, checking phones and sunbathing at Panaghia refuge

The water from the well did not look promising, because small particles floated in the liquid. But various sources had assured us it was drinking water and that we could drink it without having health problems. We took the risk because we ran out of water and we had a long climb ahead of us. And we did not had any stomach problems afterwards. After photographing the interior I had some time to have a look in the surroundings of the building:

A view from the Panaghia terrace: looking south and 1500 meter down: Kerasia
Turning the camera to the left: the south-east, Agios Nilos, cape Akratos and Prodromou.
Looking up, to the north: the Metamorphosis chapel at the peak, 2033 meters above sea level
In the left corner below you can see the toilet building, which is still under construction: there is no flowing water (yet), although it looks as if attempts are being made to get running water here. The contemporary hygienic conditions in the toilets are not ideal……
The same counts for this garbage dump: here the pilgrims throw out their waste (-plastic- bottles, food and tins), and I presume somebody burns this garbage every now and then. I think this is a shameful solution and unacceptable behaviour. Every pilgrim should take his own responsibility and bring down whatever they take up to the Holy Mountain, not leaving anything behind. A real pilgrim should throw their own waste out at a place where it can be collected in a proper way. It is not difficult to do this, just bring a bag. Polluting the garden of the Holy Virgin is a NO GO!
Diner time at 1500 meters
The shadow of the mountain in the sea at sunset.
An old pine tree near Panaghia
a black and white picture of a large pine tree
sunset over Sithonia
a panoramic view
after the sun went down: the sickle-shaped moon rises. This picture is also used in our weblog header.
the silhouettes of pine trees on Mount Athos

And then it got dark. Not just dark, but completely dark I mean. Within many, many miles there are no electric lights here and this has its effect on the skies above. I have seen many starry skies in Europe or anywhere else in the world, even on top of Mount Kilimanjaro, but this starry sky, almost on top of Mount Athos, really beats everything. The sky was so clear and the Milky way galaxy was so impressive, it gave me goose bubbles. Because the light of the small moon already did disappear, our spot on the Panaghia terrace was still dimly lit, illuminated by the stars above us. An amazing experience! Tired and satisfied we went to sleep in the open air, knowing that at five o’clock in the morning our alarm bell would ring, to the climb the last part to the peak.

The hike to the top 2033 meter high: a climb of almost 500 meters in one hour
Waking up at 5 PM: head lights on, leaving our luggage at Panaghia
The zig-zag path going up: the temperature was a lot cooler, 15 C, but warm enough to start sweating again
5.45 h: arriving at the top of Mount Athos. Apart from another visitor, who slept overnight on the top, we were the only ones. A hard wind was blowing, so it felt a lot colder here.
6.15 h: sunrise at Mount Athos 1-10-2019
The Athos peninsula in dim light and in the morning mist
the shadow of the mountain (photo Gert Jan Wiekart)
the pyramid shaped shadow in detail (photo Gert Jan Wiekart)
me on the top: 6.30 h.
Old graffiti carved in the marble from for exemple 1810
6.35: time to go down again, while others just make it to the top (too late for the sunrise!)
the zig-zagging path: a walking stick is a welcome aid
at the tree line: pines
almost back at Panaghia
7.30 h.: back at Panaghia. Time pack our things and hike back to Stavros and via Agia Anna to Agiou Pavlou monastery.

Wim Voogd, 19-01-2020

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2097 – Monastery of Agiou Paulou

1744

18th century drawing by Barsky. The name Paulou came probably from Paul Xeropotamites founder of Xeropotamou monastery. Paulou started as a small dependance of this monastery but was not important enough to be mentioned in the Typikon of 1046.

1853
1853

Two of the first photographs (1853) ever of the monastery by Ernest de Caranza & Emile Charles Labbé. Very early photographic images. Photography was invented in 1839.

1856

3 years after the first photos Edward Lear made this detailed drawing.

1911

Mind the huge boulders that on various occasions came down from the mountain.

