Sometimes a chain of unexpected events leads to a surprising outcome. That is how most of the inventions arise. A former colleague of mine wanted a fresh start on the labour market after her world tour and after the birth of her son. I could link her to a lunchroom where she worked a couple of weeks. While serving in the lunchroom she overheard a conversation of two guests who were talking about a lecture on Athos. She knew about my fascination for the Monks Republic and send me a message with a leaflet about the lecture. It happened to be on the next day in an old hospital building, now an exclusive housing project for the elderly. This is how I (Bas) first met Raymond Geldermans, here with father Iakovos from Iviron in 1998. He gave his card and a couple of months later Herman and I had a long and interesting meeting with him in his apartment.
Raymond Geldermans has a lifelong fascination for the Holy Mountain. As a young man in the sixties of the last millennium he travelled to Athos the first time with his uncle. He studied Classical Languages and Modern Greek. He worked as a highschool teacher, rector and sworn translator in the southern part of Holland, where he still lives. He was chairman of a society called Pokrof, dedicated to the Byzantine rite in the Dutch Catholic church.
His first visit was in 1960, and five more would follow. In the sixties it was highly recommendable for a catholic, as he is, to go personally to the cardinal, the highest catholic in the country (the cardinal was called Bernard Alfrink) for a letter of recommendation. With this recommendation mr. Geldermans acquired a letter from Patriach Athenagoras from Istanbul. This document gave him full access without any restrictions to all monasteries. This is how the diamonitirion looked like, in the early sixties.
In those days there was a train from Utrecht to Athens. The 56 year old train ticket is still in his archive. So it was quite an intense travel experience for the young adult. Later it became much quicker and more comfortable to travel by air. Despite his responsible duties as rector of a Gymnasium (classical secondary education in the Netherlands) he found time to continue his travels, mostly during the holidays.
So the philosophical question is whether the chain of events that lead to our meeting were merely accidental beads on a chain or was it destined to happen this way? Anyway this is an airplane called Mount Athos. Raymond Geldermans took it in 1972. It was the Olympic Airways B 727-284 (Mount Athos).
Later we found a picture of the unfortunate end of the airplane when it was scrapped. Its cockpit lays down helplessly like an empty egg shell.
Raymond Geldermans is a keen photographer and has taken thousands of pictures on his many travels. He gave us about 120 to digitalise (to start with, we hope). He uses the slides for his lectures on Athos. He has given many lectures for lay audiences. His keen sense of observation (he once saw medieval manuscripts with texts by Euripides wrapped in flower pots), his fascination for religion, his knowledge of the Greek language and his teaching skills make him a real storyteller. In the coming weeks and months we will show some more of his pictures and share some of his stories.The embarkment from Ouranopolis in 1960 (picture by Raymond Geldermans).A reasonable fare had to be payed to the ferryman during the crossing to the Holy Mountain. (picture by Raymond Geldermans, 1960).
Herman Voogd & Bas Kamps