Monday, May 25, 2009

Ancient Delphi and Corinth

Our first day back in Athens and we decided we would make the 2.5 hour trek each way to Ancient Delphi. Because of our navigational challenges on either end in Athens the trip actually ended up being longer than we intended. Connor was a trooper though (even if she insisted on keeping her shoes off the entire time)!The Greek countryside was nothing like I would have pictured. As soon as we left Athens the verdant countryside appeared against the Aegean Sea. Hardly a soul lives outside the city and the roads were twisty-turny revealing another remarkable scene with each bend. I would never have guessed mainland Greece was so beautiful!
We made it to Delphi and the moody, misty weather threatened a rain-out. Luckily though the weather cleared for just enough time to fit our visit in to this famous spot the ancient Greeks considered the "center of the Earth." According to Greek mythology, Zeus released two eagles from opposite ends of the earth and they met in the sky above Delphi.
But even more than that, this ancient site is most famous for the oracles that performed and advised here. Supposedly they interpreted by a rock chasm that produced strange vapours helping the oracles switch into a frenzied, incoherent state complete with prophetic mutterings.
We didn't see any oracles there! But the ruins were some of the best we have seen. It was fun to picture what this magical place must have been like so many moons ago. The city was divided into organized parts and spaces against the gorgeous mountainside. I was impressed at the civilization of it all, given the site dates back to possibly 15th century BC! Now THAT is old! This interpretation gives an idea of what it might have looked like:Of course none of this really mattered to Connor. She was just interested in jumping in the puddles and picking the tiny little dandelion flowers that were everywhere. Kirk and I took turned playing with her while the other explored the ruins. The countless slippery steps proved too much of a feat for our fearless Bob stroller! The hand off worked well and Connor played happily and patiently while we each got our fill.We also went to see the nearby Sanctuary of Athena. The purpose of this building is not known, but it sure does make a stunning spot with the green backdrop.All in all the chance to escape Athens to explore Ancient Delphi was a treat. We did stop at the Osios Loukas monastery on the way back. The abbey's inside is as our guidebook describes, "startling with multicolored-marble walls contrasting gold-background mosaics on the high ceiling." A wonderful surprise for us given the unassuming remote building! After Delphi we felt compelled to round out our tour of ancient places and see Ancient Corinth in the Peloponnese region. So despite the many hours logged in the car the day before, we bucked up our car endurance and set out to discover more.The first stop was to Epidaurus about an hour south of Corinth. The immaculately preserved ancient theatre there has pitch perfect acoustics. Unfortunately the hordes of loud Italian teenagers on a school trip made our sound test pretty difficult. But the setting was wonderful!
By the time we made it to Ancient Corinth we were pretty pooped from all our Greek travel. We could see the entire site from outside the gates so we quickly took it in and marveled at the excavations before deciding to buy ice cream with the money we saved from the entrance fees!We did drive up to the Acrocorinth which sits way up above the Temple of Apollo atop a rocky cliff. The view from the top was beautiful and really showed off the site. The blue, blue ocean water was like the Carribean and it was hard not to feel on top of the world with the beauty all around.
We found our way back to Athens slowly but surely. This sign pretty much sums up our day of driving though. I mean really - as if the Greek letters weren't difficult enough. You tell me which way you would turn to get back to Athens (or anywhere for that matter) from this intersection!!!Finally back in Athens we made it to the National Archaeology Museum - the last stop on our ambitious itinerary. I was beyond exhausted and ready to snuggle in to our hotel, but we kept going. And I am so glad we did. An archaeology museum sounded as interesting to me as watching paint dry, but honestly it was amazing! The sculptures were numerous, intricate, and conveyed real emotion. I was really struck with the number of reliefs and masterpieces conveying diplomacy, friendship and coming together. If only we could do the same; the world would be a better place!
Connor of course LOVED all the "neigh neighs!"Don't miss this thrilling museum if you visit Greece. No matter how exhausted and fed up you are with Athens crowds and traffic! It is worth it in the end. I mean how many times will you be touring in GREECE?!?! I am so glad we were stubborn and pushed ourselves to see so much. What remarkable history!

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