A morning in July, I found myself once again crossing the Desert of Mount Athos; a beloved and unique place. When you approach with the boat, you can see the rocks over the calm sea and the small cells that stand out. At a closer look you can distinguish the Crosses on the churches and the path that is lost to the top.
The rocks are gray and green, matching the color of the bushes, and the path to the top appears and disappears. Upon arriving in Arsana with the Fathers and several Serbian pilgrims, a thrill is spread in your soul. You know that you had the privilege once again to find yourself here and you do not know if you will have that opportunity again.
Bearing in mind to gather material, I try to observe as more things as possible. I spend some time alone, so as to start ascending calm. The stone path, the sun and the warmth that surround you, the sound of silence and the nature’s sounds, all are unique and different from the everyday life in the city.
I see from a distance the Fathers coming out from their cells to greet heartily their visitors and then they are lost again.
It takes some time to realize where you were in the day before and where you are now, because here anything you know is different. First of all, you have nothing to fear. All thoughts, troubles, anxiety disappear, they do not belong here; this place is blessed. Anything that bothers you, here does not dare to show up.
The ascent is tedious, but so sweet. Later on, I see a holy spring with cool water, it is balsamic. I stop and I look around me. At the ends of the rocks, the cells stand isolated, quiet and unique. If you think that all those you have read in the books, the struggles, the ascetics, the Saints have passed through the same places and are still here, you feel awe for the sanctity of this place.
By midday, I arrive at my destination. At the entrance, I see several free donkeys, but I am not sure if it is safe to pass through them towards the gate, since once I was told that some of them are kicking. Going up the backside, I see a sign saying that the Fathers rest until 5:00 pm. I decide to sit on the stairs to rest. I have nuts with me and I give some to the donkeys that seem to like them a lot. In this silence, with the harvest flies and the incredible view I start drawing some sketches and water-paintings; this is a moment of peace that you wish it could last forever.
Soon, somebody comes out and invites me in. They offer me a dish of food, monastic, filling, delicious, full of love. The cook is a sweet-hearted old man. I leave my stuff in a humble room, as a cell should be. For me, while searching for painting pictures, everything is a source of inspiration. On the veranda I meet two more pilgrims. The acquaintances on Mount Athos are different, they are easy. There is something common and superior. Poor or rich, young or old, Greek or foreign and so many other things simply do not exist, you are a pilgrim. You have to tell where you are coming from and which monastery you plan to visit next. You have something to share and ask for information about something you do not know.
To be continued