I went to Athos for the first time in 1989 together with my two brothers and friend Jaap. My brother Wim had bought a second hand Saab Turbo for holiday use and so we decided to go by car from Amsterdam to Ouranoupolis. The route is more then 2500 km but we had a fast car. The first day we reached the town of Kutina near Zagreb in Croatia.The second day in Thessaloniki we found ourselves in the middle of political demonstrations of the two main parties then. One day the city turned blue, the other day the colors were green. In Thessaloniki we had to get to the Dutch/Danish Consulate with our letter of recommendation from our university . The Consulate gave us a certificate of good conduct and afterwards we went to the pilgrims office to get permission to enter Mount Athos.
It is still a tradition on arriving in Ouranoupolis that we visit the Athos border but then we didn’t walk, as we do nowadays, but took the the car. We tried to understand the words of the “border monk”, but it was in vain, so we made some pictures.
Then finally we sat foot on the Holy Mountain where we first had to go to Karyes by bus to get our Diamonitirion (Athos passport). Here we are waiting next to the Protaton church.
With our Diamonitirion we started hiking back to the coast, direction Panteleimonos, taking the monopatia. Nowadays the paths are turned into dirt roads or are overtaken by nature. It was a beautiful walk. We rested and studied the Zwerger map at an abandoned kellion.
Suddenly a cow or an ox passed our way . At the time we did not think much about it as we were unaware that meat was not on the monks menu. Never have seen cattle anymore in all the 7 following visits to Athos.
In 1967 monks used oxes to plough the land of Chilandariou.
We were very impressed by the size of the Russian monastery of Panteleimonos where we spent our first night. Not more then 10 monks were living there at the time. Watch the use of different colors for the walls and towers.
Me posing before nice oleander flowers at Panteleimonos glad not wearing the heavy walking shoes anymore after the rather exhausting walk. The next day we took the coastal path to Dafni and the dirt road to Simonas Petras.
We admired the small courtyard of Gregoriou and continued our hike to end the day in Dionysiou where I made this photo of a praying monk.Monk at Dionysiou. Our next goal was the monastery of Filotheou so we walked back to Simonos Petras to take the path up the ridge there.
The entrance of Simonas Petras, From this monastery we took a small path high up over the central ridge of the peninsula. After descending we kinda lost our way but eventually we found Filotheou.
At Filotheou we had long religious talks during the night with young monks, some originally from the United States. They didn’t wanna to talk about the past.
The last day we passed Iviron and walked back to Karyes which is here in the background.
In Karyes we were fascinated by the empty ruins but our time was up and so that ended my first Athos trip. In Ouranoupolis we took the car and returned back to Amsterdam after visiting Budapest.