Group Journal April 15, 2013 - May 8, 2013

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Day 06 April 20, 2013 Saturday Ouranoupoli City of Heaven - Thessalonica, Greece
ITINERARY: 2 hours one way road on the long and winding road leads to an old Byzantine tower by the sea and a sleepy village sprawled around it... The picturesque village of Ouranoupolis with its small fishing harbour and fortified tower lies at the threshold of the unique monastic community of Mount Athos, on the peninsula of Halkidiki. Its name translates "City of the Heavens". With a backdrop of rolling green hills descending to a sparkling sea of the deepest blue, it is a  beautiful corner of Greece Drive to Ouranoupoli City of Heaven  is about a 2 and a half   to 3 hour drive)…small non-tourist setting will be appropriate for the theme of our tour. Return for overnight in Thessalonica. Lunch and dinner will be included. The village of Ouranoupoli is situated on the coastline in the northwest part (the very beginning) of the Athos peninsula, part of the bigger Chalkidiki peninsula. It is the last settlement before the border with the monks republic of Mount Athos (the Holy Mountain).  

   On the winding roads, we arrived at the top of a mountain where we could see the peninsula of Halkidiki was stretching into the Aegean Sea like the stretched out fingers of a hand. We were heading to the farthest east of the four fingers.  As soon as we left the bus, the lady from the boat was there collecting the money for the ride. We were told that our cruise was going to be the first of the season. There were only couple of other passengers. the sea was calm and the sun was showing her face once in a while behind the white/gray clouds. We all first thought could sit in the deck. Soon after the boat started , we all cam down and enjoyed the rest of our journey behind the wide windows. Some how, tea tastes better on the boats. Sipping the tea and watching this  " City of Heavens" was great. The boats are not allowed to get closer than 500 meters to the shore. so we were able to get panoramic view of  the  monasteries most of which existed since the 10th century.

Christian Religion promoted monasticism as "the ideal for the life of the believers" pious and good loving souls exchanged the worldly life for deserted

places where in a climate of absolute calm and peace, far from deceit and fraud. They continually worshipped God and forged their faith in Him. In the beginning the life of the Athonite monks took an eremitic even a cave dwelling form.

Organized Athonite Monasticism, during its 1000 of life, presented periods of prosperity and other times difficulties.

The peninsula where 20 monasteries rise is accepted as independent Athonite state according to the Greek Constitution.

though the Monasteries are dedicated to Virgin Mary, no women are allowed on the peninsula.

Mount Athos rising from the sea



We spent the rest of the afternoon at our guide Athena's house.


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