“No pilgrimage to Athos for me this year, or so I thought”, because at the beginning of 2022 it turned out that traveling to Athos was still difficult, because of the protective measures to prevent the Corona virus from spreading over the Holy Mountain. And secondly, all my Dutch fellow pilgrims could not come along this year. But being a member of the Friends of Mount Athos, I accepted an invitation in January to attend a “Teams”-meeting of the footpath team. The FoMA team had planned a visit to Athos in the autumn of 2022. At this meeting I just listened to the plans they were making, because I knew there was a waiting list and I couldn’t go yet, so I quietly hoped that next year, in 2023, it would be my turn.
Shortly afterwards, to my surprise, I received a message that I had already been invited to join the footpath team this year and I embraced this offer with both hands! I could choose to participate for one or two weeks. I chose to go for one week, from Sunday September 25th to Saturday October 1st.
This is how I ended up in Ouranopolis this fall, where I first had to do an EU-approved PCR-COVID test at the local GP with the fancy name VIP Doctor, where Dr Alexander does this test for 60 euros. You will receive the results by email within 24 hours. To enter the Vatopedi Monastery, you must have a negative COVID test not older than 48 hours or you will not be allowed to enter the monastery. A checkpoint has been made for this, not far from Chera on the road near the Ridge path (see map below).
The morning of departure with the ferry to Dafni, before collecting your Diamoniterion at the office of the Pilgrims Bureau, you’ll have to do (another) rapid COVID-test, just around the corner of the Pilgrims Bureau, performed by three docters (the building is at the red arrow). It takes about 20 minutes to queue and get the results.
7.20 h: our team in line to get the rapid COVID test.
A day earlier I had already met my teammates, Bart Janssens from Belgium, our leader, with his two sons Tjeu and Lukas, and Daniel from Italy, who lives in Belfast, here in front of the Pilgrims Office.
My (happy) teammates with their Diamoniterion.
Then we had to buy tickets for the ferry. The ticket office has been moved from the spot next to the Isalos cafe to the edge of the village, also not far from the Pilgrims Office (the building by the blue arrow in the photo above). At 9.45 am the (new) ferry Panaghia Engyitria leaves for Dafni after a final check of all documents.
September 25th 2022: a beautiful day to start a pilgrimage!
When we arrived in Dafni, father Mathew was already waiting for us, along with Justin from Illinois/USA, the sixth member of our team, who have already spent a week in Vatopedi with other FoMA volunteers. We first drove to Koutloumousiou in his four-wheeled car to get some supplies and then went through Karyes to the Vatopedi checkpoint.
After arriving in Vatopedi we were warmly welcomed in the guesthouse by Father Mathew with loukoumi, biscuits, fresh water and a glass of tsipourou.
The door to our ‘tool shed’, not far from the archondaritki and our sleeping rooms.
The Peter Howorth-map is the best map of Athos. It is updated all the time and also used by local police and the fire brigade on Athos.
Wim Voogd, 19-11-2022