The only town on Athos, Karyes, has changed a lot and became more commercial in recent years. Not so very long ago there was only a bar (with food and a possibility to sleep. A zero-star hotel I was told where you shared your bed with tiny insects) and a place where you could buy religious souvenirs.
Now there is even a good coffee shop with excellent Italian coffees (also: to take away, for the rushed pilgrim). Several shops for religious goodies. A kind of supermarket, a hardware store and even a men’s clothing shop. I wonder what will be next: a barbershop, a men’s health centre or a night club?The bar and restaurant offers shelter for the tired pilgrims. The young beardless boy, with his blue jacket supporting Russia, isn’t an exception anymore. The fresco of the main street of Karyes (meaning: hazel nuts) has an agreeable naiveté. It always reminds me of the work of Giorgio di Chirico.
To the left hangs a picture on the wall of mount Athos’ summit during sunrise with pilgrims. A long standing wish, I hope it will come true once in my lifetime to witness the sunrise on that very spot.
We like to drink a cool Mythos from the bottle there. But not this time so early in the morning. We had a good filling breakfast there.Cats and men waiting for things to come on a square of Karyes. The cats in anticipation of food and the men waiting for the bus to take them to the port, to Dafni. Karyes is the administrative centre, the parliamentary centre and the capital of the Holy Mountain.
The shop most to the right is a supermarket, next a religious shop, then the Italian coffee shop, another religious outlet and to the left a hardware store.
Here pilgrim Jacques proudly shows his brand new pair of trousers. Since we arrived in Sografou he had an opening in his trousers in a place where you don’t want an abyss, as described in post 1762. Co-pilgrim Herman is taking pictures in the background.
A closer look at the front of the supermarket that sells chilled beers and fresh orange juice.The religious shops offers a wide variety of icons, walking sticks, incense and other religious objects to take home.
The valuable silver objects are carefully protected by layers of plastic.
A monk with a plastic shopping bag walks away with his new buys from the city businesses into contemplation.When the bus finally arrives everybody rushes and hurries towards the front door. It is not exactly a proper English queue but everyone enters undamaged. We’re on our way to Dafni!
Text and pictures
(the ‘zero-star’ rating of the hotel is based on our own experiences in 1986 and 1997, it does not say anything about the present quality. Nowadays the place is run by Nikos and his cook Spiros (a Greek Albanian): according to our reader Hans Overduin he has good memories of staying in the hotel, so quality must have improved. The name of the hotel/restaurant is To Athonikon, tel 0377 23362 – Wim Voogd, 5/7)