One day last weekin Greece we joined the elementary school on a day trip to visit Mount Athos, a World Heritage Site home to twenty Eastern Orthodox monasteries. Even though the peninsula in northern Macedonia is attached to land, it can only be accessed by the sea and it is a self-governing territory. No women are allowed on the land, and very, very few men are allowed to visit—and only after extensive proof of their faith. (Earlier in the trip, the group visited the incredible cliff-top monasteries at Meteora).
We boarded a this "pirate ship" and sailed two hours to the peninsula, where we followed the coastline as closely as possible. Along the way, we were accompanied by some locals:
I wish I could have captured pictures of the dolphins jumping completely out of the water!
The seagulls were also very pretty. Having grown up on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, however, I found it hard to be enthralled by the birds who always used to poop on me as a child. I don't care if Russians consider that to be "good luck"!
We then reached the tip of the peninsula and the guide on board regaled us with much more information about the monasteries than the kids could possibly digest. Frankly, it was SO OPPRESSIVELY HOT on board, that I couldn't really pay attention, either. The sights were beautiful, however! It's hard to imagine that these monasteries were all built centuries ago without the aid of modern technology, literally cut off from the rest of society!
The Russian Orthodox Monastery
The area was so peaceful and beautiful... There were many tourists on board the boat visiting the site as part of a religious pilgrimage. The women below, however, clearly were not.
Yes, it was HOT on board, but do you really strip down to string bikinis to tour a holy mountain??! Needless to say, some of the half-drunk Russian men on board didn't really seem to mind. (The boat was entirely filled with Russians except for our nuclear family).
Natalia got to steer the boat for a bit, as did all our kids. Yikes, I wish the captain hadn't put that hat on her! Knock on wood, my kids have never had lice!
I was so surprised to spot this boy from our school carrying a sign on board asking for Euros... He wanted more ice cream and his money had run out... People were so taken by him that he scored big before we teachers spotted him and shut down his endeavor! His reply? "Why? People do it all the time in Moscow and others are happy to give them money!" Um, OK, but it's not really the same thing... The last thing you want is for a kid to go home to his parents, and to tell them how much fun it was begging for food while on the school trip to Greece!
I'll take that level of "mischief" any day, however, over that of a few other elementary boys who were so eager to play with their Nerf super soaker guns on the balcony of their room that they didn't realize they had literally SOAKED all the regular hotel guests having fancy dinners on the patio of the restaurant below. (Truly. Picture food SWIMMING, and our shocked boys wailing! God bless the forgiving victims! )