Young people are exactly the same everywhere.
Bulgarian beggars in Thessaloniki and Ouranoupolis give new meaning to the term “swarthy.”
For a peninsula inhabited entirely by several hundred bachelors with little regard for personal appearance or hygiene, Mt Athos is exceptionally clean and well-maintained.
If you ever find yourself squeezed in your monk’s stall between a fat Russian archimandrite on your right, and a fat Russian archpriest on your left during a long, hot vigil service, just wait a little while. You might be dripping sweat, but they’re melting, and will excuse themselves very early.
Athonite monks set their wristwatches to Byzantine time.
The difference between eating fish at a Greek monastery and eating it at a Russian monastery is that, in a Russian monastery, your dinner doesn’t watch you while you eat it.
Also, eating at a Russian monastery is kind of like having dinner with the Irish: you wonder just how many different ways they will serve you cabbage and potatoes at the same meal.
Also, Greek refectories smell like olive oil and garlic; Russian ones smell like cabbage. American refectories (the good ones) smell like incense and coffee.
Also, if there’s wine on the table at an Orthodox monastery, never touch it until the Abbot rings the bell and everybody else drinks theirs. Faux pas if you goof up. I had been warned ahead of time (thank you, Fr Daniel).
I can’t remember the name of the old actor who played Captain Bligh in “The Mutiny on the Bounty” and the hunchback of Notre Dame, but he must have retired from movies, grown a beard, and became a monk at St Panteleimon’s, because I’d swear he sat down with me at lunch one day.
Some Russian men have very fine, or delicate, features. Put them in a cassock and their hair in a bun and they look rather like school-marms.
The smallest monk in the monastery will be given the obedience of lighting the candles on the tallest candle stands.
Spiritual progress is fine, but it takes a serious toll on your feet. None of the Fathers tell you that.
You never think of people actually going to Sofia, Bulgaria.
Knowing that the Father Confessor is a clairvoyant Athonite Elder helps one to be scrupulously thorough in preparing for Confession.