THE LAST SETTLEMENT BEFORE THE ENTRANCE TO THE MONASTIC STATE OF MOUNT ATHOS
Ouranoupoli is a beautiful little village in Chalkidiki, on the easternmost peninsula of Athos and is considered the last settlement before the entrance to the monastic state of Mount Athos. Its name literally means sky city, which perfectly fits to this little village. Immediately behind the village lies the border to the autonomous monastic republic up in the mountains.
Ouranoupoli as it is today didn’t exist at all before the 1920s. Before that, the area belonged to the Republic of Athos, with the 14th century old tower of Andronikos being the symbol of the small town. The watch- and defense tower was intended to prevent strangers and robbers from reaching the territory by sea.
In 1922 about 50 families of Greek refugees reached the historic area and sought refuge in the ruins of the old tower. After many requests from the Greek government, the monks released the land for building and granted the refugees a new home. In return, the monks were granted tax advantages by the Greek state, which are still valid today. So the border was moved, and the 800-strong locality of Ouranoupoli gradually emerged.
Today, in front of the tower lies the port, which is the only local transport connection to reach the autonomous region. There is a lot of traffic between here and the Athos main port Daphni, where the ferry boats finally dock after a few stops at various monasteries along the coast. Other ferries circle the peninsula at a distance of 500 m from the beach.
Once in Daphni there are two ways of getting around, one by local bus, and the other is to walk. From the port you can take a bus to Karyes, the administrative center of the monastic society, and from there, other buses to each of the monasteries. There are numerous hiking routes through almost untouched nature up to the peak of Mount Athos. A pilgrimage here is therefore not only a journey to a place of peace and contemplation, but also an excursion to a wonderful nature paradise. Swimming is not allowed.
The article was first published in Issue 15