Firefighting Monks Always Choose A Unimog

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The 1,100-year-old Vatopedi monastery on Greece's Mount Athos is inaccessible by land and constantly threatened by forest fires. Sounds like the perfect job for a Unimog fire truck.

The famous monastery is an important orthodox pilgrimage site, isolated on the Halkidiki peninsula in northern Greece. Ideally, they'd like the pilgrims to not burst into flames. This is where the Unimog U 5000-based Schlingmann firetruck provides a great service. Equipped with a 5,000-liter tank and two foam/water canons the Unimog is big enough to take on the fires of hell. Even better, it's been blessed by abbot Archimandrit Efrem. How do you top that?


Mercedes-Benz Unimog U 5000 assists Athos monks in fire-fighting operations

A Mercedes-Benz Unimog U 5000 with a fire-brigade body from Schlingmann has been blessed by abbot Archimandrit Efrem from Vatopedi monastery on Mount Athos and put into service. The vehicle, which is equipped with a 5000-litre water tank and a 400-litre foam tank, will help the monastic republic to fight fire attacks and encroaching forest fires. If the Unimog U 5000 proves effective, a further 20 vehicles are to be procured by the beginning of 2010 in order to combat the frequent forest fires on the northern Greek peninsula of Halkidiki, where Mount Athos is situated.

The basis of the vehicle is provided by the Unimog U 5000 chassis with a maximum permissible gross weight of 14,100 kg. The body has been kept as low as possible, as a result of which the centre of gravity is below 1.50 metres. The vehicle's compact dimensions, with a width of 2.37 m, an overall height of 3 m and a length of 6.60 m, ensure the necessary manoeuvrability on the peninsula and in the surrounding forest areas. In addition to the above-mentioned tanks, the Schlingmann body also incorporates two front spray nozzles and a foam/water cannon with an output of 2400 l/min at 8 bar. The 5000-litre water tank is T‑shaped in the interests of improved axle-load distribution.

The world-famous monastery, which only men are allowed to enter, is visited by thousands of pilgrims every year. All the visitors, including prominent figures such as Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, or King Juan Carlos of Spain, enter the grounds of the over 1100-year-old monastery through a narrow gate, in front of which the Unimog U 5000 is parked.

Mount Athos is an Orthodox monastic republic which enjoys autonomous status under Greek sovereignty. It is situated on Athos, the eastern finger of the peninsula of Halkidiki in northern Greece. In all, there are 20 monasteries on Mount Athos. The capital is Karyes and the main port is Dafni. Mount Athos – the name refers to the peninsula as a whole – is separated from the mainland by a wall and is only accessible from the sea.

A visa is required in order to enter the republic. There are no routes leading from the mainland to the peninsula. Mount Athos and the port of Ouranoupolis – the only port from which the monastic republic and the port of Dafni can be reached by ferry – is approx. 140 km from Thessaloniki. The highest mountain on this peninsula reaches an altitude of around 2033 m. Vatopedi monastery is the biggest on Mount Athos and is situated on the peninsula's east coast.