Icons of the Past – Delphi

17th June 2006

I was again awoken by an early morning wakeup call and went off to breakfast and then got back on the bus. The bus had parked front to the kerb of the hotel and now had to reverse out almost putting its wheels over one of the many precipices. After the driver, Vasilis, had managed this feat, we all clapped and cheered. Then we were off, it was only a short ride but quite a way up on Mt Parnassus. We entered the site and went straight up to the sanctuary and sat down on some of the ruins to listen to Antones talk, near the famous Treasury of the Athenians which has been reconstructed. As soon as I sat down, I had a tabby cat on my lap looking for pats. The little fellow looked up at me and I noticed he was missing one eye. Poor little dear he probably doesn’t get much fuss, I kept him on my lap and gave him smacks of attention for the whole hour Antones talked.

We were allowed two hours free time and Antones said that we could either go up the mountain and visit the theatre and Roman stadium in which the Pithian games were held, or we could trek down the mountain and visit the famous circular sanctuary of Athena. I watched most people trek downwards and once again decided to take the road less travelled.

Delphi Oracle
Seeking advice from the Delphic Oracle

I started up the mountain and came to the Sanctuary of Apollo, where people from all over the Mediterranean came to receive prophetic advice concerning all matters from the Pithia. A Priestess who was probably high from chewing laurel leaves, sacred to the god. I continued up to the theatre which compared to Epidaurus, was quite small and then started the long trek up to the Roman Stadium. It was at that point, one of the most strenuous things I had ever done. The paths were either made of dirt or marble which were both quite slippery and even though I had worn sensible shoes, it was still hard work.

I climbed up and up and found it easier if I took the corners at a bit of a run. I climbed, fell, and grabbed onto branches of nearby trees and shrubs to keep my balance and finally reached the top. What awaited me was a spectacular site.

A fantastically preserved stadium of the Roman period, deserted, apart from a few brave people, funnily enough they were Steve and Bruce other Aussies from my tour. I did a lap and took some pictures of this place which once would have been full of spectators and athletes, now empty with grass growing from between the stone seats and the echo of past glories whispering around it. As I left the stadium, I noticed that the running blocks were still in place and sure enough I lined myself up against them and took off, just for the heck of it.

I climbed back down, a feat which was also difficult and realised that I still had a little time left over. I decided to make the long steep climb down to the sanctuary of Athena. The sanctuary apart from the circular building was in ruins, but well worth seeing. I stood in the circular sanctuary and then went back via the gymnastikon. I then realised that I would now have to climb back, halfway up the mountain to meet up with the tour bus once again. I did the climb rather quickly and although I was exhausted by the end of it, I still had about fifteen minutes to spare in which I got myself a nice cool drink and looked at the fantastic scenery. We all got back on the bus and started the drive back to the hotel.

Antones got back on the microphone and asked us “Ok now who chose to go to the stadium at the top?” Steve, Bruce and I all raised our hands. Then Antones said “Ok then, who went to the Sanctuary of Athena?” Everyone else including me raised their hands. Antones was most surprised to find that I had visited both areas of the site and asked me how I managed it. To which I replied “I came here to see Greece, and I plan to see as much of it as possible, I didn’t come to be a spectator.” We then went for lunch, and I ate authentic Greek souvlaki, which seemed a tad expensive, but which was very nice. I was trying to pry the meat from the skewer when a waiter came up to where I was sitting, up ended another plate onto mine and pulled the skewer out. That’s a neat trick I thought, I’ll have to remember that. After we reached the hotel the people on the three-day tour were asked to get off the bus and we all waved them farewell. When they all got up, we realised that all the people on the famous site tour were Americans! All of us Aussies had a good chuckle about that later.

Sanctuary of Athena - Delphi
The Temple of Athena

We continued on to Kalambaka on the way stopping on the Plain of Thessaly to visit an icon workshop. We watched the artists craft the icons in gold leaf and paint the ancient saints onto all different types of wood. I bought myself an imitation icon of the patron Saint of England, Saint George slaying a dragon, thinking how it encompassed the spirit of adventure that I had found in myself on this trip. The icons were very expensive, and I couldn’t justify an authentic one. We were given a free confection, which was almost like Turkish delight, but not as sweet and then we got back on the bus. On the way to Kalambaka we passed the Meteora Monasteries which were in the distance. Antones said they were just called The Meteors in Greece. Giant rocks, some 1.5km high, standing in the middle of a plain, Antones said that there were numerous theories as to how they got there but none are conclusive.

We reached the hotel, and I went for a swim with my new friends, two young girls Mary Ann and Kristy, Steve and his wife Melissa’s two girls, and then got dressed for dinner. We had dinner and then went back to the pool area, where a wedding reception was taking place. All of us on the tour sat and watched the bride and groom dance in the spectacle of the Greek mountains in the beautiful light of the pool.

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