1936 – Esfigmenou, first day, last leg.

The dirt road lingered down, until it finally met the flat and wide dirt road between Chilandariou and its harbour. That busy road, to Athonian standards, is lined with cypresses. Along its way there are so many cypresses, you could almost call it a cypress forest. Chattered you will find some small buildings that were made to carry crosses and to offer a resting place for the tired pilgrim. We rested for a while in the shade watching workmen who had dug a big trench along the dirtroad. They used big machines and were busy putting enormous tubes into the trenches. Probably a new fresh water supply for Chilandariou. Our fellow pilgrim Jaap had suddenly pain in one of his legs, after our very long walk, all the way from Thibais, crossing the peninsula, and he lay down for a while. We shared a few energy bars for the last stretch to Esfigmenou.  We met several happy and proud Serbian groups of pilgrims, coming back from an afternoon stroll to Esfigmenou. At the Y-crossing, taking you to the harbour or to Esfigmenou, we saw a big Japanese SUV standing there. There was a monk inside. We asked if he would be so kind to bring Jaap to Esfigmenou because of his sore leg. After an initial hesitation the monk allowed Jaap to join him in the car. The last descent to Esfigmenou gives a wonderful perspective on the monastery, with the sea as a backdrop. We were still not sure if we could receive hospitality, if we could stay the night there. We were mentally prepared to stay outside for a night. Going back to Chilandariou was not an option, considering Jaaps condition. At the gate we met him again. He had already paved our path and to our relieve we could stay.The view from the guesthouse where we were served some cold pasta with a vegetable sauce. Plain but pure food, exactly what we needed after our 20 km walk. That evening in the dormitory we met the excellent photographer and Athostraveller Div Rajkovic from Serbia. He travels the peninsula intensively.

Left from the main gate of the complex is a nice pool, filled with carp. We were not allowed to eat with the monks or to visit the church. But we are always surprised by the monks friendliness. They must work really hard, they have little, if any, support. They form an autonomous, autark, corner in the peninsula.We inspected the route for the next day, over the ridge; the Way of the Bey. This is an old sign to Vatopedi, not our route this time. We needed another path. We had some interest in finding the right path, because we clearly remembered how we got lost between Esfigmenou and Vatopedi.I took a closer look at the peculiar through-the-window-chimneys I have described before.The last picture of the day, taken from the water tap that we used to brush our teeth. The harbour is deserted. The ferries don’t stop at Esfigmenou. Only one monk is fishing at the end of the middle pier.  At the horizon we see Thrace and the mountain Pangeon vanishing into the tranquillity of the Athonian night.

Bas Kamps

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