1911

There was a huge fire in 1902. In 1911 a terrible flood caused by torrents destroyed a lot of buildings. After 1911 modern technology and materials, such as concrete and cast-iron were used in the reconstruction of the buildings

2007

This photo shows the vulnerable location of the monastery. The danger came not only from the mountain in the form of avalanches and floods. In the 14th century pirates and Catalans raided the place several times. In 1522 the defense tower was build which overlooked the whole valley.

jan 2015

Paulou in winter.

2017

The harbour of Paulou, which in antiquity was probably the site of the little town of Palaeochorion (Erich Feigl p. 158). Copper coins and other excavations point to a settlement from the year 100 and even to a place were monks lived in 400.

Herman Voogd

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2096 – The harbour of Vatopediou

I will show a few impressions of the harbour (arsanas) of Vatopediou.

The 19th century warehouse from the perspective of the pier. The monastery with its red walls towers above the warehouse.

A closer look at the boathouse. The loose bricks are about to fall down. The disappeared stucco reveals the Norman building style. In the background one of Vatopediou’s defensive towers.

Plenty of cats were sunbathing in the early morning sun. They found a spot in a ruin that is overgrown by fig trees. It is always a surprise to see domestic animals on the Holy Mountain that kept its natural beauty and dense forests due to the lack of domestic animals. The woods were never burned down for livestock.

An oxhead is bricked-in in the warehouse at the quay. A reminiscence of ancient, pre-Christian, times on Athos, I thought. But I was wrong as Claudiu stated January 2016 in a comment. It is an bison from Christian times. A gift from Stephen the Great and Holy (1472-1496), who funded the arsanas. See Herman’s 2015 view on the harbour of Vatopediou. And Wim’s pictures.

I mentioned the kiosk in an earlier post about Derek Hill. It was built in loving memory of the artist.

The boat houses are definitely in urgent need of restauration. Can a new Derek Hill or a Stephen the Great and Holy please rise? The building on the left houses the office of the Harbour Police of Mount Athos.

I found an interesting aerial perspective of the harbour, taken in the winter of 2017. Probably with a drone. Source:

Bas Kamps

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2095 – the hike from Kavsokalivia to Panaghia refuge

Our main goal during our 2019 pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain was to reach the top of Mount Athos. We decided to do the climb in two stages: day one from Kavsokalivia to the Panaghia refuge and day two the climb from the refuge to the top, and then down to Agia Anna and end in the monastery Agiou Pavlou.

Monday 30-09-2019, 7.30 PM: preparing for the climb on the terrace of Kavsokalivia
Kavsokalivia: the guest house is on the right. Behind the four cypresses: a glimpse of the aim for today, Mount Athos
Kavsokalivia – two signs: the paths to Lavra/Prodromou/Nelios and to Agia Anna/Kerasia

Immediately after leaving Kavsokalivia I passed a stable with mules and two friendly who laymen asked me where I was going. “To Panaghia and the to the top” I replied. “Would you like to rent a mule to go up”, they asked me? The be honest I was rather surprised and a bit annoyed by this question. Me, only 62 years old and in a perfect physical condition, would need a mule to go up? And on second thoughts: isn’t it an issue in modern times to use an animal for these purposes? At the same time I realized that mules and donkeys have been used for transportation for centuries and that their bodies are perfectly suited to do this kind of labour. And that in this part of the world there is no alternative to transport heavy loads. So I declined the offer friendly and I started the climb up (regretting that I forgot to ask what it would cost to rent a mule).

This is what we saw the next day, while climbing down the mountain: a Russian priest sitting on a mule going up

The first part of the hike is very steep and goes to the path that comes from Lavra. We started at 172 m and ended at 1477 m above sea level, the hike is ‘only’ 7.56 km. Our moving time was 3 hours, but with the breaks it took us 5.15 hours. For more details have a look here on the Wikiloc site.

