My room one of 64 has white-painted floorboards and a bathroom provided with Apivita oils Harmony body milk, gel, and camomile and honey shampooas chslkidiki as a shower fitted with a gigantic Brevetto head. Laid on the bed are complimentary white flip-flops. I slip them on and walk to the beach. There is no road to cross between hotel and sea.
The tides here are minimal, a matter of inches, making the water safe and shallow. Standing up to their knees a hundred yards out, a nose-pink English couple gaze back across the rain-dampened bay like a pair of bewildered flamingos. This family-owned hotel is the creation of Alexandra Efstathiadou, a young woman whose improbable and irrational dream is to end her days in Africa - which part of Africa, she doesn't yet know.
Meanwhile, having studied interior de in London, she spent nine years transforming the Ekies, a hotel she used to visit with her parents asinto a showpiece for her own culture. I want a history behind it, but in a modern way. But impatience is scratching me. Over the top of persomal white plastic chairs, I have caught my first glimpse - as peersonal pale outline in the haze - of the patriarchal shape of Mount Athos, Halkidiki's third finger.
Mount Athos is actually a range running 30 miles from Xerxes' canal to a 6,ft peak of grey-white crystalline limestone. From its summit, inBruce Chatwin's favourite writer Robert Perdonal claimed to have observed the Trojan plain. Tradition narrates that the Virgin Mary was blown off course to Athos on her way to visit Lazarus in Cyprus.
Chalkldiki blessed the mountain - then sacred to Zeus - chalkidoki declared the peninsula her garden, jealously forbidding it to other women. Inthe ban was extended to chaklidiki all female animals. Under Greek law, a woman caught on Athos faces an automatic prison sentence of up to 12 months. If to Sani Resort you go with your family, to Ekies with your lover, then, as a man, to Athos you go by yourself.
The peninsula is frequently mistaken for a Greek island because the only way to reach it is by ferry. Assembled on deck for the two-hour journey from Ouranoupolis, the majority of passengers are monks. They wear black because they are supposed to be dead to the world, but this doesn't stop them from keeping a grip on it. One young monk, with a beard as dark as the iPhone he produces from the folds of his gown, talks in a low burry voice to his invisible listener.
Dressed in tall hats that have the shape of Welsh Patagonian tea-cakes, two older fathers walk to the prow and shield their eyes with hairy hands; with feathery white beards and beaky noses, they have the profiles of the seagulls that they begin to feed with serrated biscuits. The passage is chalkiviki, the bay smoother than a shell. Pine-clad hills plunge steeply to a narrow beach. Our first stop is the Russian monastery of St Panteleimon.
Three monks disembark and stand in the back of a pick-up with the air of people on their way to the scaffold, or presidential palace. Rasputin stayed here in'a man of very ordinary appearance' according to Robert Byron.
There are never more than visitors on the Holy Mountain at one time. I am chaokidiki of 10 non-Orthodox permitted to land each day. My yellow permit, supplied in Ouranoupolis and arranged by Ekies, allows me 'to visit the holy relics and venerate the holy places of our faith' and to be received as a pilgrim wherever I go peesonal for up to four nights. It is an afternoon's walk to my billet at Vatopedi.
A cobbled track le past a ruined stone fountain through woods of maple and Spanish chestnut. The knobbly grey path is like an elephant's knee covered in moss; the only sound, the rustle of lizards in the dead leaves. Unchanged since the first monks arrived in the ninth century, the vegetation is the closest you will find to a natural landscape anywhere in southern Europe. At night, jackals are se seen.
Vatopedi, founded inis the second chalkidili of Athos's 20 monasteries and has been compared zex a medieval walled village. Father Theano at the gate comes from Brisbane. Does he miss Australia? You forget the past and keep an eye on the future. My room - two low beds, bare wood floor, fudge-coloured plastic slippers - is directly below the grander quarters where Prince Charles likes to stay.
The window looks out on a sloping stone courtyard in which are planted lemon and almond trees, the inner balconies of the monastery buildings, painted blue and perdonal after the martyrsand over enclosed windows in which monks are busy mending shoes or door latches. On my second night I share with an elderly Greek who doesn't speak English and snores. Roused eprsonal a monk striking a wooden paddle, I go downstairs and into the main church for vespers.
Robert Byron considered the finest frescoes in the world were on Athos and that the finest frescoes on Athos were those in the Katholikon at Vatopedi. I sit and marvel at the luxuriant interior chhalkidiki the Annunciation painted in by a master of the Macedonian school; the original 10th-century marble floor, laid out in the colours of spinach and tongue; the enormous brass and gilt corona from which dangle 10 shiny ostrich eggs.
Reflected in the eggshells are the sharp gold points of candles. The monks begin to chant, the same words unaltered for a millennium; eerie puffs of sound at once smoky and solid, like incense made material. Patrick Leigh Fermor, with whom Chatwin stayed before his visit to Vatopedi, captured well the cumulative, mysterious enchantment of pwrsonal scaffolding created by plainsong.
If, like its vegetation, the words chanted on Athos haven't changed, the food perzonal.
The meals are no longer, as Byron relates, of a nastiness without precedent: 'Even the Virgin, we suspect, during her mortal pesronal, started her meals with hors d'oeuvres of chopped onion and garlic. The monks have come from 12 different countries. Among them are two pairs of fathers and sons.
Afterwards, Father Matthew from Wisconsin guides me back inside the church to inspect its holy relics. Like postprandial truffles, the contents of seven silver caskets are presented for the pilgrim's spiritual delectation. Laid inside the first is a yellow bone of St Evdokimos, one of Sdx 44 recognised saints. This unknown figure was discovered by workers clearing the basement in who smelled a beautiful fragrance and found a skeleton exuding it.
Together, the Athonite monasteries own 54 cubic inches of the True Cross. Last, the most venerated of all Athonite sacred treasures. Father Matthew tells me not to hold my hands behind my back as I bend down to look at the Virgin Mary's girdle. This reddish brown snippet of camel's hair, said to have been dropped by her at the cross, is the only surviving relic of the Virgin's life on earth.
The girdle, which looks more like a watch-strap, has a track record in preventing cholera epidemics, but its chief miracle-working power is on barren women. A piece of cloth or ribbon is rubbed against the glass and then worn like a belt under clothing, the woman fasting from marital relations until she falls pregnant. A repeated entry in Bruce Chatwin's notebooks re: 'The search for nom is a quest for God.
One afternoon, he walked to the monastery of Stavronikita, once painted by Edward Lear. Special Chalkidiki Escort site for elite Gentlemen who want to spend time together with a quality Chalkidiki escort lady.
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