"Orthodox Vatican" Top 5 Page for this destination Aghion Oros (Mount Athos) by Assenczo

Aghion Oros (Mount Athos) Travel Guide: 41 reviews and 271 photos

Aghion Oros sounds mysterious enough to warrant a visit. The fact that it is forbidden for women (I have not heard of any other territory on Earth with such conditions) makes it even more intriguing for the already curious. Moreover, there is the impression that this might be another country because you need a visa as if it is not part of Greece, controlled by its government. Calling it a visa is a bit of a hyperbolae but I guess this term gives more weight and importance to the people who issue it. Once I was on the territory of the Zograf Monastery, which is Bulgarian, completely the opposite message was advertised quite aggressively. The GREEK flag was set up practically in front of the main entrance albeit in the service quarters. I heard the argument that this was useful for the safekeeping of the many treasures that the monasteries possess, a line that does not sound convincing to me.
My trip had a little insider twist to it since I happened to travel on the ferry and than walk all the way up to the monastery in the company of two fellows who were theology students and had been many times to the monastery, thus knew the monks, the rules and hidden musts. One of them was quite happy to assume the role of a guide to the uninitiated and tell us what the expectations of the monks were. Since we had nothing else to do anyway, we gladly followed the recommendation to help with the preparation of preservatives for the winter. For me it was fun, reminding me of a bygone era, taking place in more than authentic ambience in the monastery kitchen with the huge fireplace etc. As a sharp contrast to this sheepish follow-up of the orders in the secular sphere was the reaction of my fellow travelers to the requirements related to the spiritual ritual. First, when we met the monk who was supposed to greet us, the thing to do was to kiss his hand. I tried but he was not overly enthusiastic. My road colleagues skipped it altogether. Next morning, I was up for prayer at four o’clock but the rest of the travel party gradually oozed in the temple one hour late. Not even feeling guilty, they were standing there as if made of cast iron and did not budge to cross themselves; kissing the icons – out of question! Well, this is not the way to make friends with the clergy. Jokes aside this was the young generation of Bulgarians, so far away from the Church with its traditions and codes of behavior, who could not find a reference point and perform a ritual for the sake of the ritual at least.

Closely guarded access routes

It is obvious that there is (and has been for very long time) something to be guarded there. Every pier, deftly placed at the access points to the various monasteries on the peninsula has imposing tower to check unwanted guests. The Zograf one looked deserted but a horse was giving out a sign of a presence, whether sufficient or not it is another matter.

Ferrying passangers to and from sacred sites

Ferry is the only way to get around. This statement is true and not quite at the same time. I saw monks riding speed boats with lots of zest for velocity. The odd impression was amplified by the weird look of long beard and baggy clothes being tossed aside by the wind of acceleration.

  • Last visit to Aghion Oros (Mount Athos): Aug 2003
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (4)

Comments (4)

  • CliffClaven's Profile Photo
    May 27, 2008 at 4:08 AM

    Mnogo interesna stranitsa za "balgarskata koloniya" v Aton

  • Redule's Profile Photo
    Aug 24, 2006 at 1:29 AM

    kissing monk's hand? you didn't have to. but it could be used till the middle of the XX age.

  • XtravelloverX's Profile Photo
    Mar 26, 2005 at 12:03 PM

    It really is forbidden to women? Now, of course, I must go! :)

  • jorgejuansanchez's Profile Photo
    Mar 25, 2005 at 1:04 AM

    Congratulations Assen! Your Mount Athos page is very interesting and didactic, Now you are one of the few people of the world to have entered this magic and fascinating place. Bravo!


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