Je bekijkt de reis...
Reisverslag Mount Athos
6 februari 2018
Thats a good start, my taxi is already here. 15 minutes early. A quick splash of water in my face and off we go. I was so ahead of time that I even managed to get the first bus to Ouranoupoli from Thessaloniki.
When I made it to my ferry I was in for a treat. I knew the monasteries I would be going to would be old, but this was nothing like I imagined. It was as if time had stood still since the Middle Ages. Most monasteries were built on the rocks. All made up out of stone and wood. Impressive bay windows who stand out at the upper part of the buildings. You could really tell how most monasteries were built throughout time. Easily to be remembered by the shadechange in building construction.
Sooo these monasteries take good care of your spirit, literally. They offer ouzo and water. This happened at several monasteries. Thats what I call a warm welcome! :) In my, prior reserved, monastery Dionysiou I was shown to my pilgrim room. A very basic room with 2 beds, one of them blocking the way in such a way that it was quite a challenge getting my backpack back in. Soon after my arrival the first service started.
Now I have little experience in Eastern Orthodox churches .. so here is the uncut imprreion! The gold and glamour was overwhelming! Every where you look beautiful paintings, (well not under my seat I guess, although in all honesty I havent thouroughly examined the under side of my seat) But a lot of painthings, candles, gold. Images depicting Christ, angles and other holy man in several ways. I could hardly understand a word they were saying. Only when the monk started, in high speeds, with kyrie eleison or an occasional Halleluhjah! I was kind of aware of what was happening. There was a lot of kissing in church! Its part of a ritual I still have to fully understand but what I could see was that several holy items were approached while making a cross and actually kissing it.
The respect for the monks, priests was very visible. Often when one of them passed he was grabbed by the hand to kiss it, while kneeling down. I experienced one occasion where they gathered in prayer, 5 men, while the priest placed one of his long sleeves over their heads. I have to admit a rather funny sight.
After the service there was food. Now this was an experience in itself. We were first waiting outside of the dining room for all the monks to enter first. Then we stood inside at long tables waiting for the cue to sit down. Then one of the monks started reading a text. During this time we could eat ... Only during this time so I learned.. This was euhm.. new. As soon as the monk had stopped reading everybody rose again from the benches and we waited untill the monks left the room. Then we were supposed to leave too. I saw people snatching some bread into their pocket and followed this example quite soon. In the evening I was still a bit hungry and wandered around near the kitchen. A monk spotted me and asked what I was doing. I replied that I was hungry and was curious if there was any food left. 'No' was the very easy answer. 'Wait for tomorrow' I was rather surprised, but on my quick view in the kitchen I couldnt see food so I decided to leave it for what it was. I did make a mental note NOT to miss the next meal.
Morning starts around 6 for the monks. Everyone gets woken up. I turned around for a bit and kind of woke up at 7.30. Enough time to make it till breakfast, which was supposed to be around 8.15.
During my stay the bells were rang when there was something happening in the monastery. Either service or food. So when it rand at 7.40 I suddenly felt worried. Had I missed breakfast? I quickly went to the dining room and indeed. Breakfast had already started. Now this is not your average breakfast. Most of the people were already awake for some time and they were then presented with the following. Fish (it was friday?!) rice, vegetables and wine. As breakfast! Already having lost valuable time I started to rush my food. I saved again some bread and then held out to the next, and only other of the day, meal which would be around 4 (!) I spend a lot of my time climbing through the amazing nature. Often I would take a hike going up and down, left and right through the forest to a neighbouring Monastery did very good. Weather was often sunny, 17/18 degrees. Very good.
Now the next meal was again quite an experience. After the 10 maybe 15 minutes had ended the pelgrim group didnt leave straight away. A monk approached us and actually chased us away from the food(!) In the moment itself I was to surprised to really react to it. But eventually it added to a feeling of unease. Altough I had some nice encounters with monks and other perlgrims I didnt fully like the atmosphere. I wasnt explained what I could do or not do. I didnt know any schedule, and when I asked it often changed again so it was hard to plan anything around it. This led to the idea of just taking a hike and trying another monastery for the next meal. On a subconscious level I threw in my pyama and toothbrush and paste. You never know right.. I left the rest of my luggage there, actually asuming I would spent the night there.
