Economy of the MR
- The tourist season is from May to September. The off-season is October to April. Seasonal prices extend from Pentecost Monday through Independence Day (October 5). The following activities are available in both seasons whenever possible.
- Along both the east and west shores of the Lowland and the shores of Amoulián Island, wherever there are sandy beaches, B&Bs (tavernas) have been built to accomodate tourists. The buildings may not be taller than three stories and all have shared bathrooms. The beaches are free for sunning, swimming and other beach sports. Modest bathing suits are required.
- Drenia Island, the largest of the islets, has beautiful sandy beaches. There is a ferry to the island to enjoy the sun, sand and sea. There is a taverna on the island, but no other buildings, where food and drink are available. The morning ferry leaves at 9:00 a.m. and returns at 12:00 noon. The afternoon ferry leaves at 1:00 p.m. and returns at 4:00 p.m. The evening ferry leaves at 5:00 p.m. and returns at 8:00 p.m., in time to catch the 9:00 ferry to Prosforion. The fee for the ferry is M3 roundtrip. The taverna has limited accomodations and reservations must be made well in advance if the visitor wishes to stay overnight.
- Wind-surfing and hang-gliding are permitted, although there is not enough surf for surf-boarding. Scuba diving and snorkeling are permitted, but the territorial waters of the Republic are a wildlife reserve and there is a heavy fine for disturbing the ecosystem of the Republic’s waters. There are dive shops in all three towns and one on Drenia Island. Except for the ferry, motorized vessels are not permitted in the channel between Amoulián Island and Drenia Island. The islands are, thus, the ideal place to begin an underwater adventure. The islets are not accessible, since they are part of the wild life refuge that includes the Holy Mountain. Divers may explore the waters off the Holy Mountain but may not set foot upon the Mountain.
- There are two tour boats that sail around the peninsula so that the monasteries may be seen from the sea. One leaves from Prosforion at 9:00 a.m., seven days a week, and sails east around the peninsula, returning via the Xerxes Canal to Prosforion. The voyage takes about six hours and lunch is served aboard the vessel. The other voyage is similar only it leaves from Aktí and sails west around the peninsula. The two vessels meet somewhere between the two capes, Pinnes and Akrathos, at the end of the peninsula. There are plenty of opportunities for taking photos of the beautiful scenery. Mt. Athos is stunning from many angles. The voyages are cancelled in the event of inclement weather. The fee for the voyage is M12.
- Boats can be chartered for deep sea fishing.
- The Museum of Athonite Antiquities is in Prosforion, in the 14th-century Byzantine tower. On display are many art works from the monasteries. Docents are available. The exhibits are changed from time to time. There is no entrance fee, but donations are welcomed.
- With advance notice artifacts from the monasteries will be brought to the museum to enable both male and female scholars to study them.
- All three towns have marinas where both citizens and foreigners may dock their boats. The fee per night varies with the size of the boat, anywhere from M3 to M10.
- Bicycles are very popular in the Republic and may be rented by the hour, δ5 per hour. Tandem bicycles are available. As long as there is no destruction of property, cyclists may stop anywhere in the open fields of the Lowland and the Isles to rest or have a picnic lunch.
- Tours are given of several of the industries in the Republic. In Aktí are the silk factory and the Aoun Brewery. In Prosforion are the golden eagle refuge and the carpet factory. In Amoulián there are tours of the liqueur distillery. A fee of δ6 is charged to tour the factories, the brewery and the distillery. A donation is requested at the golden eagle refuge.
- A quiet moment may be enjoyed by wandering through the citrus groves on Amoulián Island. Any of the tavernas would be glad to provide a picnic lunch for the tourist.
- There are performances of the Mt. Athos Dance Troupe every Saturday: in the Mt. Athos Performing Arts Center in Prosforion on the first and third Saturdays of the month; in Aktí on the second Saturday of the month, and in Ammoulián on the fourth Saturday of the month. Peformances begin at 7:30 p.m. and usually end about 9:30 p.m. There is a charge of M1.
