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Mt Athos - Part 3
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Mt Athos, Greece
Dochiariou Monastery is situated on the Western coast of the Mt Athos peninsula.

Part 3 - Mt Athos

Check out part 1 and part 2 of this story.

A night at the Zografou monastery

I move on to Docheiariou and take a well maintained path inland. The path climbs up into the hills. I hear noise ahead after about two kilometres and there are two workers, cutting and grubbing out any bushes that encroach onto the path.

We nod, but we have no shared language.

Another kilometre, and then suddenly the track disappears. I forge on through low waist high shrubs and find another path, but after a while this also peters out into bush. I look again at my map which shows a track but there is really nothing for it but to go back – I don’t want to get lost in this place.

Eventually I arrive back at the track workers and I produce my map and show them where I want to go. They indicate that there is no track this way.

A change of plan then. I’ll walk further up the coast to where the map shows a road inland to Zografou monastery and stay there the night. It is a hard 10 kilometre slog in the sun. I think about the pilgrims of the past and respect their courage to undertake the long journeys to places unknown.

My water is running out and I am grateful to see the high windowed walls of the monastery ahead.

There is no-one around except for the Bulgarian worker who discovers that I am “just a tourist”. He shows me to a room and I rejoin him later in the courtyard to enjoy the late sun.

An old white haired and bearded monk sits on a balcony above us. He is humming a chant. The young Bulgarian looks up and smiles. I can see his enormous respect for the life that is led here.

It was like a Rembrandt painting. You could stay here for a hundred years and still be enthralled with the sight.

I don’t think I will ever forget the images of the early morning service that I attend the next day. The light from the flickering candles catching on the white beards of the small group of monks. 

And then this light being slowly replaced by the beams of the rising sun slanting in through windows high up in the roof. It was like a Rembrandt painting. You could stay here for a hundred years and still be enthralled with the sight.

Mt Athos, Greece
The ruined house I pass trying to find my way to the next monastery and a bed for the night

The next morning I follow the track from Zografou Monastery South towards Konstamonitou Monastery.

The path is cut into the side of the hill through dense bush, rising then falling into a valley. I pass a large ruined building which shows up on my map as “kasteli”. The tiled roof is falling in and the out buildings are desolate.

Then the path hits a road which is not recorded on my map.

There is no path on the other side so I decide to walk up the road, it seems to be going in the right direction. I walk for about a kilometre and the road ends at a stream.

 

Map of Mt Athos
Map (rough) of Athos, Greece, composed from various references by Hobe / Holger Behr

Frustrated, I retrace my steps and eventually find the path leading off on the other side of the road. It has a rope stretched across its entrance, but it is well marked so I decide to take a chance.

The path climbs again quite steeply. It is paved with rock and every metre or so there is a raised stone ridge that has been set across the path which provides a useful grip for the staff I picked up on the way.

At last I get to the top of the hill and into the sun; I rest for a while. Shouldering my pack I make the journey down into another valley; but the path ends at a stream. There is evidence of ancient habitation here, old stone walls defining overgrown fields. I cast up and down the stream to try and find where the track continues but I am disappointed.

I pause to consider my position. The map is unreliable. The boat will be making its way back up the coast in a couple of hours, so without the surety of finding Konstamonitou, I decide to walk out to try and catch the boat and return to Thessaloniki.

So back up the hill and down to the road and I follow it out to the coast and then up to the Zografou port.

I can see the boat in the distance and I sit on the dock and wait patiently.

Maybe one day I’ll come back…….

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