Google maps: the first part of the hike in detail and the places where I took pictures
The path from Kavsokalivia going up. A breathtaking landscape: the ancient forest with its wild nature

I cannot emphasize enough how special the Athos environment is, assuming it is so different from the rest of Greece, because this landscape has been left alone by goats and sheep for hundreds and maybe even for thousands of years. Here nature has been able to develop almost without any influence from humans or animals, and especially around the flanks of the mountain. It is said many endemic plants survived here. To walk here makes you feel small and privileged.

a stone avalanche near the junction with the Lavra path
A sign to a well (200 m) near Kerasia

Hiking towards Kerasia over the stone avalanche

After the stone avalanche we arrived at Kerasia, an area with many kellions and buildings. The first (deserted) kellion is named Timiou Stavros (also on the Howorth map, buy it here: http://www.filathonites.org/ ).

Looking up from this spot: the top with the Metamorphosis chapel.
The second kellion we passed lies a little higher up, named Timios Prodromos: on the digital Howorth map it is erroneously called Panaghia, in later versions this has been corrected. According to Jemmo the name of this kellion is Genesiu Theotokou (Birth of Virgin Mary)- see his comment.
The new large kellion with chapel at Agiou Apostoli
The finishing touch: the roof is almost ready. All these stone blocks were transported by mules!
leaving Kerasia: the last part to the Stavros crossing
Not far after leaving Kerasia: a turn to the right, the high path leading to Lavra
The large oak trees in an fairytale landscape
10.15 h: time for a break at Stavros: friendly pilgrims from Moldavia greet us
The famous sign to the top: only 3.5 h to go!
on the move again from Stavros
beautiful crocus flowers accompany us

At first the path goes through a forest, but soon the vegetation gets lower and dryer, more bush like, and you reach the point where you’ll have a view over the West coast of Athos and Micra Agia Anna.

View over the West coast
The vegetation gets lower: here a view to the South and the Profiti Ilia top (887 m). On the right Sithonia.
At the view point the path turns to the right and heads Eastwards to a valley. The path is rocky and full with loose stones, which makes it difficult to walk.
and after a while the vegetation gets higher and more dense
this is the area here these pictures were taken

I forgot to mention that from Stavros a dog accompanied us in our hike to Panaghia. Sometimes he walked ahead of us and just waited on a shaded spot to follow us again.

the dog that followed us: here the path turns to the left and we will enter a valley with trees
The valley, with the top in the background
The valley, with more shadow and a cooler temperature
almost there: 1400 meters!
leaving the valley: the vegetation gets thinner, the tree line is closeby
at the tree line, near Panaghia
Panaghia in sight
on the balcony of Panaghia, looking down at Kerasia
13.00 h arrival at Panaghia

Wim Voogd, 10/01/2020

Posted in Kavsokalivia, mountain, Trip 2019, walking | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

2094 – Ioannis Koukouzelis, singer and composer

St. John Koukouzelis depicted on a 15th-century musical codex 

Ioannis Koukouzelis or John Kukuzelis (Durrës, Albania 1280 –  Athos 1360) was a Byzantine medieval Orthodox Christian composer, singer and reformer of Orthodox Church music. Because of his singing abilities, he was called “Angel-voiced”. He was recognized as a saint by the Orthodox Church after his death. He spent his last years on Mount Athos, where he lived in the cell of the Archangels of the Great Lavra.

the location of the cell is not correct, Anargyri and Archangeli have been swapped. Map by Peter Howorth.
The correct position of the Cell of the Archangels, Archangali Kukuzelisa, thanks to Jemmo!
Cell of the Archangels 1853

This is the cell where John Kukuzelis lived. In the background the tower of Lavra monastery. This is one of the earliest photographs from the cell taken in 1853.

Cell of the Archangels by Dragan ” Jemmo” Jemuovic

A recent picture of the Cell of the Archangels where Kukuzelis lived.

Composer St. John Kukuzelis

An example of the beautiful music of John Kukuzelis.

Herman Voogd

Posted in 01 Lavra, people, Trip 2019 | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

2093 – Polykleitos Regos, painter of the Holy Mountain

entance Vatopedi 1963
Vatopedi 2015

Sografou 1934
Sografou 2009
Kavsokalivia 1983
Kavsokalivia 2019
Simonos Petras 1927
Simonos Petras 2019

Polykleitos Regos died in 1984.

Herman Voogd

Posted in 02 Vatopedi, 09 Sografou, 13 Simonos Petras, art, Kavsokalivia | Tagged , | Leave a comment