Journey to the Center of the Earth

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Today, our last day in Athens, we had scheduled a full-day tour of Delphi. Most of us would probably pronounce this "DEL-fi", but the correct Greek way is "DEL-fee". It's a full day excursion because it is about a 2 1/2 hour drive from (and back to) Athens.

But, before you read any further, a disclaimer: After yesterday's food phantasmagoria, the last thing we wanted to do today was eat. Luckily, this tour was not food oriented. So for those of you who skip all of the historical, architectural, religious, etc., commentary and just zero in on the comestibles, consider this post done right here. 

For the rest of you:

We headed out at 8:45 with our guide Anastasia and driver Vasillis. After snailing through the Athens rush hour traffic (complete with hundreds of motorcycles zigging and zagging between the cars) for about 30 minutes we finally broke free and had a wide open highway. The scenery changed from really ugly industrial and commercial to rolling farmland and then to the Parnassus Mountains.  This reminded us a lot of our "odyssey" of several years ago from Warsaw to Bialystok.

Along the way we stopped for some refreshments at Arachova, one of those charming, old, narrow-streeted towns, perched on the side of the mountain....

...with those steep steps....

...and stores selling locally made products; in this case thyme honey and pasta

Then, back on the highway to Delphi. For those of you who don't have your old Greek Mythology textbook close at hand and are wondering what Delphi is all about, here are the basics.

There were many Oracles in olden-day Greece (we're talking 800 BC!), but the best and most famous was the Oracle at Delphi. Why? One reason was location, location, location!  This spot could be easily reached by water or by land. In addition, it was, according to legend, the Center of the determined when Zeus sent two eagles across the world to meet at its center, the "navel" of the world, and that spot was Delphi. To mark it, they erected the Omphalos. Here it is, now residing in the Delphi Museum

Speaking of the museum, allow us to digress for a moment. The site was in use for prophesying until about 400 A.D. After that it was abandoned and all but forgotten until the 1890s when a team of French archaeologists set out to find it. And they did!!!! Right where legend said it would be. Of course, much of it was in ruins, so what couldn't be saved in situ was stored away and eventually put into this wonderful museum which is within walking distance from the site itself.  Here are some other items on display:

A huge sphinx-like statue which was a gift from Egypt  

A bronze statue of a charioteer

Now...back to our story: So this is how the process worked: People would come to the Oracle to get a prophecy, but it was only for financial or political/military type issues. How did they get their answer?  The center of the complex was a huge temple (the remains seen here)...

...that was built over a fissure in the earth. From this emanated noxious fumes, which, if inhaled, would cause hallucinations. The Oracle, who was a Priestess, would inhale these and then start babbling away. The Priests would then interpret what she said and tell the supplicant the "answer". Of course, it was always told in such a manner that it could be interpreted several different ways! Perhaps the best known example of this ambiguity (according to our guide) is this: Croesus, the king of Lydia, went to Delphi to know whether he should go to war against the Persian Empire, and the Oracle replied: "If Croesus goes to war he will destroy a great empire." Pleased by this answer, Croesus made his necessary alliances and preparations and went out to meet the Persian army....and subsequently was mightily thrashed. Ooops:  wrong empire destroyed. Moral: Save your receipt!

Note: Last year we described the view at the Caha Pass in Ireland as the best in the world. Well, that title has now been superseded by this view. The combination of the mountains, valleys, rivers, PLUS the historical setting make this THE BEST VIEW IN THE WORLD!

And that is a great place to end this post, as well as our time in Athens.
Next stop: A long weekend in Santorini!!

Love to all, w and w.....

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