The Athos Mountain
Even though not impressive necessarily through its height (2.033 m), this mountain has become renown worldwide because of the intense spiritual life related to it. The mountain is situated in the northern part of Greece on a peninsula carrying the same name and is currently the place where 20 important orthodox monasteries can be found along with other smaller places for prayer. The region is independent from an administrative point of view, being organized as a monastic state. In modern Greek, its name, Άγιοv Όρος means “holy mountain” and even since early history people have been attracted by this place and considered it different from any other.
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In Antiquity the Greeks built here temples for their most important gods and also an impressive statue of Apollo, which was famous at the time. There was also an oracle on the mountain, one that was visited by people all around the country. Later, as Christianity spread all around Europe, the churches’ existence started to be menaced by the Ottoman Empire. However, numerous contributions from orthodox countries such as Vallachia or Moldavia helped the monasteries continue their activities; in fact, contributing to their welfare was a true honor for the rulers of the time. In 1912, after the first war in the Balcans Russia showed its intention of spreading control on the peninsula as a protector of Christianity. However, the place remained part of Greece and gained its administrative independence after WWI. Now, life here is undisturbed by political affairs.
A particularity of the place, which has fascinated people for quite some time is the fact that women are by no means allowed to enter the monasteries; not even animal females are allowed here and the rules are very strict. Many times, women tried to break the rules, sometimes by dressing up as men, but the punishment was severe. This tradition caused an outcry among the feminist groups, but no change is to happen. This happens because the mountain is considered “The Garden of the Virgin Mary”, thus being dedicated to her. As a result, no other woman is allowed to step here. So, if you are a man and want to go on a truly unforgettable pilgrimage, then you can choose this location. The main language spoken here is the Greek, but Russian, Bulgarian, Romanian and others as well are spoken according to the origin of the monks. However, English has also stated to be used more, so you should face no problems from this point of view.
This mountain is probably one of the most famous from all over the world for more reasons, but one of the most important, for its spiritual importance. The volcano is the tallest in Japan (3776 m) and is located on the Honshu island, in the northern part of the Izu Peninsula. Its last eruption took place in 1707 and since then nothing else has happened. Fuji is still considered an active volcano, but the chances of an eruption happening are pretty slim. The volcano is located in the place 3 tectonic plates meet: the Ohotsk, the Euro-Asian and the Phillippines’, being part of the Pacific’s Circle of Fire.
The mount is famous most noticeably because of its perfect, elegant shape, especially when covered with snow. From almost any point the volcano looks the same, its natural beauty attracting thousands of visitors every year, being one of the most important tourist attractions in the country. The site is quite easy to reach, for example by taking the shinkansen from Tokio in direction of Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka. If you are lucky you can get a good view of the mountain, but usually the clouds make this almost an impossible mission. There are better chances of seeing the mountain in the cold season, so pack some warm clothes. The mountain can be climbed in July and August.
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The volcano started to be worshiped and considered sacred in the Shintoist religion because of its special shape and maybe this is why the firs ascension was made by a monk in 663. The mountain was considered the home of a fire god and also the dwelling of a Shinto goddess. The story repeats again as women were not allowed on the mountain until the Meiji restoration in 1868. Now, thousands of people of both sexes climb the volcano, many doing this with respect and devotion to the thousands and thousands of pilgrims that passed there before them. Unfortunately, not everyone pays the same respect and litter has become and increasing problem. However, the mountain remains just as mysterious as before and it seems that it will remain like this. According to some scholars the name of the mountain means “never dying” or “no death” and it fits like a glove.
Even though the ancient Greeks are long gone, their heritage remains and their sacred mountain continues to attract numerous tourists and to fascinate them as the home of the powerful and yet strangely human-like gods. This mountain is also the tallest in its country reaching 2919 m in its tallest peak called Mytikas (the Nose). An interesting fact about this mountain is the fact that that it is far from being the only one named like this. There are others called Olympus in Turkey, Cyprus, New Zealand, USA, and also one on Mars, being the tallest known volcano in the Solar System.
The mountain is located 100 kilometers from the city Salonik and in order to start a climb you have to start from Litochoro, also known as the “City of Gods”. Olympus is known not only for its history, numerous species of plants and animals, not to mention geological structures being found only here. This determined UNESCO to declare the area a protected site. The beauty of the place, not to mention the numerous archaeological discoveries and the churches at the base, attract numerous tourists, making the site one of the most famous in Greece.
And then again it’s the mythology that fascinates. In the past, the people believed that the mountain was the home of the 12 most important gods, who directed mortals’ destinies from there while plotting against each other. However, the legends are not very clear about what exactly Olympus was for the gods as it was definitely not a kind of heaven. The clearest version is given by Poseidon, who says that he is the ruler of the waters, Zeus the ruler of the sky while Hades owned the house of the dead. Olympus was what they had in common. The mountain had a gate of clouds and people would have never got the possibility to see the gods listening to Apollo’s divine music and enjoy ambrosia.