We (Yke and Wouter Bakker, father & son) arrived on May 4 in Ouranoupolis after our flight from Schiphol to Thessaloniki for our second visit to Athos. We visited Athos before in May 2015. We heard that because of strong winds the next day the ferryboats would probably be out of use. We were pitying this already because our pilgrimage was planned a long time ago and our first night would be in Simonos Petras – the monastery which was so difficult to book.
On May 5 we got the confirmation, when we got our diamonitirion at the Holy Executive of the Holy Mount Athos – the so called Pilgrims’ Office. On the off-chance we walked to the Athos border, trying to get permission to enter the Holy Mountain by land. After waiting (only) 30 minutes we managed to pass the border (with the mediation/translation-help of a friendly Greek) – we luckily could get in a taxi which was ordered. The taxi took us in a two hours’ drive to Karyes. In the afternoon we got a taxi to the monastery of Simonos Petras.
The next day the Divine Liturgy was very special and joyful, because a new monk was tonsured.
Very impressive was also (the first time we experienced this on Athos) the Polyeleos – the huge chandelier – set in motion, pushed with a rod so that it turned back and forth during the singing to symbolize the presence of the angels. Following the Liturgy the new monk accepted congratulations from the brothers and guests of the monastery, and after that the communal meal took place in the trapeza.
In the afternoon we walked to the coast, still not sure if a boat would take us to our next place of refuge: the Skete of St. Anna. The waves collapsed with great force on the pier. A telephone call to the boat office assured us: the Agia Anna would arrive at 13.00h at the arsanas of Simonos Petras. We arrived at the skete after a climb from the arsanas of the New Skete. At Skiti Anna we were treated with the traditional welcome including the loukoumi, a fine meal, and the greeting of the relics.
The next day our longest walk was programmed – to the monastery of Great Lavra, the first monastery built on Mount Athos. Good to see the old cypress of St. Athanasius again there, said to be over 1000 years old. The old trapeza there is my favourite, such a pity we were forbidden to take pictures there.
On May 8 we had to get up early to catch the taxi to Karyes. After we got extension of our four-day visit from the Holy Supervision at Karyes, we hiked to the Skete of the Prophet Elijah. There we met father Filimon, a sparkling and witty monk who took care of us very hospitably.
May 8 was also the day of the second semi-final match of the Champions League between AFC Ajax and Tottenham Hotspur with a disappointing outcome (for Dutchmen – Wim) – we managed to follow the match in our guestroom with live streaming of radio.
The next day we went to our last stage: a kellion with the name Maroudá, near Karyes. A wonderful and peaceful place to visit, with a few monks and visitors who assisted to follow the Liturgy in Greek.
On May 10 father Makarios took us by car to Karyes, the bus took us to Dafni. Because the boat which would depart at noontime was fully booked, we decided to take the Agia Anna, which would hug the Athos coast the whole afternoon before navigating to Ouranoupolis. It was a wonderful farewell tour around the southwestern part of the Athos peninsula. With a lot of new inspiring impressions of Athos we set foot on the pier of Ouranoupolis that evening.
With lot of thanks to our brother and uncle Jitze Bakker and his Athos-companion Wim Voogd for their excellent assistance in planning and booking!
Text and photo’s by Yke and Wouter Bakker: many thanks guys, for sharing the story of your pilgrimage with us.
posted by Wim Voogd on 16/5