I started my preparations for the trip months before and contacted the pilgrims’ office in Thessaloniki to clarify the entry requirements. After I made the written request, I waited expectantly for the confirmation and the issuance of the “Diamonitirio”. The entry for foreigners was limited to ten visitors per day. If one had finally received a permit, it was advisable to contact especially the small monasteries and to assure their hospitable accommodation for one night.
From Ournoupolis I started at 5 o’clock at night. First to the local ferry office to get a ticket for the transit and then by ferry to Daphni, the only port of entry on Athos. Here Orthodox pilgrims from all over Europe arrived together, waiting, full of hope for the fulfillment of their pilgrimage intentions. First relationships were made, first thoughts were exchanged, and these were taken along the silent, lonely tours from monastery to monastery.
The autonomous monastic republic of Athos is located on the eastern finger of the Halkidikí peninsula and it’s part of the UNESCO world cultural heritage with its orthodox grand monasteries. More than 2000 Bulgarian, Romanian, Russian and Greek monks live in independent ascetic communities, and its first beginnings can be found as early as the 9th century in Byzantine times. The pursuit of complete inner harmony is practiced in a long tradition of constant prayer and eremitical contemplation. Moreover, the painting works of the Athos monasteries are famous, with a great tradition of icon painting dating back to the High Middle Ages.