Around a shaded courtyard, his cell, or kellia, included a complex of stone and wooden houses with a tiny church near the entrance and, in the back, a large dining hall, its walls covered with frescoes of Orthodox saints.On one of the tables he had set a typical meal: boiled potatoes and green beans, bread, water and an unfamiliar type of leafy green that tasted a bit like pine.But when Makarios came over to shake my hand, something strange did happen.
The shopkeeper said the shirts were selling briskly, and he advised us on how to reach the place where we were staying.
Over the next four days we met dozens of monks on Mount Athos, and apart from the fact that they have beards and dress in black, it is difficult to generalize about them.
Borisov earns his living by organizing tours to Mount Athos for wealthy pilgrims, primarily from Russia and Ukraine. There are 20 monasteries on Mount Athos – 17 of them Greek, one Bulgarian, one Serbian and one Russian, each representing one of the traditional centers of the Orthodox faith.
By foot, all of them take hours to reach along the trails that wind through the mountains.
Like any large community of people, they come in all types, including a fair share of zealots.
Some were narrow-minded or even hateful in their opinions of the sinners of the outside world.
Mount Athos – or, as it is officially called, the Autonomous Monastic State of the Holy Mountain – is a spit of land about five times the size of Manhattan that juts out of northern Greece into the Aegean Sea.
For roughly the past thousand years, it has been governed by a council of Orthodox monks, and as the name of their microstate suggests, they enjoy a great deal of autonomy from the rest of Greece. Female animals are also banned, with the occasional exception of cats and songbirds, which are too difficult to keep away.
So keeping up with Putin’s entourage would require a car.