Day 96 – Saturday, April 11, 2015 – Delphi, Greece

We arose early, ate breakfast and were on our way south toward Delphi by 8:00 AM. It was another long bus ride, but again with beautiful scenery. Due to the Easter Holiday, we had to arrive in Delphi as soon as possible because the park closes at 2:30 PM. Therefore we went directly to the park before lunch.

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One of the numberless small villages and towns nestled in the mountain valleys. Occasionally we would see a Gypsy camp alongside the road. Some of these were quite large and as in all other countries where we have found this ethnic group, they are a problem for the locals to deal with.

Delphi is situated in Sterea Hellas. It is a mountainous area covered by the Parnassus range and the western branches of mount Helicon. The town of Delphi and the Sanctuary were built on the southern slopes of Parnassus at an altitude between 1500 to 2400 feet. The landscape is of spectacular natural beauty, full of sharp contrasts and is one of the most impressive and fascinating parts of Greece.

For many centuries this was a religious and spiritual center of the ancient Greek world. According to tradition, Delphi was the geographical center of the world, the meeting point of two eagles dispatched by Zeus from the ends of the universe to find the center of the world. The first traces of inhabitation in the region of Delphi go back to Mycenaean times (14th-11th century BC). Since this time a number of different cults and religions have occupied the area.

When we arrived at the Historical Site of Delphi, we first visited the museum. Here are a number of very important pieces which have been excavated over the years.

In about 560 BC, preceding the construction of the Siphnian treasury, another rich island of the Cyclades, Naxos sent a grandiose offering to Apollo of Delphi; the statue of the mythical sphinx, a female face with the mysterious smile, the body of a lion and the wings of a bird were placed on an Ionic column at the sanctuary of Gaia in order to protect her oracle. It is regarded as the oldest element in the Ionic order at Delphi. The Sphinx including the column stood almost 40 feet tall.

Statues of the identical twins, Kleovis and Byton who were immortalized as having been “the best of men”. After their mother prayed to the statue of the goddess Hereon to give the twins “whatsoever is best for a man to receive”, they went to sleep and never awoke. The gods took them with them and they were immortalized with these statues and dedicated to Apollo as eternal symbols of virtue (around 600 BC).

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A small bronze incensory circa 490-460 BC.

The prickly column with the “dancers”

Dionysus, one of a “family of philosophers” statues created around 270 BC.

The Charioteer, an exquisite piece of the beginning of the 5th century BC The Charioteer was part of a bronze complex which according to the prevailing view, was dedicated to Apollo By Polyzalos, tyrant of Gela in Sicily, in commemoration of his victory in the chariot race in the Pythian Games in 478 or 474 BC.

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Ruins of the Roman Agora at the entrance to the Delphi Sanctuary

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One of many stone tablets which can be seen in Delphi.

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The Iconic treasury built by the Siphnians near the end of the 6th century BC. The treasuries are small, elegant temple-shaped buildings erected by the Greek cities in commemoration of an historical event in order to house precious offerings. There were many treasuries.

Remains of the Temple of Apollo.

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The Theater. Built in the 4th century BC, reconstructed in the 2th century BC and took its final form in Roman times.

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The Stadium which dates back to the 5th century BC took its present form in the 2nd century BC when Herod Atticus restored it and built the stone seats which could accommodate an audience of 7,000.

Beautiful wild flowers grow everywhere!

The grounds closed promptly at 2:30 and we left for a much needed lunch!

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The setting was rustic, but the food was good.

The view from the front of the restaurant.

On our way back to the town of Delphi, where we were to spend the night, we passed through another slightly larger city which has a very narrow two-way main street. Meeting another vehicle was difficult and when we meet two other tour buses, it took 15 minutes for us to negotiate our passage.

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We finally arrived at our hotel, the Hotel Apollonia. Mark, our HAL tour “helper”, passed out our room keys. Ours was next to the last one passed out and it was explained that the entrance was on floor 3 and the restaurant was on floor 2. Our room was marked 414, so we took the stairs up one flight. Sure enough the 400 rooms were on this level but they only went up to 412. Tired and frustrated, I left Kay with the luggage an went back to the front desk. I had to wait several minutes because there was only one person at the desk. I what was probably not a really nice tone, I asked where this room was located. “No problem” she said, “follow me”. We got on the elevator, went up one floor to where Kay was waiting. She crossed the small lobby and opened the door to a suite which did not even have a number. It looked like we lucked out! We had a nice two room suite with dual balconies.

The entrance to our “suite”.

Actually, it was quite nice. The Hotel was rated as 4-Star, but certainly would not have received that rating in the States… Everything is relative I guess…

View from the Hotel front balcony.

Church visible from the balcony. This is where the midnight service was held, but we did not go.

On main street in Delphi. We took a break on this small wall to just enjoy the view. In the distance you can see the Ionian Sea (this part also called the Korinthiakos Sea).

Directly behind the wall was a drop of about 100 feet to a small ledge, after that it was another 1500 plus feet to the valley floor… You can see some of the olive tree orchards in the valley.

All along the roads you would see these permenate memorials to persons who died in auto accidents. They usually contained some religious icons and perhaps a photo or flowers. We saw several places along our travels where these could be purchased.

We continued walking through town and back down to the Delphi Sanctuary. Here we viewed the “gymnasium” area which we missed earlier today. The Gymnasium is on two parallel levels. On the highest level there was a big stoa or xystos, where athletes trained in racing when the weather conditions were unfavorable. When the weather was good, they used the paradromida, which lies in front of the xystos and parallel to it.

On the lower level there was the Palaestra, a square yard surrounded by a small sanctuary and chambers used for the various activities of the athletes training in wrestling and boxing.

Beside the palaestra were the baths. The cold water coming from the Castalia spring ran through eleven spouts into stone basins and from there flowed into a circular tank. In Roman times baths with hot water were added westwards.

Apollo’s temple as seen from the road in the evening sun.

We found this cover stone vessel. It looked like a tomb, and Janet is clowning around in it despite possible spiders…

The sanctuary of Athena Pronaia or the Temple of Athena. This dates from the 5th and 4th century BC.

The round trip walk was about 2.5 miles – a nice walk, especially coming back up the steep hill in town.

Here is a grill readied the Easter Sunday morning ritual of grilling a lamb for the Easter Feast. Tomorrow’s photos will show the incredible smoke created by the lighting of dozens of these grills.

Another blog down, currently I am only one behind but that increases to two tomorrow…

Goodnight.

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