Today was another busy day! We were up at 6:15 again, and headed on the road to Delphi, in northern Greece by mid-morning. The bus ride to Delphi is almost 3 hours, so Tim and I caught some much needed cat-naps on both the ride up and the ride back. 🙂
The drive to Delphi that we were awake to see was really lovely, including a stop in Arachova, a small little village at the base of Mount Parnassus. The guide told us that the town is much more lively during the winter when Greeks come in droves to ski. Many of the nooks and crannies reminded me of pictures I’ve seen of little Swiss villages.
When we arrived in Delphi, we first visited the museum to learn more about the site before we headed there. I think the guide said the site was first developed around the 4th century B.C., and was in continual use until a Byzantine emperor declared Christianity the official religion and closed all the temples in the 2nd century A.D. Amazing to think of the hundreds of years it was in operation! The site housed the Oracle of Delphi, a building where people from all over Greece came to have their questions answered. It sounds like an early version of a Magic 8-ball. People came, stood in line for days or weeks, and were finally admitted to the Oracle. Two men stood in one room with the person who had the question, while in another room, not visible to anyone, a woman sat on a three-legged stool in a sort of ecstasy brought on by what archaeologists think was petrol fumes seeping from underground. The person asked the question, the woman said something barely understandable by the person, the two men wrote down the response from the woman, and you had your answer… or not. The answers were often written so they could be interrupted multiple ways. In this way, the prediction was never wrong…
The Oracle is no longer visible at the site; there are still some remaining columns from the Temple of Apollo, the Athenian treasury, and some Roman-era shops. This is pretty amazing considering that the entire site was buried under the village of Delphi until the 1800s when archaeologists helped relocate the town so they could dig down and uncover the remains of the temple area.
You can also see the theater and stadium that were used there. The stadium was quite a jaunt up a steep incline, but Tim said we may only be there once, so we hoofed it up there. Unlike the rest of the site, there was at least a little shade and a cool breeze to reward us for the climb. It was yet again hot as Hades, and I was dripping sweat by the time we got back on the bus to head to lunch.
The tour group we were with all had lunch together at a hotel in Delphi. We were seated at a table with a couple from Morgantown, WV (small world!) who were celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary. They were so kind, especially compared to the group of pushy Tunisians (who literally pushed or forced me out of their way a few times) and the girl from LA who, upon learning that Tim and I live in Indiana, commented that Greece must be really different from Indiana–a kind of “You’re not in Kansas anymore, little corn-fed country people” comment. Thank goodness for Sarah and Steve for restoring our faith in humanity (though we aren’t surprised… people from West Virginia are pretty great!).
At the end of the long day of riding and touring, our tour bus dropped us off at Syntagma (Constitution) Square just in time for the changing of the guards at the tomb of the unknown soldier. We’d seen this a few times from the bus, but decided to watch the whole thing from the square. The first time we saw them, on Sunday, they had on beautiful white uniforms very similar to the ones they had on today. The skirts they wear have 400 pleats to represent each year that the Ottomans occupied Greece–and the evzones (guards) have to steam iron each pleat themselves. This is a pretty cushy job, though, as the soldiers deemed the right height, with attractive faces and good moral qualities, get more food, better lodging, and no chance of military deployments. The greatest challenges these guys face are similar to the Queen’s guard in London. No flinching or reaction of any sort is allowed, despite the best efforts of tourists taking pictures with them.
After the changing of the guards, we milled around Plaka and found a neat little restaurant on one of the side streets for dinner. We both had souvlaki, though Tim’s was traditional with a pita shell, and mine came with salad.
Yet again we got back to the hotel late, and despite his earlier naps, this is how I found Tim after I got out of the shower:
We head to Hydra tomorrow on a ferry. Our first Grecian island experience!