We arrived on the 30th of December at Grigoriou Monastery. It was already quite late in the afternoon but we decided to make the hike to Simonos Petras, the most iconic monastery on the peninsula, resembling so much the Potala in Lhasa. Simonos Petras happened to be the 20th monastery for me to visit on Agion Oros. We, my two sons and me went, despite the terrible weather. There was sleet and rain and a fierce polar wind from time to time.
On the first part of the hike the old food path is replaced by a dirt road. But luckily the old path is still there and very well signposted. Is starts in an olive tree orchard and dwindles down to sea level.
After a turn in the path the impressive building suddenly became vaguely visible in the icy mist. It almost came loose of its surroundings as if floating in space like a fata morgana.
My sons Martijn and Laurens on their first trip to Athos in front of Simonos Petras.
Down at sea level we had to cross a river. Probably a dry river most of the year but now a lively stream. We jumped from stone to stone because there is no bridge there and had a dry crossing. On the other site of the river the path rises steeply up to a ridge, with a chapel where the path meets the stairs from the harbour (arsanas).
We were the first to walk the path. There were no other footsteps visible in the snow. Above the 250 meters the sleet became snow. Simonos Petras rose as is hadn’t risen before. In a mystic and mysterious light in a black and white picture. All the colour had vanished. We heard the sound of the Semantron in the distance; the sign that a service was about to start.
The guest quarters were empty but nice and warm and gave us an opportunity for a little rest. We tried to make a reservation to sleep here but were refused due to renovations. We found the guest quarters empty. The last guest had arrived at the 28th of December, so I read in the guestbook. We didn’t have a lot of time because dinner was served at 5 in Grigoriou, the snow became thicker and thicker and we didn’t know what to expect on the slippery way back. We took a quick peep on the famous balconies. The view was very limited to the first 80 meters or so. The visible world had become very small indeed. The sea, 300 meters down, was nowhere to be seen.
The descent from the path, monopati say the Greek, went smoothly. I had time to take some pictures.
Here the brown path is still clearly visible. The plants are covered with the fresh snow as a sugar topping. Grigoriou is to be seen only very vaguely in the back ground.
A fascinating contrast between cactuses and snow. They don’t mix in my mind.
The olive tree orchard on the end of the food path, just before the dirt road.
A closer look at the monastery. As if floating in space. The strong wind, coming down from the mountain, moves the tree and reeds in the fore ground.
We were on time for the last part of the service at Grigoriou and the dinner that followed direct after the service. We ate like hungry lions.