2121 – On our way to Lavra

A large proportion of the old monopati (footpath) and kalderimi (cobbled stone footpath) between Prodromou and Lavra still exists. It is situated a bit more uphill than the road. After the well the path descents to the new, concrete, road that services minibuses and trucks. After a kilometre or so the kalderimi starts again, now on right side and lower than the road. The access is easy to miss, by the way. The total distance of the walk is 4,76 km, according to the excellent and trustworthy Peter Howorth map from 2016.

After two kilometres of mild climbing we arrived at the source where we drank the fresh and clear water out of the cup. Pilgrim Barry is happy he reached this point. From here at nearly 400 metres the path gently slopes down.

Another, more detailed, view on the abundant source. It is a disgrace for the Holy Mountain that pilgrims leave plastic bottles and bags here. We, pilgrims, shouldn’t pollute Maria’s garden. We left Prodromou without breakfast and we ate some canned dolmata near the well. But we always take the cans and plastic waste with us and leave without leaving a trace.

I wouldn’t recommend climbing these stairs.

We walked mostly in our own pace over the ancient stones. We were mostly on our own. Contemplating all the experiences of the night before.  Sometimes we waited for each other. Here pilgrim Herman approaches. It was still early in the morning and everything looked fresh and new in the floodlight. Walking there alone with only the birds that sing their spring songs and the sound of your own footsteps below is a wonderful spiritual experience.

The kalderimi is in a reasonable condition, but there are surprises, loose stones and many standing stones to redirect the water. Excellent territory for spraining your ankles. The walking sticks proved their value here as well.

in black and white

Around a corner I saw a scary, leafless tree with a white cross. It terrified and fascinated me in a strange way. The tree was dotted with white fungus like a psoriasis patient. It was still early in April so this Oaktree will produce its leaves a bit later in the year. It will look friendlier then.

When the sky becomes visible from the wooded monopati/kalderimi the first sight is on the Great Lavra. The first and oldest monastery on Mount Athos. Founded in the year 963 by Athanasius the Athonite.

We look at the road just outside the monastic stronghold, with a row of protective towers. The sea is visible in the far distance. High cranes are swarming around most of the monasteries on Mount Athos. This time I choose not to avoid them in the picture.

The medieval battlements are clearly visible behind the walnut tree.

Just outside the entrance is an old watermill. We were not sure if it would still work. At least it didn’t rotate when we were around. The back drop of the Holy Mountain is impressive from here as well.

Next time we roam around the Great Lavra and take a proper look within its tall walls.

Bas Kamps

Posted in 01 Lavra, Prodromou, Trip 2019, walking | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2120 – An evening, night and early morning in Prodromou

Just before sunset we arrived in Prodromou, the Romanian skete at the edge of the peninsula. We were quiet tired from the afternoon walk from Kavsokalivia via Nilou and the crossing of the stone fall of Megali Sara. The walk ascents from sea-level to 700 meters and descents back to almost sea-level.

While waiting for the archondiriki we witnessed the light change and saw the last sun rays of the day.

A view from the inside of the monastic complex, with the central tower and gate. The large flagstones are nicely surrounded by grass. The buildings are from the mid-19th century. Not very old for Athonian standards.

A closer look at the top of the tower, with the four crosses. The second one leans forward and needs taking care of. The crosses radiate in the last beams of sunlight of the day.

A semantron is placed next to the church and surrounded by large cypresses and a nut tree.

The instructions for playing the carillon are clearly signposted in a fixed sequence. But it is not completely clear to me. I count four handles, but the numbering includes a number 5. Thanks to the sharp eye of Vasilis (read the comment) the 5th handle is in a vertical position up front. We didn’t hear this Glockenspiel play. Or I just don’t remember it.

What we did hear however, just after darkness covered the Holy Mountain, was the howling of the jackals. That impressive sound always make me shudder.

