The year is 963. A thousand and sixty years ago. The foundation of the first monastery on Athos, the Great Lavra. The thousand-year anniversary was of course celebrated in detail at the time. As someone said to me, the life of the monks consists of fasting and feasting. The thousand-year anniversary was the occasion for a number of celebrations. In Karyes, with the dignitaries, but also in Lavra itself, where it all started, there was a celebration on July 19, 1963.
Ger and Jan came walking from Iviron that day. They had taken the coastal route. Mainly dirt roads and monopati. It’s a long walk. They were not aware of the festival that would be celebrated there. They found Lavra packed. There were no bunks left in the guesthouses. Many people came to this special anniversary. The Greek Prime Minister, then Konstantinos Karamanlis, had his own guesthouse in Lavra, consisting of a room with a bathroom and a shower. The Dutch young men for whom there was no room in the dormitories were given those rooms. But, do you sleep when there’s a party all night? The service started at 4:00 PM and lasted till breakfast. The young men found it a fantastic experience to be able to experience such an important moment in the history of Athos. They had met two students from Athens who spoke good English, which made the conversations easier.
After vespers there was food with orange wine in the refectory (trapeza).
The next day they went with the two Athenians by boat to Paulou Monastery, on the other side of the holy mountain. The skipper initially wanted 40 drachmas per person for the trip, but the Athenians managed to reduce the price to 20 drachmas per person through negotiation. The small boat could fit about 7 people.
A monk got off in Kavslokalivia.
The tour around the southern end of the peninsula took them past the hermitages located on the rocks in Karoulia and Katounakia.
Text: Bas Kamps
Photos: Ger Dommerholt