Sunday, March 09, 2008

Trip to Hilandar Monastery on the Holy Mountain

Very early Thursday morning, I headed off to the Serbian monastery of Hilandar on the Holy Mountain with two friends from here in Thessaloniki. One, Milenko, is a Bosnian Serb and the other, Aimilios, a Greek Cypriot. I met both of them about a month ago at the small Serbian church in Thessaloniki, St. Sava’s.

The trip was a last-minute thing. We were fortunate, though, that Hilandar provided us with special passes.

I left Panorama about 5:30 AM and went to the bus station. At 6:15, the bus left for Ouranapoli, the primary departure point for Mt Athos. We arrived there about 8:45, did our paperwork, and had a coffee with Fr. Barnabus, an American priest-monk who has been at Karakallou (another monastery on the Holy Mountain) for the last 10 years. At 9:45, the boat left.

Although it was raining in Thessaloniki during this trip, the weather on Mt Athos was beautiful the entire time. The top photograph is of Fr. Barnabus and me on the top deck of the boat, enjoying the sun.

As you can see from the map here, Hilandar (spelled on the map as Chilandariou) monastery is the northernmost monasteries, so getting there is rather easy. Instead of the full, two-hour boat ride to Dafni, we got off at the first stop about 30 minutes into the ride.

We got off at the first stop, Jovanica, along with a group of about 15 Serbs from Belgrade. They had driven in a bus from Belgrade straight through the night—12 hours—to come for this visit to Hilandar.

When we got off, a bus from Hilandar picked us up and drove us about 25 minutes over to the monastery. We finally arrived around 10:30-11:00. So it took about 5 hours in total to get from my house to the monastery.

Hilandar suffered a very serious fire a few years ago which destroyed about 50% of the monastery, including the arhondariki, or guest house. This, unfortunately, made it difficult for them accept visitors for some years. Recently, though, the new guest house was completed, which is very nice. When we arrived, we had coffee and Turkish delight, and then settled into our room.

The second photo show the new guest house, which is located just outside and below the monastery walls.

Afterwards, we decided to walk around the monastery for awhile. The third and fourth photos are of the entrance of the monastery (the fourth being the ceiling of the entrance).

Look for more posts about the trip in the coming days. For all 107 photos, click here.

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