Athens in Pieces: The Happiest Man I’ve Ever Met

by on 4 April 2019

What is it like to be a monk? I spent three days in Greece’s revered ‘Holy Mountain’ monastery to find out.

In the nearly three months I’ve been in this fascinating city, I’ve met plenty of rather high-spirited people. But it was not until I visited the monastery at Mount Athos in northeastern Greece that I encountered the happiest person I’ve ever met.

I’d traveled from Athens with my friend Anthony Papadimitriou, who had very kindly arranged the trip to the Holy Mountain, as it is called here. We share an abiding interest in monasticism, although neither of us is fully monkish in our habits.

We had been on the road since very early in the morning when we left the port of Ouranopoli, the City of Heaven, in a small white and orange boat with a captain named Yorgos. The only way of approaching the long rocky peninsula of Mount Athos is by water, and it requires a special permit. I had it in my hand, stamped with the seal of the Holy Mountain, with four handwritten signatures. Anthony told me that the monks had checked out my credentials and noticed somewhere online that I was described as an atheist, which is not exactly true. But apparently that was better than being Catholic. On my permit, it read “Anglican,” which made me smile.

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