Exploring silence and the past at a Greek monastery

Travel Destinations — By on August 9, 2006 at 11:52 am

Need a break from the relentless drumbeat of war stories filling the news these days?  There aren’t many places where one can totally disconnect from the world, but Mt. Athos is one of them.  This isolated Eastern Orthodox monastic community in Greece has no television, radio or newspapers.  It is also in an autonomous region of Greece that acts as if the Byzantine Empire still exists.

Neil Averitt wrote about Mt. Athos for the travel section of the Washington Post.  You can read his story here.

Psychologically and geographically speaking, it’s a world apart. … No road connects the peninsula with the mainland — access is solely by boat. Scattered over this rugged landscape are 20 large monasteries, a dozen smaller communities, innumerable hermitages and about 2,500 monks.

This exotic little state, sometimes described as a Christian Tibet, has many features making for a truly great travel destination: grand architecture, hiking trails along cliff tops or through virgin forests, guest rooms in monasteries, meals of fresh natural foods, and a chance to talk with wise and thoughtful men about the nature of the good life and the state of your soul.

There are, of course, challenges.  Before visiting, one must apply for permission.  Everyone is expected to arise for 4 a.m. services.  Hot showers are rare.  And, in addition to shutting out the modern world, Mt. Athos also bars visits from women.  But regardless of whether you’d ever visit, this article provides an intriguing glimpse into a centuries-old monastic tradition and into a place where the 21st century barely exists.

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