On May 19 2019 a fire broke out in the Russian monastery Panteleimonos, as a result of which the monastery generator room was completely burned and the monastery lost its source of electricity (source: afonit.info)
In an interview the abbot of the monastery Archimandrite Evlogy (Ivanov) explained that during the night of Saturday to Sunday, the room housing the monastery’s generators and other technical equipment caught fire and completely burned out. It is unclear what caused the fire. Only one small generator survived, with which they are powering the kitchen. Even the lights in the church are all turned off.
The life of the monastery continues, of course, but the brethren are not able to accept pilgrims for the time being, and the approximately 150 guests who were staying there at the time had to leave, as equipment necessary for serving the pilgrims cannot be operated.
No people were harmed in the fire, nor were any sacred objects, and the liturgical life of the monastery continues undisturbed. About 100 brothers and a small number of workers remain living in the monastery, but in the best-case scenario, according to Fr. Evlogy, it will take about a month for the brothers and workers to resume their work.
We (Yke and Wouter Bakker, father & son) arrived on May 4 in Ouranoupolis after our flight from Schiphol to Thessaloniki for our second visit to Athos. We visited Athos before in May 2015. We heard that because of strong winds the next day the ferryboats would probably be out of use. We were pitying this already because our pilgrimage was planned a long time ago and our first night would be in Simonos Petras – the monastery which was so difficult to book.
On May 5 we got the confirmation, when we got our diamonitirion at the Holy Executive of the Holy Mount Athos – the so called Pilgrims’ Office. On the off-chance we walked to the Athos border, trying to get permission to enter the Holy Mountain by land. After waiting (only) 30 minutes we managed to pass the border (with the mediation/translation-help of a friendly Greek) – we luckily could get in a taxi which was ordered. The taxi took us in a two hours’ drive to Karyes. In the afternoon we got a taxi to the monastery of Simonos Petras.
The next day the Divine Liturgy was very special and joyful, because a new monk was tonsured. Very impressive was also (the first time we experienced this on Athos) the Polyeleos – the huge chandelier – set in motion, pushed with a rod so that it turned back and forth during the singing to symbolize the presence of the angels. Following the Liturgy the new monk accepted congratulations from the brothers and guests of the monastery, and after that the communal meal took place in the trapeza. In the afternoon we walked to the coast, still not sure if a boat would take us to our next place of refuge: the Skete of St. Anna. The waves collapsed with great force on the pier. A telephone call to the boat office assured us: the Agia Anna would arrive at 13.00h at the arsanas of Simonos Petras. We arrived at the skete after a climb from the arsanas of the New Skete. At Skiti Anna we were treated with the traditional welcome including the loukoumi, a fine meal, and the greeting of the relics. The next day our longest walk was programmed – to the monastery of Great Lavra, the first monastery built on Mount Athos. Good to see the old cypress of St. Athanasius again there, said to be over 1000 years old. The old trapeza there is my favourite, such a pity we were forbidden to take pictures there. On May 8 we had to get up early to catch the taxi to Karyes. After we got extension of our four-day visit from the Holy Supervision at Karyes, we hiked to the Skete of the Prophet Elijah. There we met father Filimon, a sparkling and witty monk who took care of us very hospitably.
May 8 was also the day of the second semi-final match of the Champions League between AFC Ajax and Tottenham Hotspur with a disappointing outcome (for Dutchmen – Wim) – we managed to follow the match in our guestroom with live streaming of radio. The next day we went to our last stage: a kellion with the name Maroudá, near Karyes. A wonderful and peaceful place to visit, with a few monks and visitors who assisted to follow the Liturgy in Greek. On May 10 father Makarios took us by car to Karyes, the bus took us to Dafni. Because the boat which would depart at noontime was fully booked, we decided to take the Agia Anna, which would hug the Athos coast the whole afternoon before navigating to Ouranoupolis. It was a wonderful farewell tour around the southwestern part of the Athos peninsula. With a lot of new inspiring impressions of Athos we set foot on the pier of Ouranoupolis that evening. With lot of thanks to our brother and uncle Jitze Bakker and his Athos-companion Wim Voogd for their excellent assistance in planning and booking!
Text and photo’s by Yke and Wouter Bakker: many thanks guys, for sharing the story of your pilgrimage with us.
Two pilgrims from Holland just sent me this picture of desperate pilgrims at the Athos border near Ouranopolis, who are trying to get permission to enter the Holy Mountain by land. Today, 5/5/2019, the boats are not allowed to embark from Ouranopolis because of strong winds. The strong winds might also prevent pilgrims to enter the Holy Mountain tomorrow, rumor says…..
Such a pity for pilgrims who planned their pilgrimage a long time ago and who have to adjust their itinerary now!
Wim Voogd, 5/5 10.20 h.
The latest news is that some pilgrims have managed to order a taxi that will take them from the Athos border to Karyes: here is a picture of the lucky pilgrims who passed the border!
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?