The traditional Byzantine daily schedule observed on Athos is somewhat disorienting. On the northeast side of the peninsula the “12 o’clock” position on monastery clocks indicates neither noon nor midnight but sunrise, whereas on the opposite side of Athos it coincides with sunset. Yet Vatopedhíou, the largest monastery, keeps “worldly” time, as do most monks’ wristwatches, and in many monasteries two wall clocks are mounted side by side, one showing secular, the other “Byzantine” time. However, the Julian calendar, a fortnight behind the outside world, is observed throughout Athos. Bedtime is shortly after sunset and in the small hours your hosts will awake for solitary meditation and study, followed by órthros, or matins. Around sunrise there is another quiet period, just before the akolouthía, or main liturgy, that precedes the morning meal. The rest of the day is devoted to manual labour until the esperinós, or vespers, followed immediately by the afternoon meal and the short apódhipno, or compline service.

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