August 13, 2007


The views from Delphi are spectacular, as its location on the side of Mt. Parnassus, overlooking the gulf of Corinth is one of the most impressive in all of Greece. Needless to say, my little camera can not capture it and even post cards of the place do not do it justice. In many ways, the Oracle of Delphi was the center of the ancient world from Mycenaean times and one can only imagine how they felt arriving at this humbling location.

I can tell you that we were exhausted by the time we arrived and felt a little like worn out ancients ourselves upon arrival, as it was the longest and worst day  of driving thus far. We were actually headed to Meteora, but unfortunately the book I was depending on was completely and utterly wrong, so we were doomed to fail. Add another scorchingly hot day with no air conditioning, poor maps at hand, rural mountainous roads and a non functioning GPS and we were in for a frustrating, wild goose chase, kind of day, going nowhere very slowly.

I have often used this good book to gage my travel days as they have handy charts that give distance tables of mileage for many countries and up to this point, had always been accurate. It said that the distance between Athens and Meteora was 349 kilometers which is a good days drive for us and approximately the distance we prefer to go when moving faster. I still do not know exactly how
far it is, but at least twice that and on many very slow going roads.

Had we just gotten off the ferry in Piraeus (near Athens) where we arrived in the morning refreshed and invigorated after a lovely night in a cabin onboard a new and modern ferry from Santorini, we would have had a simple two hour ride to Dephi. But nooooo, life was not meant to be so easy on this fateful day of one error upon another.

We REALLY wanted to see Meteora, so we kept pushing onward and at least saw plenty of interesting Greek countryside and the ancient city of Thebes early on, but as the sun started to go down, we realized that we had to head back to Delphi or we would end up without any place to stay the night. It is illegal to wild camp or free camp in Greece and we are not really set up for it, nor did this isolated mountainous terrain look like the ideal location.

After all the driving and heat, we finally just lost our interest in Meteora (which looks like it has similarities to Cappadocia only with monasteries stuck on top of the stones) and looked to the bright side of cutting off a few days of our Greek itinerary as we were itching to get onto new countries and get out of the heat. Thus, plan B of Delphi looked good and we wish we had made that choice from the start, but such is life on the road and traveling by whim.

By this time, we had become head dunking experts, as it is a good way to keep cool in the heat. My lovely braids-up-on-top-of-my-head do, which seems to be my summer travel hair do (so much so that my child teases me that she forgets what my hair down looks like), is perfect for this water treatment as the braids hold in the water longer. We are not the only ones that know this trick as we laughed when we saw a guy stick his head out the window at a toll booth and pour a bottle of water all over his head. The water drips down to the face and upper body and combined with a little air from the windows, can almost feel like air conditioning.

We actually have air conditioning in our cab, but it does not work that great and does not reach back to Mozart’s seat in the cabin part, so we rarely use it. Mozart was quite a trooper through it all as she would get very hot and it was a very long day for a kid to be stuck inside. She has long since read every book that we brought (and we brought a lot) but thankfully she can get lost in rereading good books. We have not used the dvd much for long drives lately, as books are better.

I knew Delphi was located high on a mountain as was the campsite, so we REALLY wanted to arrive before dark. There are two ways to get there and of course on this day, we took the very mountainous, scary route. Unlike many parts of Greece, no one that we were asking directions from on this day, spoke English. We did barely make it just before dark, but this road ranks only second to the cliff side switch back at Santorini port, as far as death defying roads go.

DaVinci about had it with Greece at that point, we managed to go down a one way street in town and the manager of the campsite was the most unhelpful person we had run into in a long time. Thankfully, once we got to the campsite, it was a delight, despite its very grumpy and unhelpful manager at reception.
We pulled into a perfect site with magnificent views and headed straight to the pool even before setting up camp.

Ahhhh, soaking in the moonlight in cool water never felt so good! We forgave Greece this awful day and felt reborn and ready for a new chance to get back in our happy, “endless summer” groove again. Travel does not exclude one from the agony and ecstasy of life and perhaps makes them even more intense as one is always out of ones element.

We just rested and recovered our first day in Delphi, enjoying the view and pool and getting our bearings. The campground was filled with almost all French people and one heard more French here than Greek. We were surprised to see so very many people from France in Greece as they were clearly the dominant campers where ever we went.

There was a sweet family from Brittany that camped next to us that had three boys. They said it was raining and hailing at their home which at fist seemed odd after all the sun and heat that we had been in, but logical when one thought of all the rain nearby Great Britain was getting. The kids from around the campsite all played in the pool together and on the soccer/football field despite the language barrier, which is always cute to observe how they manage.

Perhaps I am wrong, but it often looks to me that European kids are better at playing with all ages mixed, being kind to the little ones and being all inclusive in spite of language differences. Boys do a lot more hugging of each other and hand holding even at an older age, which is so nice to see as it is rare in our culture.

There is a little white train (just like the one we used at our Tuscany campsite) that takes you from the campsite to the archeological site and museum of Delphi and we boarded it early one morning. For someone who deals with fear of heights like me, the little train will give you more than a few thrills as it edges close to many dangerous cliffs, but the site itself is set up in such a way that allows one to enjoy the views.

Thousands of pilgrims would come to the Oracle of Delphi who was always a peasant woman in her fifties who would inhale fumes from a chasm and writhe in a frenzy of incoherent mumblings to answer the questions of the pilgrims. Another priest would decipher what was said and wars, business and more were dependent on these utterances. The priests grew rich with the many gifts and sacrifices that were given here.

There was the Temple of Apollo, Sacred Way, Tholos and another ancient stadium to climb and admire the view. The museum was enjoyable with a few very nice pieces. Every ancient site adds to the others, like putting a giant puzzle together and finding new insights and connections with each piece.












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