Delphi

Trip Start Sep 13, 2010
1
7
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Trip End Sep 30, 2010


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Where I stayed
Acropole Hotel

Flag of Greece  , Central Greece,
Monday, September 20, 2010

Today we drove up to Delphi and the locals lived up to their reputation as crazy drivers. It should have been an easy drive but the approximately one hour stretch from Pirgos to Patra was downright dangerous.  It is a two lane highway which drivers use as a four lane highway.  Everyone driving around 100 km/h drive half way onto the shoulder.  The others drive almost on the centre line to pass very closely.  There are no posted speed limits except for when another road is connecting onto the highway, then, the posted speed limit for about 200 metres is 50-60 km/hr which everyone ignores.  Twice I ran into a problem with this system.  I would be approaching a very slow moving vehicle as I went 100.  But at the same time another car going about 140 would be bearing down behind me.  I would have to slam on my breaks (which I did one time) or speed up and cut off the guy behind me (which I did another time).  Both occasions were nerve wrecking. 

There were several stop lights on this highway as well.  Everyone slows down and jockeys for position.  Some fast cars move far to the right in hopes to get a jump start on the cars in the middle.  It is ridiculous.  Once we reached Patra it became a 4 lane highway and things returned to normal.  We crossed over the very interesting and expensive new bridge (12.5 Euros to cross) into a new region of Greece called Thessaly. 

From there on it was a beautiful, scenic, winding drive along the coast up to Delphi.  We stopped at a small fishing village called Galaxidi to pick up some lunch which we ate on a bench by some fishing boats.  There was a duck coop floating on the water and many small boats which reminded Mom of Bob back home and how he would have loved to see them.

We arrived and once again we brought our luggage into our room and got directions to the ancient site which is within walking distance.  Parking is at a high premium here and it wasn't worth it to drive for a couple of minutes to try to park and then try to find a parking space again upon returning… so off we walked.  It is a good 20 minute walk to the site.  We started with the museum this time.  The museum contains all of the precious artifacts that were found when excavating the site.  Much of it had been destroyed over the centuries by earthquakes, and looting.  Rome took much of the items when Greece fell under their control… although Rome did try to renovate buildings and prop up the influence of Delphi, it couldn’t stop the demise.  There were many beautiful statues and interesting artifacts on display, most of which had survived being looted because it was so damaged (and later reassembled for this museum) or hidden under debris and not found until the excavating began.  They also had photographs of the holes that were dug as some of the statues were discovered.

Delphi was thought to be the centre of the world when it was at the height of its power.  It is well known for the Oracle that was situated at the sanctuary to Apollo.  People would travel from all of Greece and beyond to ask the Oracle a question about a personal issue or a political one.  The Oracle was an older woman who was a peasant in the area and chosen for this position.  She stood on the rock of Sibylla to receive questions and give her responses.   She is thought to have been either drugged or otherwise compromised so that she would go into a trance and speak an intelligible answer.  Then a priest would "translate" what the Oracle had said.  Since the Oracle at Delphi was known to be the most reliable Oracle in the known world, I think the priest must have been very smart to come up with answers that could be usually perceived as correct.  All questions asked were recorded on tablets… but not the answers.  Some answers however were later recorded either by observers or historians of the time.

One most famous example is that a very wealthy King named Croesus was troubled by Persians and asked whether he should cross the river and attack the King of Persia.  The Oracle replied something like: “If Croesus were to cross the Halys River, a great empire will fall”.  Croesus crossed the river to attack but lost the war.  In the end the Oracle stated that Croesus never asked which empire would fall.

In the museum, we saw one statue of a large mythical sphinx that was brought as a gift from Naxos.  Naxos is the largest of the over 2000 islands in Greece and we will be visiting it later.  The statue commemorates the artistic and political supremacy of Naxos at the time and the Sphinx was said to ward off evil in Delphi.  It was placed in a prominent position (near the rock of Sibylla) atop an ionic column and the whole thing reached 12.5 metres in height.  The priests of Apollo honoured the people of Naxos by giving them the priority in receiving an Oracle.

We once again saw many pieces of reassembled pottery, tools and weapons that were all thought to be gifts or offerings in exchange for an audience with the Oracle.

After the museum we were off to climb the site.  Mom was not happy to see that it was on the side of a mountain.  Up we had to climb again.  The sanctuary to Apollo was actually like a small city with many buildings.  There were buildings that housed gifts from the different regions of Greece.  There was the rock of Sibylla, a very large central building (Temple of Apollo), and a large theatre.  We thought we were at the top but saw that the path continued up higher and so went to investigate and sure enough there was a Stadium higher up on the mountain.  It was a long climb and we were so tired.  When we finished with the Sanctuary of Apollo on the hillside, I told Mom that I wanted to see the Sanctuary of Athena which we could see way down another slope farther down the road.  I told her we could go in the morning before leaving because it is free and you don’t need a ticket.  Or we could go right away and it was supposed to be a 10 minute walk according to the lady at the kiosk.  Mom wanted to go right away… so off we trudged.  It definitely took more than 10 minutes.  For us it was more like  15 or 20 minutes on our tired legs to get to the start of the stairs by the road.  Then, another 15 or 20 minutes descending down to the site.  It was one of my favourite places at Delphi though and I am glad we made the effort.  It was beautiful and very peaceful there.  After visiting that site and walking all the way back to the hotel our legs were aching and our feet were pulsing.  We ate dinner at a nice restaurant overlooking the valley and watched the sun go down but we didn’t talk much in our exhaustion.  I think our busy days are catching up with us.

I am feeling pretty sick right now.  I have had a sore throat since flying here a week ago.  I tried to drink a lot but it is hard to keep up hydration in these sunny hot conditions.  Yesterday I could feel a bit of congestion in my chest.  Today I have been sneezing and coughing and I have a full blown cold now.  Off to bed and hopefully a goodnight’s sleep.
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