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The boat returning from the Mount Athos glides in the sea like a sled on snow. Minute by minute the mountain is left behind, looking like like a step that unites heaven and earth. In the passengers' eyes, monasteries don't look like imposing and massive buildings anymore, but like calm shelters.
Noises and temptations
The bus returning from Ouranopolis to Thessaloniki fills with unshaved and uncombed men. The folk songs on the radio sound heavy and immodest to them. The power lines on the streets seem treacherous. At the first bus stop an exuberant woman gets in, attracting their gaze like a demonic magnet.
As she sits down, her short dress seems like single blanket: no matter how hard she tries on side of her is uncovered. At the next stop, the smell of barbecued meat fills their nostrils. In Thessaloniki's bus station two taxi drivers are quarrelling, insulting each other. On the train returning to Athens some passengers talk unceasingly, while others look out the windows.
In Athens, streets seem to smell, while people are permanently angry and fight for no particular reason. In their homes there is lack of humility and plenty of humiliation, families suffering from uncontrollable egotism, irritability and the conflicting preferences of their members.
The next night, when the visible circle of the journey to the Mount Athos had been closed, the pilgrim nostalgically recalls his days there. He recalls the few, fasting foods that eased his hunger. His confinement in the monastery cells that he wished never ended. The hagiographies that allowed him see beyond them. The temperamental weather, which kindly ceased at points to allow him to enjoy the long walks on the holy mountain. The sleepiness that came over him while sitting in the pews but never put him to sleep. The constructive silence imposed by nobody but he himself opted on.
Much like a castaway, he recalls the “peninsula of faith”, the place where origin, colour, work, identity or registration numbers have no real value. Everyone is transparent there, like feathers in the wind. Small like a grain of sand. Yet somehow, they are big enough to fit the whole world in their souls. They have the chance to become aware of their smallness and not to boost their arrogance and ego. To confess with their heads held low and not to talk about their inner feelings in front of an audience that's mocking of them. The chance to shed the pretentious, timid look and not to call themselves pious. The chance to be forward and spontaneous, like a child which has just awoken and is following the path to meeting his inner self.
TEXT-PHOTOS: GEORGE ZAFEIROPOULOS