535 – food on Mount Athos

During your stay on Athos you do not pay your overnight and food. On arriving in a monastery or kellion you usually are offered a cup of coffee (or tea), and off course, a glass of raki (ouzo), even early in the morning. The coffee comes with loukoumi (turkish delight) or nuts.
My travel-mate Pieter Voorn rests while having a lunch at a kellion, with bread, olives, fresh marouli salad and pickeled vegatables- 1986
The quality of the meals differs much. During a fast-period they don’t use oil to prepare food and no fish or wine is offered.Most of the time you get a tomato-soup with potatoes, unions and garlic. Fresh-baked bread is scarce, but even if it’s old it is always very tasty and firm. Most of the time salted black olives are available. In the summertime tomato and cucumber salads are normally served. Normally you get fresh and cold water during your dinner: the wine is usually of a poor quality and tasts of sherry. I can’t wait to visit Mylopotamou next year and hopefully have a real good Athos wine.
I clearly remember my first meal ever on the Holy Mountain, on a hot summer day in July 1980: lunch at Iviron with a extreme salty rice-soup, that tasted like warm seawater.
If you are lucky you can have your meals together with the monks in the refectory, like we experienced in Lavra and Stavronikita last year, and before that in Dionysiou. I know this won’t happen in Esfigmenou, Filotheou and in Konstamonitou (who has more info on this subject?)
The refectory of Lavra – 1986
Eating in a surrounding as shown above is a spectacular experience. Not only because of the delicious food, but also because all the old frescos around you, the sound of the monk reading from the Bible, the horse-shoe-shaped 15 cm thick marble tables with a hole in it at the end, to flush away the leftovers after dinner, makes it a special moment.
But do not think you can calmly relax and enjoy your meal. First of all, you are not allowed to speak during eating. Secondly, before you know you hear the gentle sound of a small bell saying “ting” and your meal is over and everybody stops eating. Most pilgrims know this and try to eat as fast as possible, andif do not know this, you’ll be hungry! After dinner everybody turns to the centre of refectory where the abbot will pass on his way out. When he left the building others may follow and leave.
Reading the Holy Script while eating – Dionysiou 1986
If needed you can ask for some food for lunch to bring along, especially if you have planned a long climb or walk.
A good lunch in the kitchen of Sografou with Joachim and Pieter Voorn (and a glas of wine) – 1980
The primitive kitchen of Sografou – 1997
Wim Voogd

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