National Geographic : 1916 Sep
Photograph by H. G. Dwight A CLOISTER AT VATOPETHI: MT. ATHOS, GREECE "The cells of the monks are big, clean, bare apartments, furnished chiefly with endless sofas. There they lead a sort of family life, each elder keeping house with one or more , spiritual sons" (see text, page 263). wide marble corridor-with a delightful balcony at the end-out of which opened the guest-rooms of state. EATING THE OCTOPUS We owed it to the size and prosperity of Vatopethi that ours was furnished alla franca. It contained, that is, two iron beds arranged like sofas, a monumental stove of brick and plaster, and an electric bell. Toilet arrangements it had none, these being situated in the hall outside and consisting of a tap set over a small marble basin without a stopper. The room had, however, a very superior view across a sluice of quick water, an orange garden, and a collection of lichened roofs, to the blue bay. And in it, shortly after sundown, we were served to such a meal as an orthodox monastery may provide during Lent. We lived to learn, sooner or later, how to thrive on snails. This time, however, the piece of resist- ance was a stew of octopus. That tooth some creature, being bloodless, escapes the ban which bars out fish and flesh, not to mention eggs, milk, butter, and oil. We also had a vegetable soup, a mixture of leeks and rice, salad, good black bread, a heavenly .compound of caviar, lemon, parsley, and-can I believe that mere elbow grease completed that Lenten sub stitute for butter ?-and more of the fa mous red wine of the peninsula than we could drink. The old gentleman, the two novices under him, and the cook waited on us, always entering the room without knocking. We found that to be the general etiquette of Mt. Athos. The monks built us a comfortable fire, they smoked cigarettes with us after coffee, they asked us wonderful questions about our country, and they finally brought us thick quilts with a sheet sewn to one side of them, wherein to wrap ourselves for the night.