1517 – Siromahki or Kaviotes back on Athos?

In post 559 I introduced you to the siromahki or kaviotes, the wandering monks who inhabited Mount Athos at the beginning of last century, when approximately ten-thousend men lived on the penisula. Some of them lived in extreme poverty and as a result criminality on Athos increased. Even in the early 80-ties warnings were heard about robbery on Athos, as you can read in post 559.

Back to 2013: on my walk between Skiti Ag. Dimitriou to Bogoroditsa I reached a dirt road. In the distance I saw a man walking and I decided to wait for him, because I hoped he could help me finding the right track. When he came closer I immediately noticed that he carried 4 bags and a rugsack, and that his appearance was slightly different.

I introduced myself and asked if he knew the way to Bogoroditsa. He answered in broken English that he was on his way on the same route, but he did not know the right direction. He was from Russia and he mentioned his name. Unfortunately I don’t remember his name so let’s call him Nicolai. I offered to carry some of his bags and started off walking. From that moment he tried to persuade me to become Orthodox, because being a protestant would not give me the eternal life. My reaction that we at least were believers in the same God (referring to John 15 – 9-17), did not really make any impression to my new Russian friend.

At a point where we seamed really lost, he proposed to leave me with the bags and he tried to find the path. When he was some 50 meters further a car came by which I stopped and I asked if we could have a lift to Bogoroditsa.

He ran towards us and we were allowed to sit in the back of the open car.

DSCN2168 (Large)Sitting in the back of the Land Rover with my siromahki friend

Getting close to him I suddenly realized that he needed a bath, because of the smell that rose.  In the meanwhile he tried to convince me that Orthodoxy was the only way to get to heaven…….

After a detour to Vatopediou we continued our journey to Bogoroditsa (while he was yelling NO NO and STOP STOP), and after 15 minutes we were finally dropped on the road that leads to Bogoroditsa.

DSCN2168aMy smelly compagnion Nicolai

When we almost arrived at Bogoroditsa something strange happened: Nicolai stopped and tried to find a place to hide all of his belongings. After he hid all of his bags behind a stone wall he continued towards the entrance, as you see on the picture below.  DSCN2171Siromahki Nicolai walking to Bogoroditsa without his bags

Soon after he disappeared into the church and I started shooting my pictures. I thought I’d never see him again.

To my surprise I met him two days later when we arrived at Docheiariou:

DSCN2785aNicolai with his bags standing in front of the gate of Docheiariou

So what should I make from this? Nicolai seems to be lost and wandering the paths of Mount Athos, but he did not have home or place the sleep (or wash himself). The question is if he is a new kaviotes, like the ones decribed in the Fenell-book, and if so, should it worry pilgrims who walk the paths of Athos?

In his case I don’t think you have be nervous, because Nicolai is a good guy, who has a strong believe in his faith. But still, it did remind me of old stories about mount Athos.

DSCN2168bNicolai, the new kaviotes?

Here are some images of siromahki from a long time ago:

boek Athos De Greeve monnik Prodromou

agathon the fool 1925 a

boek Theunissen 1965 rustende monnik

boek Theunissen 1965 Zwerfmonnik met staf

boek Theunissen 1965 Zwerfmonnik



zwerver detail a

zwerver detail



Kostas the fool

Kostas “the fool”

Wim, 7/4

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