After spending three days exploring the city of Athens, I took the chance to travel northward, to the ancient site of Delphi and to the high stone temples and monasteries of Meteora. Since I wasn’t very familiar with the Greek public transportation system, I chose to book a private tour on viator.com. I first heard about the travel site from a fellow Filipina traveler whom I met in Prague a few months earlier. To be honest, I was hesitant to make use of travel agencies and such because.. well, I guess I had trust issues. But seeing that the site was safe, the tour has had about 400 good reviews and was all-inclusive, I gave it a go. The website was fairly responsive and all my queries were answered. (Book the 2-day Trip to Delphi and Meteora here)
Because the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites are located far up from Athens, the group had to leave early. I went to the a bigger hotel nearby, where I, together with some other tourists, was picked up by an air-conditioned bus. The tour guide was a fantastic woman who shares interesting history, myths and legends about her country and the archaeological sites. Plus, she also answered questions about the current economic and political crises in Greece. For instance, most Greeks live with their parents until they’re 30 or much older. Pretty much like in the Philippines, huh? I’m an exception though, left home at 16 to study in the city. 😛 Anyway..
We picked several more participants from different hotels around the city and off we go to Delphi! Some interesting details about the sanctuary: It is located high up on the southwestern slope of Mount Parnassus, overlooking the beautiful valley of Phoci. It was “the religious center and symbol of unity of the ancient Greek world” during the 6th c. BC, where many people travel to to consult the ancient Oracle at the Sanctuary of Apollo. What’s fascinating is that they actually believed and followed the prophecies and advice coming from the mouth of an intoxicated priestess called the Pythia. The Pythia, a middle-aged peasant woman, served as a possessed medium for Apollo, the god of prophecy. She may be considered the Greek counterpart for a Catholic male priest who practiced sexual abstinence and fasting and was trained for the role.
Did you know that the ancient Greeks also considered Delphi to be the center of the world? It is symbolized by a stone oval in shape and called the Omphalos, which Rhea, a Titan woman, used to deceive Cronus and save Zeus from being devoured by his own father. (Gosh, I love Greek mythology!) Legend has it as well that Zeus released two eagles from opposite ends of the world to find the center of the earth. The birds flew and crashed against each other and fell on Delphi, thus making Delphi the “navel of the world”. Find general information about the Omphalos here. (Hint: Jerusalem also claimed to house the omphalos.)
Aside from the religious significance of the site, Delphi also held the country’s second most important sports event, i.e., after the Olympics. The Pythian games were held every four years in honor of the god Apollo. Consisting of the same events as that of the Olympics, it was said to have originated from the murder of Python, the earth dragon, by the god of prophecy himself.
The bus ride from Athens to Delphi lasted for about 2 hours, but we had a short stopover in Livadia. Once in Delphi, we had a guided tour which took about an hour. Afterwards, we were left to enjoy the site on our own, and get some lunch from the nearby Amalia Delphi hotel and restaurant. It was an amazing and breath-taking experience! At about 2:30 pm, we headed back to the bus for a 5-hour ride towards Kalambaka, where we spent the night before exploring the wonderful high stone monasteries of Meteora.
And now, I let the several pictures I took to speak about Delphi’s ancient beauty and feels..
Sites — temples, altars, treasuries, stadium and theater to see and experience and Delphi can be seen in the slideshow as well. 😉 There’s also the Delphi Museum where the original Naxian Sphinx is displayed. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to enter the museum because we had to hop back on the bus and make our way farther up north to Kalambaka, where the Meteora monasteries are situated, ie, if we wanted to get there on time. 😉
By the way, Greece is really spectacular in the north! The trip is not for the faint-hearted and acrophobic though. The route was like Batangas highlands in the Philippines raised to the 10th power. 😀 The views were amazing! I was on top of the world! We also passed by the plains and the Greek plantations. At around 8PM, we reached Kalambaka where we had a delicious dinner buffet at Amalia Hotel. I spent the night in a big room for two! (The perks of being solo) And then, before the journey to ‘the columns of the sky’ began. More about that in the next entry. Cheers! ❤