Made a boat trip along the South West of Mount Athos this afternoon. The land border of the Monk’s Republic is guarded by police and marked by two large buildings. Boats have to keep a distance of 500 meters from the shore. The tiny port of Dafnes has police officers, customs officials and post office to protect the best guarded and most secretive tax haven in the world.
Pilgrims go to Mount Athos on a special boat, see arriving below. To get a three day permit to go to Mount Athos, you have to be male.
Some pictures of the stunning mountain at the end of the peninsula where the most spectacular monasteries perched on rocky ridges are located.
The Russian monastery visited by Vladimir Putin below.
Monks came from the monastery of Dionysiou who boarded the boat to give a group from Thessaloniki the chance to kiss relics and to buy their icons in a very flink operation…
The impression is of a corporation taking advantage of people’s faith to sell their products.
I was told that the boat ticket to go to Mount Athos is 25 euros. Given the number of pilgrims, it must be a large and steady revenue stream. The three day visa costs another 25 euros.
I was also told that the monasteries force pilgrims 600 euros to drive them to the land border, taking advantage of desperate Russians who need to catch their flights back but who cannot leave because of rough seas. It is possible to cross the land border forty minutes walk from here in special cases, but there is a physical fence and it is guarded by police.
Some Russians go with tens of thousands of euro in cash and come back with no money, paying with credit card, I was told.
Also, I was told that the monks help people avoid tax and launder money by saying bigger donations were given than was the case…