1920 – First day, entering the Holy Mountain by water taxi

Our 2017 pilgrimage started quite different from earlier trips to the Holy Mountain. We didn’t travel the usual way, by the ferry from Ouranopolis or from Ierissos. A water taxi was ready for us. Herman had reserved it in advance. Our passes (diamoniterions) were checked in detail by the border police before we entered the small vessel. It’s not cheap but it’s very fast. It can take up to eight passengers. It is at least three times faster than the ferry.
We wanted to visit a place where the ferry doesn’t land. We wanted to go to the very first buildings you encounter when entering Athos, called Thibais. An old Russian skete that belongs to St. Panteleimonos. Graham Speake notes that the skete was deserted but that two monks were living there since the turn of the millennium. We had seen the ruins from the ferry many times and wondered about that unknown place that is totally ignored by the ferries. And we knew about the big fire that had destroyed a large forested area just behind Thibais.Pictures from the ferry boat of Thibais from September 2009, before the fire. On the right the arsanas building with the red tiles.From the ferry boat in 2013 a year after the devastating fires of Augustus 2012.
An early morning view from our water taxi to the Holy Mountain. The skipper was so kind to open the front door so I could take this picture.When we left the water taxi and stood on the pier, we knew we were really on our own. There is no way back via the sea. No boat will stop here. Here the small boat leaves the pilgrims Herman, Jacques and Jaap.To our surprise the big building with the red roof near the arsanas was completely wrapped up for restauration as if Christo started a new project. Big signs in English and Russian described the process of renovation in the coming years until 2019. What is going on here?A beautiful steep and zigzagging monopati, embraced by large cactuses, lead us to the entrance of the complex. There is a big stone gate with large improvised doors, made of raw timber. It looked they were building here as well but wanted to lockout visitors.
The view from the gate, with the mountain in its full splendour. We couldn’t find a bell. We didn’t see a living soul. We didn’t hear a sound. Would we be able to enter the complex? Or was our first destination simply closed?

Bas Kamps

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1919 – what is new on Athos in 2017?

As mentioned before in our blog, things change rapidly on the Holy mountain. Here are five examples of some of the changes that I noticed on my pilgrimage this year:

1. The totall make-over of Paleo Monastir: Patriarch Kyrill and president Putin visited Athos last year to memorate the 1000th aniversary of Russians on Athos: many Russian buildings were completely renovated, such as the Panteleimon monastery. But I did not expect to find Paleo Monastir in this condition:DSCN4049 (Large)it lookes like golf course! IMG_3176 Palio Monastiro building B and well (Large)2009: what a difference!DSCN4065 (Large)and this was not the only thing that changed here: the interior of the church, that once was completely white, is now covered with new wall paintings! More about these changes in a seperate blog.IMG_4820the old situation: internet photo – date unknown

2. Panteleimon renovations are finished:DSCN4021 (Large)A picture of some annex buildings, that were almost in ruins a couple of years ago.IMG_3124 Roussikon building V near U (Large)At the some spot in 2009.DSCN3749 (2)Aerial picture 2017, made by me from a Cessna 6th of May.

3. the Georgians will soon be back on the Holy Mountain:

In Kolitsou, a small Rumenian settlement of seven cells between Pantocratoros and Vatopedi, a new cell is build (on a spot where an old building stood), and it will be used by monks from Georgia. Two centuries ago the Georgians still had their own monastery on Athos, IM Iviron. Since then it is a Greek monastery, but now the Georgians will, after so many years, return to the Holy Mountain!

4. the scaffoldings of Agiou Basiliou finally disappeared:DSCN4410 (Large)New situation 2017DSCN2430 (Large)old situation 2013

5. Maroudá is creating a new olive grove:DSCN4196.JPGNew situation 2017DSCN6916 (Large)Maroudá: vegatables grow in the kitchen garden, the old situation in 2015.

Wim Voogd, 27/5

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1918 – The arsanas of Lavra: Mandraki

This is how the harbour (arsanas) of Lavra looked in 1853. The oldest photograph that exists of this location. On our 2017 trip we found the old footpath from the monastery to the arsanas.  A very nice walk , much better then the boring dirtroad.  Later we will show you this path.Not exactly the same position but a comparable view by Bas Kamps, May 2017.This picture was taken round 1900. In 2017 it is still a very impressive site. Photo by H. Voogd

Herman Voogd

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1917 – The sound of the tálanton at Esfigmenou

This is what we heard when entering the monastery of Esfigmenou after a long walk coming from  the other coast,  from Thibais. The beating on the wooden tálanton is a call for the monks to go to the church. Only the monks, no orthodox pilgrims were allowed in the church because it was monday, a monk told us. We did not have a reservation but the monks invited us to stay which we thankfully accepted because the other monastery in the surroundings, Chilandariou was full.
The movie shows the church of Esfigmenou which looked different in 1853.esfigmenou 2017 church.png

Herman Voogd

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1916 – Wolves on the peninsula: proof

We walked from Esfigmenou to Karyes, Marouda over the ridge (The Way of the Bey). Mostly monopatia, only a short intermission with a dirt road. The dirtroad overrules the path just after Stavros, where the routes from Esfigmenou and Chilandariou meet (the path to Chilandariou is not on this map). This was May 2017.
There I found these footprints:
My knife is 8,5 centimetres. The left footprint measures 9,5 cm and the right one 11 cm.
According to this plate a wolf’s foot measures 5 inch (12,7 cm). I learned that there is a slight difference between the front leg (3,5 to 5 inch) and the hind leg (3,5 to 4,5 inch).
This map shows the distribution of wolves in Europe:
On the site of the Friends of Mount Athos I read the following story:
‘On December 17, 2015 the following account confirming this advisory was sent in by a
FoMA member to his membership secretary’:
“Before, you had warned me in an e-mail ‘that it is forbidden to spend the night outside
because of wolves.’ As circumstances dictated, I had to do just that. I spent the evening
keeping a vigil down at the water front in an open sided storage building (so the night breeze was coming toward shore from the sea). At 1:30 A.M. I saw a wolf trot by 45 feet away. He couldn’t smell or for that matter see me because of the direction of the breeze. Needless to say, this introduced new ferver into my vigil!”
While investigating this I watched pictures of wolf scat. I’m convinced that I have seen scat like that close to the foot prints, but I did not take a picture. I would like to conclude: it is highly likely, probable, that this is a sound proof of the presence of the wolf here. The lack of domesticated animals, like sheep, goat, or chicken on Athos doesn’t put him off from exploring the Holy Mountain. We didn’t hear the Wolf Howlin.”
Bas Kamps
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1915 – The chapel of Andreou

The history of the oldest chapel in the skiti of Andreou is written in post 1850. A short history in foto’s by Koolschijn (1970), Geldermans (1972), Wim Voogd (2015) en Herman Voogd (2017).Herman Voogd

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1914 – The courtyard of Megisti Lavra now and 164 years ago

In 1853 a photographer climbed the wooden stairs of the monastery of Lavra with his heavy equipment to place his camera in front of this window overlooking the courtyard.
The photographer made this picture. The whole length of the eastside of the monastery is to be seen. From the window above in the corner of the building till the tower at the end.This is how it looks in May 2017. The cypress on the right is now 164 years older. Other cypresses died in the meantime. The domes and the main tower are still there. The slope of the hill is unchanged.

Herman Voogd

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