2048 – the news today 5/5: access to Athos (almost) impossible because of strong winds

Two pilgrims from Holland just sent me this picture of desperate pilgrims at the Athos border near Ouranopolis, who are trying to get permission to enter the Holy Mountain by land. Today, 5/5/2019, the boats are not allowed to embark from Ouranopolis because of strong winds. The strong winds might also prevent pilgrims to enter the Holy Mountain tomorrow, rumor says…..

Such a pity for pilgrims who planned their pilgrimage a long time ago and who have to adjust their itinerary now!

Wim Voogd, 5/5 10.20 h.

The latest news is that some pilgrims have managed to order a taxi that will take them from the Athos border to Karyes: here is a picture of the lucky pilgrims who passed the border!

crossing the Athos border 5/5/2019 11 h.
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2047 – Mysterious mist in Karyes

The early boat, the Agia Anna, took us to Dafni on the 8th of April 2019. The clouds hung low over the peninsula. The Holy Mountain was covered by grey cumuli. In Dafni we found a small taxi bus that would take us to the capital Karyes; our starting point. The road zigzags up into the woods. Every time we visit Athos the dirt roads seems to have broadened. The clouds came nearer and nearer. At about 200 meters altitude we disappeared under the blanket of fog.

I would like to start the photographic journey by showing some pictures of misty Karyes. The mist that makes the world smaller, the sounds softer and makes the colours disappear. Like the greyness we experienced earlier in the winter of 2014-2015. See the blog the day the colour disappeared.


The main street of Karyes with black and gray men.


We found the well-restored Protaton, the oldest church on Athos, closed. It looks quite different from our 2017 pilgrimage.

Protaton and bell tower

The Protaton with its bell tower and in the background the stairs leading to the Holy Epistatia, where the government resides.


A monk under the crimson Camellia.


Opposite the bakery, with its irresistible spanakopita, puff pastry filled with spinach, we saw a deserted alley with cobblestones between the ruin of a house and a high wall. The drystone wall was covered with a rich variety of plants, like a hanging garden. Behind the wall some bright white flowering fruit trees.

Trees in the fog

On the way to Koutloumousiou we saw some very mysterious trees in the fog.

Bas Kamps

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2046 – Early spring in Mount Athos

butterfly at Dafni

When visiting the peninsula in April, as we did this year (2019), flowers and fresh green of blossoming plants are all around you. Slopes are turning purple due to this plant.


Yellow broom and white daisies alongside the roads and paths.


When the paths are not in the shades this how green it can be.

Orange tipped butterfly

The first butterflies appear after an rainy day.


There are not many poppies to see, maybe the soil is to vertile for them.


This is near Kavsokalivia on the south slope of the Mountain.


But for me, the most spectacular plant in springtime is Euphorbia which grows in this form between the rocks on the south slope of Mount Athos.


Herman Voogd

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2045 – more about the German flak position on Athos in WW II

In post 2018 I showed you the pictures I bought on the internet, made by German ‘Wehrmacht’ soldiers during the Second World War. Some of the pictures were taken on the hills above skiti Timiou Prodromou, where the German flak position once stood. On our last pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain in September 2018 I wanted to investigate if I could find the exact location of this flak position. Could there still be any ruins left, because it is said that the buildings were totally demolished after the war?

Google maps image: the hills surrounding skiti Prodromou

Even on Google maps you can still see the contours of a building, and on the next picture, found on the internet, a building is even better visible.

With the help of monk T. from Simonospetras, who drove us over the peninsula that day, I took a hike to this building. A Romanian monk of Prodromou told father T. that this should be the place where the flak position had been during WW-II.

I started walking the monopati that leads up from Prodromou and after a few hundred meters a path goes up to the left (in blue on the map below).

The turn to the monopati leading to Neilos, Kerasia and skiti Anna: mark the black dots on the map below, that go parallel to the dirt road from Prodromou.
thanks to Peter Holworth who made this map

On the Holworth map the (ruined) building I went to is marked as a chapel named “Timios Prodromos”: this is how it looks like today.

The building is in a desolate state: the walls of the two room are crumbled down, except for the wall on the right on the last photo. In this room two wooden beams are still in situ. Might this has been the tower like structure that has been used by the Germans to overlook the NorthEast and South coast of Athos? (see picture below). Any signs of a road leading to this spot, as you can also see on the picture below, are totally gone. And I did not find any signs that this building used to be chapel.

I look some photos of the surroundings, to make sure I ended up at the right spot:

view towards skiti Prodromou
pointing the camera to the right: the South
again turning right: the hills in the South
turning right: the NorthWest: the mountains above Lavra

After visiting the Holy Mountain I continued my holiday and we booked a hotel in Porto Koufo. I found out that on Sithonia, between Porto Koufou and Toroni, there also has been a flak position made by the Germans in the second WW, called “Two Cannons”. This the route we walked to visit this spot:

Wikiloc route Sithonia,to the Two Cannons.

And this is how this flak position looked like:

Sithonia: Two Cannons

The architecture of these structures differ completely from the ruins I found on Mount Athos. These buildings are made of concrete and they are clearly made for war purposes. Next to this place, where the cannon was positioned, the soldiers quarters were build, also in concrete. Such buildings lack on Athos. Furthermore they did not use any concrete on Athos, but on the other hand no cannons were placed on the flak position above Prodromou, and only 2 to 4 men were were accommodated there.

