We set off on a morning when Zeus was tossing about his thunder bolts and a torrential rain was filling the gutters with gushing streams ankle deep. We didn't let that deter us and boarded the 10.30 bus for Delphi, a four hour trip north into the mountains. Vesa and Joonas were supposed to meet Ingrid, Deb and me at the bus depot but didn't show (apparantly were driven to the wrong bus depot and missed us by minutes!)
The rain subsided by the time we reached Delphi although throughout the day there weree scattered shoers. Our first goal on entering the hallowed area was to hike down the mountain to the Tholos and the Temple of Athens. Ingrid had missed this part of the sanctuary the last time we were there and wanted more than anything to see it.
Delphi was the most sacred sanctuary of ancient Greece the "naval' of the earth and hoome of Apollo, god of light. In his sanctuary, the fabled Pythia sat on a tripod inhaling hallucenogenic vapours and interpreted the fates of the supplicants. No important decisions were made politically or personally without first cosulting the Delphic Oracle.
First the pilgrims would bathe to cleanse themselves in the Castalian Spring below the sanctuary. The area has been fenced off now due to rock falls, but y ou can still refresh y uself from the same mountain spring water that gushes from a fountain nearby. Below the Spring, several hundred meters down the mountain is the site of the gymnasium and down the road below that is the beauitufl Tholos and Temple of Athena.
Fortunately the rain had refreshed and cooled the air and there weren't the usual hordes of tourists at the site, making it a pleasant though energetic hike on the mountain. Ingrid was thrilled to finally arrive at the holy Tholos. Deb and I left her there to contemplate the beauty and snap lots of photos while we hiked back up the long raod to the Sanctuary.
Just as we reached the pillars of the Temple of Apollo,the sun broke through the clouds and lit up the temple. I'm sureif the Pythia had been there she'd have protended good fortune for us!
The new museum at Delphi is a wonder, so artistically constructed and the treasures tastefully displayed. My most favourite pieces of sculputre are there: the bronze figure of the charioteer which commemorated a victory at the Pythian Games of 478 BC and the remarkably life-like marble sculpture of Antinous, beloed of Hadrian who drowned in the Nile and wa later deified.
It is here too that a copy of the "omphalos" a sculpted cone representing the spot where the two eagles released by Zeus met - the cnte of the world; and there is an impressive marble sphinx dating from 500 BC, a gift from the Naxians.
We had four hours to tour the sites and managed it with time to spare, treating ourselves to a most delicious pizza and jug of red wine while we waited for the fus to return to Athens.
Another excellent day, and you can't help but feel you are in touch with the gods while at Delphi, so we returned to the bustle of the city feeling tired but blessed.
NEXT: LIVING THE LIFE: A Day in Athens