Already the journey from Leptokarya to the convent Kanalon is an experience. The road to Karya winds up the mountain in serpentines. There are always interesting views.
From some places (eg N 40.030557, O 22.510613) one can see the coastal section of Agiokambos in Thessaly in the south, over the entire Olympos Riviera and Thessaloniki, up to the Halkidiki peninsula. On even clear days you can even see the holy mountain, the Athos. Worth mentioning is the well-marked so-called "Magnetic Point" (N 40.035115, O 22.516976). This road section is given the property of reversing gravity. Is there something true? Look for yourself and make up your mind. Just before the road winds down again, there is a platform created from overburden of road construction (N 40.024502, O 22.488118). This is the highest point of the route.
After about 18 kilometers, shortly after the source "Samaras" has passed, you will find the exit to the convent after a right turn (N 40.003141, O 22.462031).
Before entering the convent, take a look at the surroundings. Down in the valley, except in the summer, the river Ziliana separates the high and the lower Olymp. The streams flowing in the spring in the area, which feed the Ziliana, gave the place its name: Kanalon means canals. If you follow the path towards the sea, you will be rewarded with a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and the sea.
We ring at the gate and wait a while until a nun appears and opens. After we have put forward our request, she calls Mother Orthodoxia, the superior of the convent, who welcomes us shortly thereafter. She apologizes for the unusual drift which disturbs the usual calm of the day. As the convent prepares to celebrate next Sunday (Orthodoxia, March 5), works have to be done. This celebration is not to be confused with the holiday of the on the 8th of September of each year at which the Birth of Mary is celebrated.
But even though we came unannounced, she took the time to show us the convent patiently to answer our questions and to inform us about the past and present of the place.
As we stroll through the yard, she begins to tell. In 1055 the monks Damianos and Joakim chose this place to build a monastery and dedicate it to the birth of the Holy Mother of God. It is about 820 m high and is surrounded by forest. There are unfortunately no records of the first centuries of existence, but it was probably inhabited by monks. An inscription from the year 1638 is the oldest surviving reference that exists. At that time the frescos were painted in the church of All Saints. At the time, the complex consisted of the dining room, the refectory and the Catholic church, as the church is called in the Greek monasteries. In 1681 came a chapel devoted to Saint Dimitrios. The western wing, which now houses the cells of the inhabitants, was built later.
The monastery flourished in the 17th century. In the nineteenth century, it had a difficult time. It was attacked and plundered. In 1881 the Katholikon collapsed for unknown reasons. The first try to errect a new building went wrong because it collabsed again. Two years later it was rebuilt on the old foundations according to the plans of the architect Euthymios Milios. In 1930, the last monks left the monastery. It was abandoned and began to disintegrate.
So we met it 20 years ago. At that time, the roofs, as still today of the church and the chapel of St. Dimitrios, were covered with stone slabs. The roof of the refectory was damaged, the stone slabs had slipped. Within the walls were witnesses of decay. The bronze bell hung in the courtyard, in the refectory lay candlesticks and other props on the floor.
It was only in 2001 that the monastery was once again occupied by nuns and turned into a convent. All damage was eliminated - it was converted into a piece of jewelery. "Now is not a good time to take pictures," said Mother Orthodox, "there is no blooming flowers." But even without flowers, we are happy about the tastefully executed construction measures.
We enter the refectory and have a sweet tradition according to tradition. The clay floor was tiled with stone slabs, the roof was repaired and the stone walls were plastered. But the fresco remained unchanged on the back wall of the hall. The furniture looks as if it were easily outgrowing the coming centuries.
Then she opens the door to the chapel. It is the gem of the convent. It is a small room painted over and over. The walls, the dome - down to the floor, artists have decorated everything. Still, the room, except for a small light shaft in the dome, is completely in the dark, the paintings suffered. However, a small part of the work depicting the crucifixion of Jesus looks like freshly painted. "Here, restorers have shown us the condition in which the paintings of the chapel can be moved," says the headmaster, "but unfortunately we have no money for the restoration."
Back in the courtyard we turn to the bell and enjoy the view down to the Aegean Sea. "From here, on some days, we will see the holy Mount Athos". As we walk out, we see two old, iron-studded doors. They separate the entrance from the inner courtyard and come to me familiar. As it turns out, these are the former exterior doors of the complex. They were replaced by iron doors in the course of the renovation and are now protected from the often moody weather caprioles of the mountains.
Asked about the severity of the last winter, we learn that the monastery was set for two months. Neither could the nuns leave the convent, nor could anyone to them. Now it is to spring, but also in April it can still snow.