Mount Athos, also known as the Holy Mountain in Greece, is one of the most sacred spots on earth.
In the peninsula of Halkidiki, Northern Greece, only men are permitted to enter Mount Athos. The 20 monasteries and all monks are under the guide of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
Last year, 23-year-old Dimitri from Sydney, Australia, had the opportunity to travel to Greece for a family holiday with his Mum, Dad and younger brother. The family have always been spiritual and Dimitri along with his Dad, and 21-year-old brother decided it would be a wonderful opportunity to also visit Mount Athos and experience a journey like no other.
Before going, Dimitri said they were aware that there was no phone reception, or internet, so there would be no contact with the outside world for 4 days.
Dimitri recalls they arrived quite early in the morning, around 9am and didn’t get to the first monastery by nightfall, so they ate and went to sleep. The following morning, and the mornings after that, they woke up very early to attend mass between 4am-8am.
They also had the opportunity to eat with the monks, which was a light breakfast and lunch, which was also a small portion as the monks don’t eat a lot. Dimitri said breakfast “for the most part is bread and homemade jam or honey. For lunch it was a small portion of fish with vegetables and fresh fruit, which they would pick fresh off the trees. It was very cleansing.”
Being in Mount Athos for 3 nights and 4 days, allowed them to visit three different monasteries and Dimitri says it was an amazing spiritual journey. “It was enlightening to be in Mount Athos, even if it was only for 3 days. It was quite humbling to walk in the monks shoes for a few days and they were all so accommodating and approachable.”
At Mount Athos’ largest monastery Vatopédio, they witnessed miracles, which will remain with them forever. Dimitri recalls one incident during a church service, “just before going through the Gospel readings, all the birds and animals were making loud noises. As soon as the Priest started the Gospel, there was complete silence. Then as soon as he finished, they started again. It was pretty insane, I got goosebumps.”
In Vatopédio there is a remarkable clock tower that shows the six hour time difference, as the monks on Mount Athos go by Byzantine time. The day begins at sunset, not at midnight. This is why they start their masses so early, but Dimitri said you don’t feel the time change.
Some of the monks also live in complete seclusion. "You have to walk an hour through the mountains and terrain to get to their hut and they have mini monasteries and churches. For me the most amazing part was experiencing the way they live in seclusion.”
Dimitri says there are no words to describe his Holy experience. "It's something every man needs to do in their lifetime, especially for someone that is spiritual. You have to experience Mount Athos for yourself to understand the benefits you gain on a spiritual, mental and emotional level.”