A Travellerspoint blog

If only the oracle was still in operation...

Delphi, Greece

In the morning, the neighborhood was still rundown, although the people in the streets were old ladies walking their dogs and old men smoking cigarettes at cafes instead of druggies. You could tell that it didn't used to be this way as there are decent buildings with balconies and such. But there's a lot of graffiti and some buildings are starting to get rundown.
Just nearby though, we saw a nicer area. And on our drive out of the city, we saw that a lot of the neighborhoods didn't look too different than ours. The highway walls are completely covered in graffiti. So I'm wondering if all this is just a feature of Athens as a city, and not particularly our neighborhood. We'll find out tomorrow, I guess.
It took us a while to get out of Athens and the rush hour traffic, but once we got out of the city and onto the highway, the scenery was much nicer. Mountains sprung up in the distance. We passed rocky hills covered in green scrub. It's still winter here, so the trees are pretty bare (except the evergreens) but a few tree species are full of blooming flowers.
We popped into a rest stop for first breakfast (as opposed to my pre-breakfast banana). I got a delicious spinach pie and a tasty cheese pastry. Both had crispy flaky crust that made a delicious mess.
The scenery continued to be similar, although at some point, the mountains got higher and some of the mountains became snow-capped.
I had commented on the graffiti in the city earlier. But I'm noticing that even out on the more open road in the more rural areas, they have not escaped the graffiti. It's much less prevalent on buildings, but signs seem to have a decent amount, as well as tunnels, bridges, and other public works. It's unfortunate that it's not even artistic graffiti (street art). It's just people who wrote stuff monochrome.
One interesting thing I noticed was that there were these little "dollhouse churches" periodically on the side of the road. They're on a pole, like a mailbox, but it doesn't look (from passing) like you're supposed to put something in them. The dollhouse-sized church models come in several different architectural styles, but many had the standard Greek Orthodox domes.DSCF4702.JPG
I noticed that there weren't many in places that were convenient to stop, but were tons around dangerous curves. Then, we saw a few next to pictures of people and some with wreaths on them. They're roadside shrines, probably to those who died in car accidents.
Eventually, we found a simpler one that was in a good stopping location. Inside the window, we saw icons and some other religious pictures.
We continued on our was to Arachova, a cute town set into the mountainside. It appears to be a ski town, based on the number of lodges and ski shops. Since it's t-shirt weather, I'm guessing it's the town's off season. Still, the only places that were open as we walked through sold souvenirs, winter clothes, and ski gear. Most everything else was closed, even though it was 11am.
Unfortunately for us, that included restaurants.
We did eventually find an open one, but there was only one other table of patrons in the whole place.
We had a beautiful, albeit pricey, brunch. The bread was fresh and warm, the tzatziki was thick and surprisingly garlicky, the zucchini balls were ok. The star was the fried cheese with tomato and some really thick balsamic. I'd order that again in an instant.
Also, the location was pleasant. We had a view of the quaint little town, but weren't in the middle of it. The atmosphere was an odd mix of Christmas (decorations were still up, even though we're almost 2 months after Eastern Orthodox Christmas) and spring (because of the weather being so pleasant).
After finishing off our meal, we headed back to the car to drive over to Delphi.
First, we walked through the modern town of Delphi. As expected, it's mainly hotels, restaurants, and souvenir shops.
Next, we headed over to the archaeological museum and site. You'd think that they'd have better infrastructure, since they are not a new tourist site. But the toilets were missing seats, you couldn't throw toilet paper in them, and the museum didn't have guides or audioguides for hire.
That being said, in some places, they did a good job of showing what the art pieces would have looked like if they were full. That's important because a lot of the statues are missing big important hunks (standard armless or headless people). In addition to statues, the museum featured plenty of small metal offerings and lots of stone building decorations that were sort of reconstructed. It's not dissimilar to how the Brits have the Parthenon wall pieces displayed in the British museum.DSCF4730.JPG