Kyriakon in the evening

Church service was at ten in the night. The katholicon ( a church in a skete is called Kyriakon) was completely dark when we arrived. Our eyes had to adapt to the sudden darkness. After a while I saw that only one small candle was burning in a smoked glass and not giving a lot of light. But it added to the mysterious atmosphere. There were many silent people inside of the small space. The monks were praying and venerating with verve. Going deeply towards the ground endlessly repeating themselves. An impressive energetic religious work-out. The sound of the rushing robes of the monks in the darkness made a lasting impression on me. Our stay didn’t last very long though. We were send-off as schoolboys after they asked about our beliefs. A no-go for non-Orthodox. A missed opportunity to come closer to Orthodoxy.

The next day, when we left for Lavra, we saw a monk burn some waste on the fields just outside the gate. The scenery reminds of ancient remains, with the dry-stone walls and small stone heaps.

From Prodromou the view of the Holy Mountain is unsurpassable. In the morning light it showed its raw beauty. A gigantic unpolished heap of marble with large patches of snow. From this perspective it is hard to believe we once stood on the very summit. Hopefully that will happen once more in the near future.

The last view of Prodromou before we entered the wooded monopati. So we were on our way to Lavra.

Bas Kamps

Posted in Prodromou, Trip 2019 | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

2119 – The beauty of Athos, flowers and more

Ferula Nodiflora with beetles, Lavra in the background

Here are some images of the sometimes overwhelming beauty of the natural environment of Mount Athos.

young shoots of Euphorbia

Along side the footpaths, in the woods, Euphorbia start growing.


But also in the rocky parts, on the slopes of the Holy Mountain itself, large bushes of Euphorbia flourish. The stairs in the background are leading to the tiny harbour of Nelios.

forest on the south slope of the mountain

One of the most beautiful paths is located at app. 700 meters on the south slope and is roughly between Prodromou and Sk. Anna. Many old trees with bizarre forms.

Laurel and Judas tree

Sometimes the vegetation is so powerfull that it consumes a building.

Herman Voogd

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2118 – Mount Athos closed from tomorrow 20-03 till March 30th for all visitors except workers and professionals

The Ouranopolis pier on 18-3 -2020 9.47 h: an almost empty Panteleimonos ship is leaving: no Athos-pilgrims boarded this morning

For the latest news about this topic read the Comments!

19-03 Mount Athos closes tomorrow for all visitors except workers and professionals until March 30th.

___________________________________________________________________________________________Yesterday, 16th of March, a 50-year-old Italian pilgrim, who developed cough and fever, was transported from Chilandariou monastery to a hospital in Thessaloniki, causing alarm to the monastic community. Tests showed that he was NOT infected with the coronavirus. He had a seasonal flu.

the guesthouse of Chilandariou – 2017

The Holy Community recently discussed closing Mount Athos for pilgrims, but decided that this should not be done for “spiritual reasons” (source: kathimerini.gr: 16th of March 2020).

But the Orthodox Times wrote today (17/3):

” The cancellation of many diamonitirion orders, mainly of pilgrims from abroad, is currently reducing the risk of an outbreak, but the civil administration, the police, the port authority and monks remain on high alert.

What everyone agrees on is self-restraint and taking measures of sanitation and protection, while on Friday, March 28, a vigilance will be held in all the monasteries, as well as in the Temple of the Protaton in Karyes, for the sick and for the protection of the general population”

the Mount Athos hospital in Karyes

Wim en Herman Voogd, 17-18/3

Posted in 04 Chilandariou, basic information/reservations, news | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

2117 – The source near Agia Triada

Map by Peter Howorth, in the left top corner Lavra

On the map the blue dot, the source, is not on the right place. The source between Prodromou and Lavra near the house of Ag. Triada is located on the side path. See the red arrow which I added.

50 meters to the source, 2013

Coming from Lavra , walking to Kavsokalivia this sign brings you on the side path and after 50 meters to the source.

Once we came from Prodromou, walking the road and could not find the path. I knocked on the door of Agia Triada to ask for directions. An annoyed monk opened the door, I started in English but he interrupted me, shouting: ” SPEAK GREEK”, and slammed the door.
The words ” speak Greek” became the running gag during our stay in Greece.

