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Greece – Day 5

Welcome to Day 5! Today we drive up to the lovely mountainside village of Arachova on our way to Delphi. Then we stop in Delphi and visit the ruins of the Temple of Apollo and nearby monuments. It’s time to consult the Oracle!

On our way to Delphi we made a brief stop in the scenic village of Arachova which is known for its wine, cheese, and sheepskin rugs. They are also well known for silk-making. The streets are lined with Mulberry trees which are harvested regularly to feed the silk worms. I found the gas station tucked away underneath a building particularly interesting. Space is always at a premium in Greece, so they simply tuck things away where they can.
This solar water heater is a typical example of the heaters that top many houses and buildings all throughout Greece. The solar panel heats the water in the nearby tank and saves the dwelling owner money on their energy bill.
When we stopped in Ancient Delphi, we first visited the museum there. It was a shame that we didn’t meet our tour guide until after our museum time was up as she would have shed a lot of light on the history of the artifacts in there. I did snap a picture of the large sphinx which appeared quite majestic. Closer inspection of the statue revealed that a lot of it was plaster and only a few pieces of the original sculpture remained. Still, the restoration serves to illustrate the impressive nature of the original sculpture. In ancient times, the area of Delphi was inundated with sculptures and statues depicting the Gods and the various athletes and artists who achieved glory there.
This is Penelope, our Ancient Delphi tour guide. She had a very schoolmarm way about her in that she kept asking leading questions and quizzing us about details she’d previously imparted. Her demeanor was almost condescending, but it was easy to forgive as she was very knowledgeable and clearly excited about Ancient Delphi. Her presentation made the tour fascinating and she ended up being one of the best local guides we’ve had. Her English was actually pretty good too.
Here is a picture of the Omphalos Stone (one of several actually). Greek legend says that Zeus released two great Eagles from the ends of the universe and they met in the center at Delphi. The rock (or navel) was a symbol in ancient times that Delphi was the center of the universe. Of course, the stone was right outside the marketplace before the sacred way up to the Oracle of Delphi. It seems like an ancient marketing trick to me, but no less interesting.
Each of the major Greek city states had a treasury in Ancient Delphi. They housed the statues and offerings to the Oracle of Delphi. Each city state tried to outdo one another with grander treasuries filled with the best possible offerings to prove that their state was the strongest and most prosperous in the Greek nation. The treasury of Athens is the best preserved of the many on site.
The first picture is of the main retaining wall supporting the Temple of Apollo. It was originally built in 548 BC and was so well constructed that most of it still stands today. The other two pictures are of other interesting sites to behold at Ancient Delphi. I spotted the aqueduct running down the side of the ruins near the Temple of Apollo and the Theatre was just up the hill from there. In addition to the Oracle, Delphi was the site of great athletic and artistic contests.
The Temple of Apollo is the centerpiece of Ancient Delphi. It is where the Oracle made her pronouncements. The Oracle was always a woman. Sometimes she was a young maiden. Sometimes she was an old crow. The secret to her pronouncements was natural volcanic vapors emitting from the ground beneath the temple. The content of these gasses would send the poor woman into trances, fits, and hallucinations. It was the job of the priests to “interpret” her ravings and provide the answers to the people who came to the Oracle for guidance. The answers were always vague and open to interpretation. Much like modern horoscopes, it was really up to the questioner to determine what the answer meant. In this way the Oracle was never wrong and the prophecies continued there for over a thousand years until the Christians stamped it out. It’s quite a scam if you ask me. The priests of the oracle took in countless valuable offerings and gave gibberish answers in return. I marvel at the genius of it.
After the fascinating tour of Ancient Delphi, we were bussed to a nearby gift shop/cafe combo for lunch. There I had my first taste of Greek moussaka. Moussaka can be described as Greek lasagna. Instead of noodles, they use potatoes and the dish is made with a healthy dose of eggplant. As a huge fan of lasagna, I found the dish to be delicious.
As we have travelled the roads of Greece in our bus, we’ve encountered a large number of shrines perched on the roadside similar to the one shown here. They are made of all sorts of materials and can vary in design from very simple to highly ornate. They serve as memorials for someone who passed away in a car accident at the spot of the shrine. Greece has the third highest vehicle fatality rate in the European Union. This is due partially to the treacherous mountainous terrain of Greece and the absolutely crazy driving style of the Greeks. The shrines usually have photos of the loved one as well as Orthodox icons and a votive candle. These are one of the many unique things about modern Greece I’ve spotted so far on this tour.
As the afternoon settled in, we retired to the Hotel Amalia in the village of Delphi. The first image is the wonderful view from my hotel room balcony. Later in the evening, I went and explored the village proper. The second image is of Delphi village. The lights hanging across the street are very typical of Greek villages and are lit year around. As I was walking through the village, I spotted a diorama of Ancient Delphi. It gave an excellent example of what it looked like in ancient times. It’s too bad the model was encased in glass with a light shining on it so I couldn’t get a very good picture.

After exploring Delphi village for a while, we had dinner in a local taverna and I enjoyed a bountiful plate of Spaghetti Bolognese. Sure, it’s Italian food, but that’s quite popular here in Greece. Tomorrow we head to the stunning cliff top monasteries in Meteora. See you then!

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