This year we visted the Holy Mountain from October 3th till October 6th with 8 pilgrims: just as last visit in 2009 we split up in two groups (Herman’s and Wim’s group).
Before telling our travel stories and showing the pictures in detail, here are some highlights of our 2011 trip and some tips:
1. beware if you want to leave at 9.45 h.: the big Panteleimon boat is out of service, so you have to make a reservation for a small boat. We found out the hard way on our last day on the quay of Dafni, when the boat back to Ouranopoli left without us. A good alternative is: take the Agia Anna boat at 6.30: no reservation needed and you will have some extra hours on your first day. Even better is: order a privat taxi boat back to Ouranopoli (€ 120).
2. if you want ask for permission in Karyes to stay an extra day, inform if there is meeting of the Holy Epistatia. After arriving at 10 we had to wait till 12 o’clock until they were ready for us: at 12.30 we left without the permission, because they were still gathering…… And, never trust the Athos-guards in this building: according to them a Diamoniterion for non-orthodox visitors was valid for four nights, so asking for permission for one extra should not be neccesary. Believe me: the permission is valid for three nights, and you have to leave on day four.
But there was one advantage of waiting so long in Karyes: I was able to take pictures of almost all Konaki’s (houses of the monasteries) in this small town.
3. There lives a Dutch Orthodox monk in Karakalou! Brother Pachomios already lives for four months in this monastery and told us a lot about monastic live and orthodoxy.
4. I climbed the Holy Mountain for the first time in my live (and will never do it again!). After a start in Prodromou at 08.00 we arrived at the junction Stavrou at 11. Together with pilgrim Peter I decided to give it a try and go for the top: almost 7 hours later I arrived safely in Skiti Anna, more death then alive, totally exhausted, but happy and satisfied!
5. try to visit Chromitsa: it took some effort to come there, not by taxi-boat as planned, but simply by walking over the Athos-border, with it was worth every second!
6.meet important people: after returning from Athos and the Tsantali tour we came close to meet the Patriarch of Constantinopolis on the pier of Ouranopoli. Later that day the President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, arrived at the same spot: we only saw his blinded limousine passing, togehter with a lot of security-men. A rumour that Putin also came to visit Athos showed out to be false.
More will be published soon.