Foma was here, more signs on the same spot, 2017

Especially if you come all the way from Kavsokalivia or Anna it is really a pleasure to drink the cold pure water and fill your water bottle.


The source is erected in 1889. Vasilis translated the text (many thanks!):

With the help and at the expense of
the most Holy among the monks
Alypios from Lavra 1889
August 10
(no verb)

Jacques drinking in 2017, photo Bas Kamps
The source in 2019, Barry

Herman Voogd

Posted in 01 Lavra, Prodromou | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

2116 – historical photographs of Karyes courtyards

The last two photographs in the previous post show us the small courtyard-garden that lies behind the shops/restaurant at the bus stop in Karyes.

Monk Theodosios shared a few historical pictures, with images of what can be the same spot:

thanks to father Theodosios Simonopetritis

If you merge the two photographs above you get this panorama view:

thanks to father Theodosios Simonopetritis

It is not clear when these photographs are made. The Protaton bell tower is clearly visible, but I cannot detect the old tower where the Tragos is kept and Holy Epistatia-building. On your right site of the picture you can see the ruins of a house, overgrown by plants. Behind it is a building with a small chimney, with two holes in it. Could this building has its front view on the main straat in Karyes? In the middle and on the left stones or building materials are visible, with an apparatus to lift stones. A man stands on the pile of stones. Behind him a staircase goes up. On the far left you can see a fence with a gate and large (fruit?) tree.

Are these photographs maybe from the time before the construction of the current Holy Epistatia?

Thanks to father Theodosios Simonopetritis: house of the Brotherhood “Ioasafaion”. Photograph by Monk Ioasaf -1950. Scan from an old contact. Two monks look down through the windows.

This another historical photograph from Karyes, yet of another courtyard, that lies behind of the Karyes’ streets. This house is of the Brotherhood “Ioasafaion” and is made by brother Ioasaf himself in approx. 1950.

Cuville 1918

Could the courtyards as shown above be found behind this building near the contemporary bus stop and where all the shops are nowadays?

Cuville 1918: The bell tower and ‘Tragos’ tower (without the Holy Epistatia building)
Old picture of the main street in Karyes: date unknown

Main street Karyes: on top of the buildings on the left you see similar chimneys – with two holes in it -, compared to the chimney on the 2nd picture of this post. My opinion is: the courtyard in the first photograph must be behind these buildings on the left.

Wim Voogd, 13-3

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2115 – the ‘fake’ tower above Karyes

Every pilgrim who has been in Karyes probably has seen this tower, in the hills high above the small town, at 645 meters high.

Konaki Xenofontos in Karyes and the tower
At the red arrow: the location of the tower above Karyes (detail Peter Howorth map)

In 2018 father Theodosius from Simonospetras took us for a trip over the Holy Mountain and one of our first stops was at the spot where this tower stands. It is on a dead end street, high upon the hill, so nobody ever takes the trouble to hike (or drive) to this place. But we did, and this what we found:

Photograph by father Theodosios Simonopetritis

Father Theodosius told that this stone tower was built for one purpose: to hide away the communication antennas that were installed by a telephone provider. It is actually a stone tower and its architecture resembles Athos towers, that are spread over many places on the peninsula. Most of the time the tower in a monastery is used as a library. But this ‘fake’ tower contains only electrical appliances: behind the white screen telephone antennas are placed! The power for the antennas is provided by solar cells.

Telephone antennas and solar energy
One of the most famous towers on Athos: the Amalfi tower from the old Catholic -Italian- monastery – 1986
A wooden lookout tower (for hunting reasons?)
Father Theodosius at the lookout tower and small hut
Inside the small hut: a broken window in a deserted room with a matras and some furniture
View of Karyes, with the bus station and the restaurant of father Maximos (red arrow)
Father Maximos,who owns a restaurant and a gift – icon – shop in Karyes

Wim Voogd, 12-3

Posted in food, Karyes, Trip 2018 | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments