Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What Say You, Oracle? Delphi.

At the archaeological site at Delphi.

From Olympia, our drive took us to the modern town of Delphi located in central Greece; the famed archaeological site is located nearby. We headed north, leaving the Peloponnese region behind us.  Near the city of Pio, we crossed an ultra modern looking bridge that separated the Gulf of Patras from the Gulf of Corinth.





At the end of the bridge, we had to pay the toll, a whopping 13.20 Euros!

Approaching the toll booth.


Across the bridge, we headed east, following the road running alongside the Gulf of Corinth. 


Ms. Google was at the navigational helm and though she ultimately got us to our destination, she somehow routed us into the heart of the town of Nafpaktos which had us moving along at a snail's pace as we encountered narrow streets, some under repair.  We lost some valuable drive time.  Lesson learned.  We'll have to redirect Ms. Google to stay on the main roads :-)

Winding our way through downtown Nafpaktos.

By now, it was almost 2:30pm and both are stomachs were screaming for food.  We stopped in one small town, looking for a place to eat.  I spotted a couple of potential places and while Bro waited for me in the car, I checked them out.  Unfortunately, neither offered any substantial food - one was a sandwich place and I decided that we had not come all this way to eat sandwiches so onward we went.

Somewhere along the road, Bro spotted a large tour bus parked in front of what looked to be a restaurant.  As much as I don't enjoy eating the food they serve to tour groups, it was better than nothing so we pulled in.

Indeed there was a large tour group there.  A large group of twenty somethings. They were LOUD.  Luckily, they were getting ready to leave.  Once they were gone, we were the only two left :-)

We ordered our food and as we waited for it to arrive, walked down to the beach that the restaurant fronted.  Not the sandy beach I'm accustomed to.  More like a pebble beach but what a gorgeous view.


The water was a crystal clear blue green color and the surrounding mountains provided the perfect backdrop.  Greece is beautiful.

Bro was curious about the temperature of the water.  It was cold!

Lunch was pretty uneventful. Even though we weren't part of the tour group, I think we got tour group food - it's the stuff that's prepped in advance and reheated when someone orders it.  Well, you can't be picky when you're hungry.

Whatever the food lacked, the spectacular scenery made up for.  We drove along the Gulf of Corinth for quite sometime before heading inland.


The last few kilometers to Delphi were all up hill.  We soon arrived into a very small town with narrow cobble stone streets and buildings clinging to the hillside.  It was a pretty little place.  I had booked us into the Hotel Orfeas, a family owned and run guesthouse, located on a very quiet street in the very quiet town.

As Bro was parking the car, the owner spotted us.  I wasn't sure if Bro was parking in a legit space or not but the man confirmed that we were okay.  He then helped us with our luggage.  Turned out he was the owner.  Very kind man.

The hotel is extremely modest and for some people, it may come across as being a bit run down and dated but it was fine for us.

The phone in our room.   Haven't seen one of these in decades!














 
We quickly checked in and headed to our room.  Very basic accommodation - beds were comfy and the bathroom clean.

Spartan as the room might have been, the view of the Gulf of Corinth from our balcony was simply spectacular!

Although it was well past 5:00pm, neither of us was tired.  Since the archaeological site at Delphi was open til 8:00pm, we decided to go visit it.

According to the guesthouse owner, we could either walk to the site or drive there.  We weren't sure about his walking directions plus we were feeling a bit lazy so we opted to drive.  It probably took us only 5 minutes to drive there but that left us more time to see the site.

We bought our tickets - one for entry to the site and the other for the museum.  The tickets can only be used one but they don't have to be used on the same day so we decided to visit the site in the afternoon and the museum the following morning.   No need to kill ourselves trying to squeeze it all in at the same time.



A very nice pathway led us to and through the hillside site that is the Sanctuary of Apollo, the main part of the site at Delphi.  Once again, I set Bro's expectations that he would be seeing a lot of "rocks" versus ruins of buildings.  Without a map to guide us, we had to rely on what descriptive  plaques here were.  So, with apologies in advance, here are a few of the photos we took.  Where we could identify the ruin, the photo has been labeled accordingly.  

The first set of ruins we passed were the remains of the columns that made up the Roman agora, built sometime around the 4th century A.D.


I had never heard of the Boeotians until I saw this plaque.  Boeotia was a region in Ancient Greece.

