"You're off to great places! Today is your day! Your chariot is waiting, So... get on your way!" -- Dr. Zeus
Today *is* an exciting day! We are headed towards the Ancient Greek ruins at Delphi. You may have heard of the Oracle of Delphi? It's right here!
The ruins are just a couple of kms outside of town
The first thing that struck me about the ruins was the admission fee. We had read on the Internet that the fee is about €10 per person. A bit steep, but this is what we're here to see. When we arrived at the gates, the official sign displaying the fees was crudely taped over and there was a hastily printed paper pasted on the window.
The (very) new fee is now €15. Did I Hera right? €15? I know the country is having financial difficulties. Perhaps gouging tourists is the new way of raising funds? Regardless, it felt like we were being Troyed with.
The site of the ruins is very picturesque though. It's set on the slope of a mountain with a great view of the valley of Phocsis below
Our first set of Ancient Greek ruins actually in Greece! This has been on our bucket list for so long! Very cool!
An unexploded warhead from the Ancient Greek wars
This is actually a belly button. Honestly. The legend is that Zeus set eagles loose to fly around the world, one heading east and another going west. They eventually met up here, at Delphi, the center of the world. The stone is called an Omphalos, which means "navel" in Greek. Delphi is the navel of the earth and the stone represents a belly button, believed to allow direct communications with the gods.
Or it's an Ancient Greek unexploded warhead.
Treasury of Athens (reconstructed)
Delphi is one of the major sites dedicated to the worship of the god Apollo. It's said that he slew a huge python that lived here that protected the navel of the earth, which seems like a pretty douchey thing to do, but hey, he's a god...
The High Priestess (named the Pythia after the Python) at the temple in Delphi was believed to have incredible powers of prophecy. Kings and philosophers, generals and scholars would visit the Pythia to gain wisdom of the future outcomes of wars and other political machinations. She would breathe in the vapours from a vent in the ground of a chamber underneath the temple, and then speak incomprehensible words which were then interpreted by priests into Greek.
It's been said that the true power lay in the priests who did the creative interpretation, since nobody else understood what the Pythia was saying directly. These priests could then sway public policy in any way they wanted to and attribute the prophecies to the power of the Pythia.
Temple of Apollo (unreconstructed)
Very recently, it's been discovered that Delphi sits on the intersection of three tectonic plates. Poisonous underground gases are vented from cracks in the ground, and one such chasm was discovered in the floor beneath the temple in Delphi. These gases are called ethylene and in small doses, it's a mild psychedelic and can cause hallucinations.
The High Priestess was actually trippin'!
I dunno, it's all Greek to me...
Did you know very early Greek writing was written right-to-left? Then there was period where the direction changed from right-to-left for one line, then the next line was left-to-right, then the next line back to right-to-left?
"Oh, just catching up on the tennis match at the Olympics"
"The Pula Amphitheater..." "I know, Neda! I know!"
We hopped on the bike and rode about a km north of the main site at Delphi to visit another set of ruins.
The Tholos of Delphi
This is my favorite ruin in Delphi, mainly because it was partially reconstructed so you can imagine a little bit of what it originally looked like, but also because it's one of the few circular ruins in the area. The rest are all rectilinear. Scholars and archaeologists took fragments around the base to reconstruct three of the Doric columns, but you can see the base of twenty columns on the circumference of the dais. It would have been magnificent to see how it originally looked!
I think the white pieces are the reconstructed bits
After a nice relaxing morning at the Oracle of Delphi ruins, we're back on the road without a Charon the world!
Neda rolls her eyes at all the bad puns. But I make no Apollo-gies. What's Demeter with her anyway? Just give her a Minotaur two, she'll come around. Styx and stones may break my bones. Hades gonna be Hades.
ohhh that felt good.
Our first fill-up in Greece! Yikes! Almost €50 to fill up both our bikes! We've been averaging about €32-€35 in Europe.
Greece is definitely a shock to our wallets. We planned to spend quite a bit of time in this country, but unfortunately we didn't know it would be this expensive. So glad we didn't spend last winter here! We would easily have spent 10-15 times more here than Thailand! Seriously, doing the math in my head, every month we spend here is about a year's worth of expenses in Chiang Mai.
One of the quaint Greek towns we pass through: Arachova
At Arachova, Neda stops into a mini market (or mini-mapket) to get some drinks while I walk around and snap some quick shots
Church of St. John, Arachova
Loving the curves!
The whole area around Delphi is connected via roads that hug the contours of the side of Mount Parnassus. The asphalt twists and turns upon itself as it negotiates around the steep slopes. It's a lot of fun on two wheels! We are still heading south, towards the coasts of the Bay of Itea, which you can see in the distance.
Reaching the bottom. The Bay of Itea
Crossing the Rion-Antirion Bridge to the Peloponnese peninsula
The Peloponnese peninsula is separated from mainland Greece by the Gulf of Corinth. As we continue our ride on the other side of the long suspension bridge, I noticed a marked difference from the north. The buildings were a bit more run-down and the area was more unkempt. It reminded me a little bit of the difference between mainland Italy and Sicily. This region seemed to be poorer than mainland Greece.
I did a little research and was surprised to learn that Sicily was part of Greece at one point in history. But that was over a thousand years ago, and today's state of poverty is due more to a lack of jobs, with the young people moving to Athens and the mainland.
We continued south along the western coast of the Peloponnese peninsula, taking in all the sights around us. The sun is lingering in the sky longer and longer each day, allowing us to ride later (actually, it's allowing me to sleep in later). This is one of those times where we don't have a destination planned for the evening. So when it looked like we'd run out of daylight, we duck off the main road into a largish hill-side village called Zacharo to find a place to lay our heads for the night.
The cobblestone streets shake our bones as we ride smaller concentric circles around the village, looking for signs for a hotel. Everything is light-copper hued in the late evening sunlight.
We find a place at the top of the hill. Neda goes inside to negotiate a price for a room.
The locals watch me in amusement while I snap more pictures...
There's a very good reason why we're on the Peloponnese peninsula. It's all about Neda.