During my last visit to the Holy Mountain monk Michael, the Lebanse archondaris of Simonaspetras, told us that the number of pilgrims was booming: the expectation for this year 120.000 pilgrims, for 2016 they expect 150.000 visitors! And 10 years ago, the number of pilgrims came to ‘only’ 50.000. Building activities in Panteleimonos.
This large number of pilgrims has a big impact on the infrastructure: many monasteries, like Vatopedi, Panteleimonos and Simonaspetras, are building new (guest)houses. While Vatopedi has to deal with 200 visitors in one night (according to Herman), Simonospetras fortunately decided to allow only 30 to 40 people every day (when the new archondariki opens next summer).The building of a new archondariki in Simonospetras in progress
And, like every year when I visit Athos, new roads appear, like the one the pictures below, the road from Dafni to Karyes. To my surprize the bus from Dafni took a new route, a recently created dirt road, that starts soon after passing the Xiropotamou monastery (where a new busstop is made: the bus does not pass the monastery anymore-see the second yellow flag/marker) .Xiropotamou in the distance, seen from the bus
The new road leads all the way to the other side of the valley, ending at the green marker on the picture above.
Here the two roads, the old and new, meet. Big machines are plowing their way through nature. Near Dafni and Karyes parts of the road surface is already paved with concrete, but I have been told that there are plans, to provide ALL roads on Athos within five years with such a concrete (or stone) layer!
I do not hope this is true, because what might happen is the following (which I saw with my own eyes). A group 0f five (Russian) pilgrims arrived in a 4wheel drive car at Karakalou monastery late afternoon with a private chauffeur (no taxi). They jumped out, received a quick tour in the monastery, ate a meal, buyed some things in the shop, gave a monk a few dollars and then, as suddenly as they arrived, disappeared again in their fancy car.
If this will be the future of an Athonian pilgrimage, Athos will turn in a sort of religious amusement park for fast living – rich? – people. I do not hope this will happen and don’t say I didn’t give a warning…..
Wim Voogd, 13/10