On the one side we had views of the ruins and on the other, the magnificent mountainous landscape of Delphi.

The most famous landmark at Delphi is the Temple of Apollo.  On the hillside, just beneath the temple site is a huge retaining wall known as the Polygonal Wall because of the shape of the rocks.  The rocks were so precisely cut that no mortar was used to join them together.

What you don't notice unless you walk up close are the inscriptions that fill the wall.  The inscriptions are of either Dorian dialect or spelling. Some of the inscriptions are colored in alternating lines of vermilion, others are completely finished in vermilion, while still others have no color at all. This could have been done for many reasons: some suggest that color made it easier to read the decrees - more than 800 of the inscriptions were decrees regarding the emancipation of slaves.


Close up of a section of the inscriptions.


The small structure on the right is the Athenian Treasury,  constructed by the Athenians to house dedications made by their city and citizens to the Sanctuary of Apollo aka Delphi.

The Athenian Treasury, reconstructed by archaeologists.

Inscriptions on some ruins.  Important message or perhaps ancient Greek graffiti?


A Closer view of the Temple of Apollo.  Somewhere in this spot was where the pythia (aka the Oracle at Delphi) sat to issue her prophecies.

Doing the obligatory "pose for photo in front of famous landmark". :-)


The amphitheater.  Built in the 4th century B.C.  Its 35 rows of seats could accommodate around five thousand spectators.  

Looking down at the Amphitheater from high above.  Columns of the Temple of Zeus on the hillside, just below.

At the amphitheater, spectators had a spectacular view of the entire sanctuary below and the valley beyond.
View back down to where we had parked the car.  The path through the site had led us way up!

At one point, while we were at the Sanctuary of Apollo, we took a short break.  It was nice to take a few minutes to just admire the view of this amazing place.  I'm still pinching myself that I'm in Greece!

From where we were sitting, we could see another set of ruins, on a hillside located below the road that we had drove in on.  We had no idea what it was but we figured we had to check it out.

When we were ready to leave, we headed back down the path towards the museum and back to our car.  After a split second of debating whether to walk or drive, our lazy personas took over and we drove.  Less than a minute later, Bro was putting the car in to drive.

We found the set of steps leading down to the ruins. From a view point above, I took this photo of the ruins of the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia.  The site is dedicated to the worship of the goddess Athena. 

The circular section is the tholos. 


By now, we were ready to call it a day so it was back to the hotel. Thankfully, a very short drive as I know Bro was getting tired; he had been behind the wheel pretty much all day.

Back in our room, it was time to relax.  I enjoyed the sun set from our balcony.

The sun sets over Delphi. St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in the background.

We asked our guesthouse owner for suggestions where to eat and he recommended a place called Iniohos.  Good Greek food plus live music!  Sounded great so we asked for directions and since it was close by, we would just walk from the guesthouse. Well, the walking directions were go down this street, turn right.....somewhere and then left somewhere....or something like that.  Not exactly precise directions.  I figured we would just head out and if we found the place, great.  If not, I was certain there were plenty of other places where we could grab a bite.

Looking down one side of the street our guesthouse was on.

As ancient Delphi was located on a hillside, so is the modern town of Delphi.  Everywhere, it's hills, hills, hills.  There are steep steps interconnecting the parallel streets.  So, following the directions we got, down we went in search of the place.  We passed by plenty of eateries but lo and behold, Delphi is such a small town that we actually found the place despite the vague directions that we had gotten....or at least, we thought they were vague directions at the time.  The restaurant is attached to a hotel by the same name.  A tourist spot.  Darn.


Iniohos turned out to be quite a large restaurant.  We were greeted by a waiter and led to table near the window.....that had a smiliar magnificent view of the Gulf of Corinth as we had back in our room.  We weren't as impressed as we would have had we not already seen the view but nonetheless, it was nice view to look at while dining.

Two musicians, playing traditional Greek music, were already performing.  Based on the faces seated around us, there was no doubt we were in a tourist restaurant.  My hopes for a real home cooked Greek meal were quickly dashed.  Honestly, I suspected that many a restaurant in Delphi exists to serve tourists.  Probably the locals eat at home.


The mouthwatering, delicious pork souvlaki that I had in Levidi yesterday was still fresh in my memory.  I decided to order the same here.  Bro had the lambchops.  We also ordered some dolmades to share.

