Greece Day 6: The Oracle at Delphi

Today we spent most of the day in Delphi before jumping on a bus back to Athens. In my opinion, we spent just about the right amount of time in Delphi.

Delphi is a small, but beautiful town nestled in the mountains. The town is built almost like layers on a terrace, with long parallel streets and alleyways with tall staircases that wind ever upward. Delphi is famous for its ruins. It’s marked as a World Heritage Site and is home to Apollo’s famous Oracle at Delphi, as well as a number of shrines to other gods like Athena.

We spent the morning at the Sanctuary of Apollo, which included ruins of a large amphitheater, a temple, a bank (?), and a stadium. For the most part, it was very hard to make anything of the ruins and I’ll admit I didn’t spend very much time reading the various placards in the sanctuary (nor did I do very much research beforehand). Mostly we saw stones marking where the foundations of buildings used to be. Occasionally we’d see a large column still intact from a temple or a building that used to stand here thousands of years ago.

As we climbed the many stairs to the stadium situated at the top of the hill, Mom stayed behind to meditate near the ruins of the temple. When we returned she claimed that she had been given a message by the Oracle and that she now thinks one of her purposes in life is to give voice to her mother. Mom is a little insane like that sometimes (I guess I don’t really believe in higher powers giving higher callings), but it’s a charming goal nonetheless.

After we were done with the Sanctuary of Apollo, we walked further down the road to another ruins site, this time ruins of a shrine to Athena, the goddess of wisdom. These ruins featured, mostly, a bunch of rocks in a loose grid-like pattern and a few columns in a large circular pattern. Some pictures on the plaques showed us what the shrine looked like many thousands of years ago. One can almost tell?

Having had our fill of ruins for the day, we walked back toward the museum associated with the Shrine of Apollo. On our way, we came across a little fountain and we all washed our faces in it just for kicks.

At the museum, we saw various artifacts and relics leftover from a time when the shrines were a little more whole. Again, I didn’t spend too much time reading the information in the museum, but I was struck by the choice of languages for translation. In delphi, some signs seem to translate into German, others into French, others into English. It’s as if they couldn’t make up their minds so they thought they’d just do a few for everyone :P.

The leftovers of a hollow silver-gilded bronze statue of a bull caught my eye at the museum. Bronze nails were tacked in to the top to seal the plates together. The plaque on the wall said that this statue was likely much larger than reconstructed here in the museum. The top of an ornate, Corinthian (?) column with some figures on top of it also caught my eye. I stopped to imagine what this would look like attached to a building or monument somewhere. Most interesting to me, though, was a 3D model of what the entire Sanctuary of Apollo would have looked like before it turned to ruins. It would have been quite a place to walk through!

After the museum, we walked back into town for lunch. Delphi has a whole bunch of hotels with restaurants that line the side of the cliff. We quickly learned that in Delphi you pay for the view, not so much for the dining experience—the food wasn’t very impressive anywhere we ate. While we were sitting, though, a lightning storm rolled over the valley and we saw giant lightning bolts streak down from the sky to touch the ground below. I thought this was super cool because I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a full lightning bolt before!

Once we paid for the bill, we spent some time walking around Delphi and browsing in the various shops. Just like in Athens, many of the shops were pretty standard and replicated over and over again, but one of the shops we stopped in had some interesting and unique wares. The shopkeep was a very nice and knowledgable man who tried to guess our interests, and then told us fun stories about interesting products he was selling. In this shop, I found to-scale models of ancient Greek ships, decorated circular chess boards with figures of greek temples in the center of the board, Spartan armor and helmets (Dad tried a helmet on for the laughs). The shopkeep also played a number game with us: he showed us a table of numbers created by Pythagoras and asked me to pick a number, then tell him how many boxes my number showed up in. Once I told him which boxes my number was in, he thought about it for a little while and then told me my number! Apparently the table is structured such that if you sum the first number in each box that a number appears, you get that number. Kind of fun :).

The shopkeep also showed me an interesting cup called a Pythagorean Cup. The cup is designed with a little hole in the bottom. The idea is that you can fill this cup up to a certain line marked on the inside of the cup, but if you fill any higher than that the liquid will spill out. I think the hole is created to produce a very specific amount of pressure which resists the pull of gravity on the liquid up to a certain volume.

When we were done shopping, we returned to our hotel, got our luggage, and went to be picked up by the bus taking us to Athens. On our way back to the hotel, the storm that we had seen crossing the valley came upon us and we were hit by deluge of rain. Our bus was nearly an hour late, but once we on, we were treated to the sight of rainbows on the road back to Athens. We even saw a double rainbow! Mostly I passed time on the bus by reading. Kristen and I watched The Mockingjay: Part 1.

We stayed in a little hotel in Piraeus, the section of Athens which houses the port where ferries and cruise liners come to dock. Tomorrow morning we’ll be boarding a ferry which will take us to Santorini in the Greek Isles!

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