1324 – Athos: only for "men of good character"

Planning a trip to Athos has not always been as easy as it is nowadays. As most of our readers know you only have to make sure that your name is on the list of the 10 “non-orthodox” visitors that are allowed to visit the Holy Mountain every day (besides the 100 Orthodox pilgrims). In 1980 it took us quite some efforts to get a permission for a visit. At first we went to Greek tourist office in Amsterdam and there we received this paper: On the other side of this piece of paper there was a text in Dutch, that the entrance to Athos only was permitted to:

* professors of universities

* primary and high school teachers

* students, older then 21, in theology, philosophy, architecture and history of art .

Although we did not fitted the profile as students biology and law, we wanted to give it a try and we both managed to get letters of recommendation. I personally went to professor Diepenhorst, a well known professor of law at that time. When we arrived in Thessaloniki in July 1980 we first had to visit our Consulate (first in Mitropoleos 34 and later in Comminon 26). If your country did not have a consulate you had to visit your Ambassy in Athens first! I remember that the consul was not there and that his secretary just had quick look if we were “men of good character” (in other words: no hippies), and then she started writing a letter on a typewriter immediately. No problem so far! The next morning we visited the Ministery of Northern Greece, where Mss Kalivapoula and later Mss Plissa was seated behind a large desk, managing the list of foreigners visiting Athos. At this place they did not even ask for a letter of recommendation or the letter of the Consul, just showing your  passports was good enough (provided that the list of 10 visitors was not full allready). After that you had to pay short visit to the Immigration police, and after that you finally could go to Ouranopolis.  Three happy men (Jaap, Herman and Fanta) in front of the Ministery of Nothern Greece in 1997

This  necessity of having your name on the list we found out the hard way four years later, because at that time we did not realize that placing your name on the “list of ten” was the most important thing. In April 1984 we travelled to Athos in vain, because it showed out that all days were fully booked and we did not get permission to get in. Disappointed we booked a bus to Istanbul and spent a week out in Turkey. In 1980 you had give you passport to a policeman and only after arriving in Dafni and taking the old bus to Karyes, you received you passport back, together with your Diamonitirion. It took quite a while, because all four represenatives of the council, from Lavra, Docheiariou, Xenofontos and Esfigmenou had to put their autographs on each Diamoniterion! Because we finally learned how to get your name on the “list of ten”, our trip to Athos in 1986 and 1989 did not give us any problems. You still had to visit Thessaloniki and go the Minisitery, but the letter of the consul was no longer needed. In 1997 I used a little booklet of the Friends of Mount Athos (yes, I have been member for some years!), with tusefull information.

Please take notice: this is old information and NOT usefull in 2012!

From 1993 the trip to Thessaloniki was no longer necessary and the Diamonitirion was no longer issued in Karyes. In 2007 we did check out if a visit to a pilgrimsbureau at the Via Egnatia still had a purpose, but we found out that there were no reasons to go there, because all controls were made in Ouranoplis. Pilgrims bureau Ouranopolis – 2011 Wim, 17/10

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