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Travelers' Aid

January 22, 2000

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I've heard from a few listeners that a great way to hit the road and get away from it all is to stay at a monastery or a convent -- you can find them in nearly every country and most of them are willing to take in visitors. Now they aren't Motel 6's and you shouldn't treat them as such. I called Father Aelred Hagen at the Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina for some perspective on how they should be treated.

Monasteries have existed for thousands upon thousands of years; in Greece, there's a place that has hardly changed since the beginning of the last millennium. It's called Mt. Athos and it's a peninsula made up entirely of ancient, active Greek Orthodox monasteries overlooking the Aegean Sea -- and you can stay in them if you want. But keep in mind that these places are very different than monasteries like the Mepkin Abbey. Mt. Athos is Orthodox, and rules must be obeyed. I called Lonely Planet writer Paul Hellander -- he's visited Mt. Athos -- and he let me in on some of the rules and conditions you should know about. You have to obtain a permit to enter the region, which is semi-autonomous and ruled by a "holy council" of monks, and you must stay a minimum of three days.

Well, while you're waiting for breakfast at one of the Mt. Athos monasteries you might want to take care to watch yourself -- I read that the monks are gossips. I really didn't believe that -- monks? Gossips? No way. But according to David, it's true.

Savvy Resources for Monasteries:

  • We talked with Father Aelred Hagen at the Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina. To find out more about the abbey and how you may be able to stay there a for a few days, go to their Web site at http://www.mepkinabbey.org, which also has more links to monasteries around the United States.

  • To find out more about monasteries around the world, check out the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance homepage at http://www.ocistso.org.

  • We talked with Paul Hellander about Mt. Athos. He's the co-author of the Lonely Planet's guidebook on Greece. Order the book, or find out more about his other books by going to http://www.guidebookwriters.com/regions/europe/greece/hellander.html

  • Find out more about Mt. Athos and to see pictures of the island at http://www.duth.gr/Athos.

  • If you're interested in Buddhist Monasteries then go to http://www.buddhistnet.co.uk. There you'll be able to search for monasteries around the world.


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