Personally, I found 2 statues that were next to each other to be most interesting. One was missing an arm. But it wasn't broken off, it was just missing. You could see the hole that it would have attached to (sort of lego-style). Next to it was a statue with a hand that was clearly attached in a similar way, but was loose enough that you could see the line for the joint. It takes away some of the mystery and wonder as to how someone could carve something so perfectly without mistakes- they don't have to if they attach parts on.
From the museum, we entered the archaeological site. The signage here was much better than the museum. At each stop along the way, the signs said what it was, but also told you what pieces on the museum came from it. So you could imagine the huge sphinx you just saw inside, but outside where it originally was located.DSCF4761.JPG
(Also the bathrooms were better- the toilet seats weren't stolen and the doors weren't covered in graffiti. So, if you're not pregnant or elderly and can hold it from the museum to the archaeological site, you might want to.)
We enjoyed strolling along the ruins, taking in the fabulous mountain views. We probably could have seen everything faster, but the weather was beautiful, and the site was relatively peaceful, if we kept away from the large group of noisy Russians.
I don't know if the site wasn't swarming with tour groups because it's off-season, because they're Coronavirus casualties, or if it's normal for Delphi not to be flooded with groups, but the site was calm and relatively peaceful. We were able to take everything in without being bumped or having to sneak around a blocked path.
The main ruins are impressive on their own, but I was glad I had watched My Life in Ruins and a documentary on the Oracles of Delphi before we came on the trip. They added a lot of context as to who these oracles were, why they were so important, and why people built treasuries and gave the Delphic community so much wealth.
DSCF4749.JPGMy personal favorite part was what I'm calling the book wall. It's a huge stone wall where every stone is covered in a massive amount of text. I don't speak Greek, so I have no idea what they say or even if they're all related, but it's as if somebody carved a whole book into the wall. Just thinking about how much time it must have taken to carve all those letters in without messing up is mind-boggling.
But there are other nearby ruins that are cool as well.
Again, there's a bit of an infrastructure issue as you have to walk along a highway to get to them, but there isn't a proper sidewalk area the whole way and there aren't big signs telling you where to go.
Despite this, we found the baths that people would purify themselves in before coming to see the Oracle at Delphi. They're not so impressive empty as they were today, but it is cool to imagine them full of water and pilgrims.
A bit further down, we stopped by the Temple of Athena, which really is worth the walk. It's a smaller compound, but still quite impressive as the tall pillars still stand majestically.DSCF4783.JPG
Despite the infrastructure issues, Delphi is very worth coming to see. I'd recommend a guide, but we had a good time without as well.
After a long day hiking, I wanted a snack. The vending machines at Delphi didn't work, so we stopped at a Lidl grocery store on the way back to the airport. We love grocery shopping in general, but we really love seeing (and trying) all of the interesting things that you can get at grocery stores in other countries. We may have gone a bit overboard, and ended up not only getting a snack, but also dinner, midnight snack, and breakfast there. Of course, they had lots of interesting cheeses, and we picked a bunch that we had no idea what they were. We also got some eggplant dip, shrimp in a jar, cinnamon rolls, flavored bread chips, jam, bread, meat sticks, and other various items.
So far, I can say that I wasn't super-impressed with the sheep cheese we got (nice texture, but the flavor was really bland), the smoked cheese goes really well with the eggplant dip, the bread crackers are very tasty, and the chocolate milk was ok, although thicker than I prefer.
The drive back was pleasant and there wasn't too much traffic. We returned the car easily and found the metro. It's pretty clean and comfortable, at least at 8pm when it's not too crowded.

The plan was to see Athens the following day, but a family emergency ended the trip early.
I was pretty happy with the Aegean people at the airport. They were very helpful in getting me refunded what I could of our unused tickets and helping get the rebooking details settled.

Posted by spsadventures 11:52 Archived in Greece

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