My conclusion: I am still not quite convinced that the German flak position is on the place I found on the Holy Mountain. More investigation has to be done!

And my best wishes for a good pilgrimage to the Haarlem-team and my brother Herman, who will be visiting Athos next week!

Wim Voogd, update 6 april 2019

Theodosios sent me some photos of the spot he claims to be the flak position, see below. From this view you can see Prodromou and cape Akrathos. The ruins on Theodosios’ photos are different then the one I saw and the spot is more open. The mystery remains: where is this flak position exact located?

Journey to the Romanian Skete 2013-09-07 Theodosios Simonopetritis 1
Journey to the Romanian Skete 2013-09-07 Theodosios Simonopetritis 2
Journey to the Romanian Skete 2013-09-07 Theodosios Simonopetritis 3

Or could it be here – in the red circle?

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2044 – a visit to the Mar Saba monastery near Bethlehem

This weblog is about Athos. But every now and then I have to report something not directly related to the Holy Mountain, because of its importance or beauty. Today I will show some photos of the Greek orthodox monastery Mar Saba – Saint Savvas – in Palestina (or Israel if you like), that I visited on the 2th of March this year.

March 2nd 2019: a cloudy winter day in the Judean desert: Mar Saba monastery

Its history is unique and amazing and the founding dates back to the year 483, when the Holy Father St. Savvas gathered with other hermits in the Judean desert, in the Kidron valley. The hermitage grew slowly and in 502 AD the first main church was build. And until this day we can count 1536 years of unceacing monasticsim on this spot. Read the full history here on the site of Mystagogy.

I took a taxi from Bethlehem and payed 120 shekel to get there (about 10 km). The cab driver waited for me to take me back. On arriving at the monastery religious women from a East European country were standing at the main entrance to pray and kiss the walls. Just like on Athos, women are not allowed to enter the monastery! Today only 12 monks remain: according to the monk I spoke it is difficult to find novices who want to live here in the (hot) desert……

Arriving at the monastery: female pilgrims gather at the gate
Women in front the main gate
Looking East: a defence tower outside the monastery
The courtyard and entrance to the main church
The Agiou Savvas chapel in the courtyard

The relics of St. Savvas are still in the main church and where shown to me by a nice monk, who gave me a quick tour in the church (and who spoke perfect English). The story about the remnants of St. Savvas is extraordinary: the crusaders stole the corps during the first crusade (1096 -1099) and took it to the church of Saint Antonin in Venice. The relics of St. Savvas were returned by the Catholic church in 1965, read more about this here.

The return of St. Savvas to Mar Saba in 1965
A short fim in Greek of the journey from Venice to Israel

Let’s have closer look at the monastery, first at the interior of courtyard chapel – nr 5.

the cenotaph of St. Savvas
The wall paintings an cenotaph look newly painted and are of exemplary quality
the small dome
a painting with the location of the monastery
turning the camera to the left, the next scene
the next scene, with three Saints
the next scene
the scene above the cenotaph
following the scenes to the left of the lower part of the chapel
St Savvas in Judean desert
St. Savvas meets the Theotokos
St. Savvas and lions
the entrance door to room nr 9, the exo-narthex
the exo-narthex
Cherubs on the ceiling
the wall painting at the far end of the exo-narthex
The exo-narthex: the crucifixion of Christ
side door with saints
a water tap and sink
the stained glass window and door to the balcony – nr 13/14 on the plan
the wooden and iron talanton
The balcony looking at Kidron valley
the Kidron valley – direction West
the Kidron valley – East direction
the monk announcing the service on his semantron
the caves of the hermits, with the cave of St. Savvas on the right
the St. Savvas hermitage
a bridge over the river Kidron
clay pots on a balcony
The domes of the main church
a plaque of St. Michael
A plaque of St. Savvas
an old door in the front wall
a stone stairway at nr 1 of the plan
the entrance, seen from inside
the bell at the entrance
the entrance
the Eastern valley: some caves at the far end of the valley are still inhabited according to the caretaker Wasil
The Bedouin caretaker Wasil, who works 19 years for the monastery – photo internet
time to go back to Bethlehem

Wasil told that is possible to sleep in the monastery and stay the night over. Beware, non-orthodox pilgrims are not allowed in church. The monk I spoke had many reasons not to include other Christian believers, because they made the wrong choice……. But he was thankful for the gift I gave him: incense made by Father David from kellion Timiou Stavrou in Provata-Athos!

Wim Voogd, 20-03-2019

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2043 – The Holy Mountain today

Seen from 13000 meter, on a flight from Tel Aviv to Amsterdam:

The top surrounded by clouds

Cape Arapis, Amouliani and Ierissos, with a snow covered Mount Olympos in the background

Wim, 4/3

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2042 – Mount Athos by Edward Lear: new site

Lavra, courtesy of Reeman Dansie

Stephen Duckworth has completed a website on the 1856 travels of Edward Lear with all the beautiful drawings of the monasteries.

Simonas Petras, courtesy of Sotheby’s

This is the link to the website.

The buildings from Ag. Nelios or Nilos seen from the sea with the Mountain in the background. Courtesy of Sotheby’s

Herman Voogd

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