Pork souvlaki with french fries and tzakziki.

My souvlaki was so-so but Bro's lamb chops were divine!  The meat was tender, flavorful and perfectly grilled.  Too bad we weren't all that hungry or I would have ordered a second plate!

We lingered over dinner, enjoying the food and each other's company.  It was dark outside by the time we finished dinner but we decided to walk a bit around town.  Unfortunately, other than restaurants and the occasional mini-market, all the other establishments were closed.  It was getting windy and cold as well so it was a really quick walk back to the hotel, up those steep steps.

Back in our room, it was a quiet night of reading on our iPads before turning out the lights.

Good morning Delphi!

When we checked in yesterday, the owner asked if we wanted breakfast.  I had originally booked the room without breakfast but thinking about it now, we decided to go ahead and fork over the 5 Euros per person for breakfast.  Sorry to say but it wasn't worth the 5 Euros.  Some toast, some cheese, some jam, a hard boiled egg and tea.  I would have rather had something from a bakery.  Oh well.  We'll fill up at lunch.

This morning's agenda was to visit the museum at Delphi.  After breakfast, we headed out by car.  We took a slightly different route from yesterday, driving through town. This was probably the way we would have gone had we been on foot.

As Bro was about to park the car, a workman shouted out to him that he was attempting to park in the area where the large tour buses unload and load passengers.  A street sign clearly stated that but cocky Bro thought he could defy it.  He got caught!  Ha! We parked nearby.

The museum.

We had our entry tickets from yesterday.

There are so many ruins in Greece, they're seemingly just piled up everywhere.  No descriptions.

Inside, there was already a large tour group and the leader was speaking in English.  We tried to eavesdrop for a bit without looking like we were trying to listen in.  It's a skill to try and look you're paying attention to something else all the while you're actually listening to the guide. :-)

The museum is small but well laid out.  The exhibition halls lead from one to the another and there's only one floor so it was not hard to figure out where to go.


I love the miniature bronzes.  These day back to the 8th century B.C.  Incredible!

One of the exhibition halls displayed items recovered from the Treasury of the Siphnians.


The Sphinx of the Naxians.  The Sphinx was offered as a votive by the wealthy Naxians. 
It crouches on a tall Ionic column that stood south of the temple of Apollo.

One of the pediments.

A frieze, from left to right, Ares, Aphrodite, Artemis, Apollo, and Zeus.

Gold pieces.

Little offerings.


So much of what was recovered from the ancient site was pretty much in shards. Alongside many of the displays were drawings depicting what the item would have originally looked like so you better appreciate what you were looking at.  Here are two of the meotopes recovered from the site.

This is what was recovered of the relief known as Heracles and the Cerynean Hind.

What it would have originally looked like.

This is what was recovered of a relief depicting Heracles and Kyknos in battle.

Here's the drawing showing how the shards fit into the original relief.

I loved this lion head.  Amazing to think this head survived all these centuries.

The ancient Greeks were truly master sculptors, capturing with such accuracy the details of faces and recreating the layers and folds of clothing. I'm so impressed though I have to admit that without the heads, all the statues start to look alike.


I admire the skill it takes to create the draping on the clothing. So beautiful.


The highlight of the museum's collection is the bronze statue known simply as the Charioteer.  The life-size statue is considered to be one of the finest examples of ancient bronze statues. The statue was erected at Delphi in the late 4th century B.C. to commemorate the victory of a chariot team in the Pythian Games, which were held at Delphi every four years in honor of Pythean Apollo. It was originally part of a larger group of statuary, including the chariot, four (possibly six) horses and two grooms.



I loved the detail of the feet....even how the toes curl slightly like mine do :-)

Look at the amazing details of the pleating on the dress.  The sculptor even recreated the seam!


Some fragments of the horses were found with the statue.




I was surprised at how much I enjoyed our visit to the museum. I've come to the conclusion that I much prefer the smaller museums to the larger ones.  Less stuff to look at and try to digest the information for, the better for me.  This was a lovely collection.

After leaving the museum, we headed back to the guesthouse to pack and check out. Our ever so friendly and helpful owner even tried to give us directions on how to get our next destination. I smiled and thanked him for his advice and his help. He insisted on seeing us to our car and helping us get our luggage loaded into the trunk. We waved good bye to him as we drove away.

Off to Kalambaka!