On our first day of our 2017 pilgrimage to Athos we hiked from Roussikon to Paleo Monastiro, the old Roussikon. It is a 5,5 km hike over a dirt road, starting at sea level and ending at 455 meters. On the new map of Foma made by Peter Howorth it looks as if a monopati path (the red dots next to the black ones- a riverbed) goes up just behind Panteleimonos monastery: although we tried our best to find it, we could not detect a path leading to Paleo Monastiro.This place must be the spot where a path would start, just behind the large newly renovated building of Roussikon: we only found rocks and shrubs …Behind Roussikon: an old well dating from 1896The road to Paleo Monastiro: a dirt road leads to the rightLooking back at RoussikonThe remnants of renovation activitiesand on the other side of the road: old tires and tanksAntique radiators are piled up along the roadsideNear the Silouan mill: a new construction for storage. In the hills behind it skiti Xenofontos showes up.The road going left towards skiti XenofontosThe landscape along the road Skiti Xenofontos, recently inhabited again, among others by father Nikon, who used to live in Nea Skiti until 2016.Arriving at Paleo Monastiro. Not knowing what to find after the large scale renovations in 2016, when the Russians celebrated their 1000-years on Athos, we continued our way to entrance.To our surprize the entrance, a new iron gate, was closed!We tried to find a way to get inside and walked around the newly renovated outher walls on the South sideAfter passing a fence we could see the bridge which leads to the backdoor of the complex. Luckily here the door was open!And this is what we saw: a clean courtyard, with a green lawn. In no way the new situation could be compaired with what we saw in 2009!The new garden in the coutyard, with green grass neatly mowed. It looks like a golf course!one of the few original remnants of the old situation: a grave with three old trees.The old wall is also still in its original stateThe big church with its side entrance: have look here how things were back in 2009.Again: the green lawnThe path leading to the second church
When I arrived at the courtyard I heared a monk talking, and at first I could not find out where his voice was coming from. When I looked up to the roof I saw him sitting high above me. He talked in what looked Russian to me, but when my fellow pilgrimes arrived, he decided to come down to welcome us. Next time I will tell you what happened then.
Wim Voogd, 20/10