- Both the Orthodox and the Catholic churches in all three towns have been beautifully decorated by monks from the monasteries. The churches are open to the public from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday. There is no fee, but donations are welcomed.
- If you are looking for theme parks and mad activity, this is not the place for you. There are heavy fines for public drunkenness.
- Tourism now contributes to about 50% of the Republic’s GDP.
- Olive (Olea europaea) oil is the major export of the Monastic Republic. Every monastery has olive trees. Each one harvests its own olives from mid-September to mid-November. Both table olives and olive oil are processed. The average yield of an olive tree is two kg. of oil. As there are upwards of 3,500 olive trees on the Holy Mountain the average annual production is 7,000 kg. (8 tons) of oil. Some of the oil is kept by the monasteries for their own purposes. The rest is shipped to the Lowland for local consumption or for export. Most of the oil is exported to the Hellenic Empire and added to their olive oil export. Because of the terrain, virtually all the olives are picked by hand. This results in a massive project for the monks in the autumn, with all able-bodied monks taking part. If a monastery is short-handed, it may request help for the duration of the harvest from other monasteries. Since all the processing takes place in the monasteries, viewing the processing is not available to the tourist, although the pilgrim may request to watch, or even join in!
- Every monastery has vineyards (Vitis vinifera) and makes its own wine. In 1945, the monasteries agreed to divide the grapes produced into two groups. It was agreed that, on the north coast, once the current Xinómavro vines died, were burned, etc., they would be replaced with the Assyrtíko variety to make a white wine. The monasteries on the south coast would continue with the Xinómavro vines to produce a red wine. The Monastery of St. George the Painter, at a higher altitude than the other monasteries, asked for an exception in order to make an ice wine, using the Riesling grape. The monastery grows enough grapes to make its own wine for table consumption and sacramental use. The harvest of the ice wine grapes is later in the season, after the frost. This ice wine is not drunk by the monks, but is sold for local consumption. The complete processing of the wines takes place in the monasteries. What is not used by the monks is sold to the local communities.
- The labels on these wines are very simple. They show a picture of the monastery and its name, the name of the grape used, and the year of the vintage. This is as good as any d’origine controlée designation.
- The householder is also permitted to make homemade wine, but this may not be sold. This includes tsiróp (τσιρόπ), a grape liqueur.
- The monastery of Sts. Peter and Paul was, in 1544, given the exclusive right to harvest the chestnuts (Castanea sativa) that grow on the Holy Mountain. They do enlist other monasteries is this task, but all the chestnuts are brought to the monastery. The harvested nuts are not eaten. The total crop is used to make a chestnut liqueur (καστανάκ Πετροπάυλου, kastanák Petropávlou) which has become a distinctive part of the Athonite cuisine. The monks do not drink it but export it to the Lowland where it is drunk locally and also exported.
- The Monastery of the Annunciation has a cherry (Prunus avium) orchard. They make a liqueur from the fruit which they sell. The monks do not drink the liqueur (κερασάκ , kerasák ) but export it to the Lowland where it is drunk locally and also exported.
- All of the twenty monasteries have bee hives. Honey is the only sweetener used on the Holy Mountain, although sugar is imported for use in the Lowland and the Isles. The Cambrian monks at the monastery of St. Nicholas brew a mead (υpδρόμελ, idrómel) for export. This monastery also has a very large rose (Rosa canina) garden. The roses are processed for rose water, attar of roses and rose hips, all of which are exported to the Lowland.
- Every available hectare of the Lowland, and several on Amoulián Island, is devoted to the growing of wheat (Triticum aestivum). 100% of the wheat grown is used in the making of bread. The Monastic Republic is self-sufficient in bread and no wheat is exported. After harvest, those who own donkeys may let them forage in the harvested fields. It is necessary to have a license to do so and these may be obtained for M1 from the office of the Hegumen Seneschal. The stalks on Amoulián Island are fed to the goats. The farming vehicles used for planting and harvesting the wheat are one of the few categories of fossil-fuel vehicles permitted in the Monastic Republic.
