Even though it was 01:30 before we got to sleep last night we are up bright and early this morning. The monks are doing a service to St Nicholas from 07:30-09:30 and we would like to watch.
We planned to get out the door by eight but we are a bit sluggish and don't manage till 08:30. the monastery is still two kilometers back up the road so we are in a hurry. Sticking out our thumbs at every passing car I'm sure we will get a lift...but it isn't to be. Even when we want to drive somewhere we can't get it together!!! The joys of a pilgrimage :)
We rush in by nine and it ends up being well timed. The service is great. I much prefer a church with singing and chanting rather than sermons, especially when it is in a different language ;)
The ceremony climaxes with us all walking in under an arch formed by two guys holding a relic (or something), then kissing the bishops hand, eating some bread, before finally filing back out for the cake. It has the appearance of a wedding cake but made of something strange...and tastes delicious :)
As I'm waiting for Father Niphon, Father Matthew ensures we are well looked after. Here is another man with a very comfortable aura and steady gaze, something that all the monks at this monastery have in common. I am very impressed. It isn't so often that I enter a religious establishment and find a whole group of people I would be comfortable calling truly religious. Even without the beards and robes, here is a group of men the world could learn a lot from.
The monastery was said to have been built in 800 or 900 AD but they have just discovered some foundations dating back to 500 AD. The highlight here is a copy of a relic they have in Mt Arros which is said to perform miracles, especially for the heart. Father Mathew retells some of the recent stories to us, pretty cool...
Before we realize it's 12:30 and father Niphon is still busy with the Bishop. Asking Father Matthew to pass on our "thanks" we go to leave. Just then Father Niphon appears...
"What, you are leaving already?"
"Yes, we would love to stay but we still want to make our 30kms for today and it's getting late."
"But you haven't even eaten lunch! Here quickly come this way."
He leads us into the kitchen and once again we are presented with a huge feast. It is wonderful, and with our bellies full we say our thanks and hit the road. After a kilometer I turn around and see Sabine looking slightly pale, holding her belly.
"I think I ate too much" :)
There's nothing else to do but sleep it off ;) So we do. Finding a small dirt road we both pass out for a couple of hours.
Hitting Nea Kallisti around 4pm it is time for a coffee. We figure since we have 20kms to go and it is already getting late we will be walking in the night, but it's a full moon anyway so it should be good. Sabine's German has come in very handy through Greece and once again we keep the locals entertained with our stories. So much so that one guy paid for our coffees as he left. Cheers mate :)
Neo Sidirochi is marked on our map as a major town and as we hit the outskirts I'm thinking to myself "I hope this is not it!". We are in wide open streets with street lights everywhere, numerous dogs barking at us...but no shops and no people! It is 10:30pm and I'm sure there should at least be a bar open. But no such luck. We manage to pass through the whole town without even spotting a church!!! Very strange!
The next town is only 2kms down the road but ends up being much the same. It looks like we are going to bed without dinner :( So tired, hungry and sore we find a camp spot and call it a night...