As soon as I had made this decision, something changed. To my impression all of a sudden I had warm connections with other monks I didnt meet before. Upon my hike to the neighbouring monastery I met so many kind open and warm people in the little encounters we had passing one another a different person reached Gregoriou.
The first question I was asked was wether I came to sleep there. I was surprised but quickly accepted, I was up for something new. Still with my important mental note in the back of my head I asked about meal times here. 'Are you hungry now?' was the response. Well no I wasnt yet.. but maybe later? A nice tea with Greek sweets, its like fluid fruits with sugar covered in white fine sugar, later I ended up in the kitchen. I was served fish, greek pasta and lemon cake. Its was truly delicious. I got offered a book about Orthodox Chrisitianity by a monk, I got a room with 2 beds, a table and chair and was just happy. I felt so good. This was how I wished it for me to be. Then things started to fall in place. In my mind I was blaming my first monastery to have treated me badly. I do not deserve such treatment. Then it hit me, it was not them treating me badly. It was me allowing them to treat me badly. I had and always have the power to change things. Then the next wave came. I know that sometimes I really play/keep small. It's like a mask I take on, not showing the true authentic me, afraid of being rejected. to my perception this exceeds the natural being uncomfortable on a new spot. It only intensifies it. Possibly also powered by this insight I opened up more and more. I ended up with a large group of Greeks in a room, talking to a priest. I could once again hardly understand a word (and noticed I was a little shy to ask for a translation, which later came to me as a gift haha) but in a way it was nice and I could feel how I was actually enjoying this group of unknown men. I evantually shared my story of how I got there with the priest and it was really nice to withness the reception of the people present. I had, for myself, welcomed myself in Greece (while waiting for others to actually do it) and now it also happened outside of me. This amazing group of people later gave me a ride back to Thessaloniki by VIP limou haha. Beautiful experiences on Mount Athos.
Later I learned that from all the monasteries I had picked the most strict one. They only eat to maintain their body and nothing more. I based my choice upon the name Dionysiou.. to me it sounded like Dionysus. The Greek God of 'grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness, fertility' Ohhh asumptions asumptions quite a lesson there again haha. How different it turned out to be..
I had some interesting other personal experiences but right now I prefer to share them personal with who is interested.
The story has a little tail to it.
I ended up staying one day longer then I was allowed, the weather was to bad for the ships to sail and pick me up again. I was sad to leave Mount Athos and have a strong feeling I'll be back one day. I rushed to my first monastery after breakfast to collect my stuff. I found my room locked! (I was rather worried because I left some valuables there too) now this happened. Okay onwards to the gueshouse and see who can help me out. When I came there the Priest elder asked me with a rather raise voice. 'Where were you, for 2 days?' really emphasizing the 2 with 2 fingers up in the air. 'Well I started walking..' You could tell he also figured that part out .. 'And I went to this other monastery and they offered me a place to sleep' Meanwhile some other monk or perlgrim was told to continue the conversation. He told me they were worried and missed me. They had called the police and reported me missing. 'Man from Holland around 35 missing' the elderly priest said. OH SHIT!
I totaly forgot to let them know. I did feel bad. But in all honesty I wouldnt know who I should have told, but that doesnt justify me leaving no message at all... I sincerely apologized..
In the end the priest elderly approach me and grabbed my ear to give it a little fatherly shake. I knew it was all good from there on and was actually moved by how I was seen and taken care of. Beyond my own constructed story.
Right now I am in Alexandroupoli after a beautiful trainride through the north of Greece. I found yet another friendly Couchsurfing host and will leave for Samothraki tomorrow. (I found my island!)
Info about the place can be found here:
Foto's bij verslag (8)
7 februari 2018 10:20 | Door: Maaike
Wat fijn om zo weer mee te mogen genieten van je reisverslagen, ook al hebben we elkaar al jaren niet gesproken (quick reminder: Alles is Drama). Wat ontzettend mooi dat je gewoon die rugzak hebt gepakt en bent gegaan! De lessen die je onderweg leert komen aan, ik denk dat wel meer mensen worstelen met het feit dat ze gewoon op kunnen staan en weg kunnen lopen.
Veel succes en ook plezier gewenst,