- Each of the towns has several greenhouses (θερμοκήπι, thermokípi) in which garden vegetables are grown. There are five in Prosforion, four of them 300’ in length, and two 200’ in length. Amoulián and Aktí each have four greenhouses, each 200’ in length. These vegetables are grown in rock wool: onions, garlic, leeks, cantaloupe, romaine, spinach, and cabbage. These are grown hydoponically: potatos, tomatoes, eggplants, bell peppers, French beans, zucchini, and peas. One complete greenhouse is devoted to tomatoes. In one of the greenhouses in Amoulián oregano, basil, thyme, parsley, rosemary, dill and mint are grown. These vegetables are sold in the towns’ marketplaces (αγόρ, agór) or may be sold to restaurants. Other vegetables that may be requested are shipped in from the Hellenic Empire.
- Householders usually have their own garden plots (κηπάρι, kipári) in their courtyards (αυλή, avlí) and may sell their produce in the marketplace. The vegetables they grow are their own favorites, but the lady of the house always grows her own fresh herbs.
- When the immigrants arrived from Paşalimanı, they planted the interior of Amoulián Island with citrus (Citrus sinensis) groves. The fresh fruit is now available to the citizens of the Monastic Republic. A distillery in Amoulián produces orange, lemon, and lime liqueurs from the rinds: λιμονάκ, limonák; πορτοκαλάκ, portokalák; and κιτράκ kitrák, which are consumed locally and exported. Beehives are placed throughout the groves so that there are bees for pollination. They also produce citrus blossom honey. Citrus blossom petals are gathered to produce citrus water (orange, lemon or lime), which is used locally as a flavoring in a number of confections.
- Olive oil and wine contribute to about 20% of the Republic’s GDP.
- The immigrants from Lebanon brought with them the knowledge of weaving silk and began the sericulture industry in the Monastic Republic. The town of Aktí remains the center of the industry. Both silk thread and silk textiles are produced. Most of the textiles are exported, but the thread is purchased by the carpet industry in Prosforion.
- The immigrants from Turkey who founded the town of Prosforion had been carpet weavers and they set up that industry when they arrived in the Monastic Republic. The carpets produced are the flat-woven carpets known as kilims (κιλίμι, kilimi). Because cotton is also used in these carpets, it must be imported.There is a large carpet factory in Prosforion, but many carpets are made at home. The raw materials are given to the homemaker who then turns the completed carpet over to the factory for a profit. No two designs are the same and requests for a certain design will be honored. Kilims are found in all the homes in the Monastic Republic and are also exported. Ordinary kilims, which are what are woven the most, can be elaborated on demand as Suzāni kilims (with raised figures), or as khorjin or juwals (bags for carrying goods), or as tapestries for the wall.
- There is a flock of free-range Black Anatolian goats on Amoulián Island. They are owned by one of the families that came from Turkey. This breed is raised for fiber, milk and meat. They are allowed to range among the citrus trees accompanied by several goatherds (γιδοβοσκός, yidoboskós) and their dogs (Anatolian Shepherd Dogs). As they keep the weeds at bay, they fertilize the ground. They are shorn twice a year and the wool is sold to the carpet factory. Before being allowed to range in the morning the does are milked. The milk is used to make an Emmentaler-type cheese. From the whey is made mizithra (μυζήθρα), a cheese similar to the Italian ricotta. Only the does and the wethers are allowed to range. The bucks are kept at the stable. On occasion, a goat may be slaughtered. In this case the meat (chevon) is sold to the restaurants in Amoulián.
- There are many talented monks in the monasteries. Among the arts practiced by these monks are stained glass and painting. There are also experts in the preservation of documents.
- All three towns have fishing fleets. Since the territorial waters of the Monastic Republic are a wildlife preserve, the fishing fleets must go outside the territorial waters to fish. The usual catch consists of sea bream, sea bass, wrasse, octopus and squid. All the sea food caught is used within the Republic. Since red meat must be imported and is, thus, expensive, the people have made an art of the use of seafood.
- Silk textile and carpets contribute to about 20% of the Republic’s GDP.
- The major imports are petroleum products, rice, lentils, chickpeas, coffee, tea, and sugar.