Our last night on Mount Athos
We were trudging toward the hotel. Igor caught up with us in an upbeat mood. We took the diamontirions out of our backpacks, anticipating a difficult meeting with the monk responsible for visitor accommodation. We had heard too many bad reports about local hospitality. But Mount Athos taught us yet again not to trust our misgivings. The monks gave us a warm reception and made us feel at home. The hotel keeper was tactful and considerate. He entered our details in a ledger, asked us if we wanted to share a room or live separately, and showed us the way. Nothing like we expected. An unfamiliar monk warmed our hearts with his care, and the Abbess of the Holy Mount shed her favors on us. No more fears.
A visit to Saint Panteleimon’s is like medicine to the soul. Everyone receives a prescription from above. Some get surgery, some take the sweet medicinal syrup, and others massive amounts of liquid. Eventually, every soul will find relief.
We occupied a cell on the third floor, with a table, a chair, three beds, two windows and an old cooker. An icon was hanging on the wall above each bed.
I looked out the window, leaning on the broad window sill. The sea was almost below us – only fifty meters away. “How good that we do not have mosquito nets over the windows,” I thought. “Nothing stops us from enjoying the view of the sea and listening to the waves all night.” But sleeping without mosquito nets was more difficult than we thought. But there was still time before bedtime, which we all used in our way. Igor took my prayer book and went to a separate room on the same floor to read the prayer rule for the Communion. Vladimir Georgievich and I took a lantern and went for a walk by sea while it was still light. But in the south, it gets dark very quickly.
The playful sea
After about seven minutes, we circled the hotel and stepped on the rocky beach. We sat down on the rocks, still warm from the evening sun. The waves were small but were still making an audible sound. Like a cat playing with its tail, the sea was splashing against the rocks and drawing in the pebbles. Each new wave was taller than the previous one. The tallest wave – the sixth or seventh in a row – hit a large shapeless boulder, and covered us with its warm splashes. I was enjoying myself, but one thing was bothering me: I had been drinking too much cold water at different monasteries and got a sore throat. I hated the thought of going down with a common cold in the Mediterranean subtropics.
I crept to the sea on all fours, scooped its lukewarm salty water and gargled my throat with it. I repeated the procedure twice or thrice until a large wave hit me. It made me look like a wet kitten. Laughingly, I shook off the water and suddenly noticed the bright stars in the sky and the faraway lights of the Daphne Pier. Darkness fell as if at the click of a switch.
Other travelers enjoying their walks on the shore came our way from time to time. But, as soon as they heard our voices, they turned around and went away to look for seclusion elsewhere.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds
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