This is an account of our holiday in Greece this year. We managed to persuade the daughter to come on holiday with us. The proviso was, we visit the classical sites of Greece. The reason was, Selina wants to do a Classical degree at Uni. I wanted to get a cheap flying trip in after the main holiday was finished. Well did that happen, let’s take a look.
The first week of the holiday was a tour around the sites of the classical sites. The second week was a flying trip for me. The rest of the family did not participate in this last week.
We booked with JMC, in future we would not go with them for the following reasons.
They advertised that they were flexible. When I booked, I wanted to fly back a week later, was I allowed. No. I could if I booked accommodation with them, but as I was going paragliding on my own in a part where they did not cater for, I had my own arrangements. So the answer was I was not allowed to extend the holiday. In the end, I bought a flight back a week later with EasyJet.
The coach tour was well organised but was not run by JMC. We could have just as easily arranged the tour on arrival. Some of the travellers on the tour had booked the day before.
When we lost our luggage, it did arrive, but very little credit for this goes to the JMC staff on the ground at Athens.
The brochure said we were staying in a hotel in Athens. I would never consider Glyfyda to be Athens. To me its like staying in a hotel near Heathrow and saying you were staying in London.
The paragliding. This was through Olympic Wings.
Friday – Flying out and Glyfidia
Who was the idiot who organised this trip? A 6.20 flight from Gatwick. You must be joking. The alarms started at 2.10, we leave home at 2.35 and arrived at the JMC check-in by 4.40. Checked in, usual hassle with the paraglider had to take over to the outsized luggage. Nobody weighed it.
The plane leaves at 6.20, despite some people who turned up late for the flight and caused the luggage to be unloaded. Arrive in Athens at 11.20. Where was Selina’s luggage, was it offloaded and never put back on by the loaders? Hey, the paraglider was there, so can’t be too bad. A few trembly lips when I commented that the only experience I had with lost luggage was you never got it back.
We took the JMC coach to the hotel Palace in Glyfidia, Selina is not happy with the lost luggage. The JMC rep assured us they would do all they could to get the luggage back to us before we departed on the trip the next day. Hotel, OK, it was a tourist class, air-con, swimming pool, next to the sea, but not in Athens at all. The brochure said Athens. The hotel did bring as a freebie of melon because they took pity on Selina with her missing luggage.
So out we went shopping, caught the bus down the road. Never figured out how to pay for this. I think we should have bought some tickets to put into some machine. Spent the afternoon shopping for knickers and some replacement outfits for Selina. The knickers were bought at a Marks and Spencer. Quite expensive. The tops and trousers were good value and appeared to be old New Look stock. Had lunch, and a few drinks.
Back at the hotel, Rosemary was totally furious with the JMC rep. No luggage, and even worse the rep knew nothing of our problems. Communication breaks down. R’s most definite button to press.
For the evening dined at a Taverna near the hotel. It was totally deserted. We had Kalamari (Me), Mousakka(Selina), and Chicken Souvlaki (Rosemary). Not bad though.
Saturday – Mycenae and Epidaurus
Breakfast at 6.45. Um cold coffee, they seem to assume it will warm-up for later users if left on the hot plate. The good news was Selina’s bag was at the reception. Smiles all round. Selina was really happy. We were happy. We were picked up outside the hotel by a double-decker coach run by GO TOURS. There was a totally non-speaking French couple catching the same coach. We were a bit worried.
Several pickups in Athens from a number of other hotels. The realisation was that this was not an exclusive JMC tour. Later a bit of swapping around and the French departed to their own coach. Our tour was made up of English, Americans, New Zealanders, Australians, and Danish.
We then drove on out of Athens to our first stop the Corinth Canal. This trip was through Daphne, the industrial area of Athens and the shipbuilding. This area was pretty ugly.
Stopped at the Corinth Canal. Bought water and took some pictures. Rosemary and Selina were conned into buying some corn dollies from a gipsy. OK, they were pretty cheap and we have them decorating the house now. Cats have started eating them though.
Greece’s Corinth Canal (1893), a short (6.3 km/4 mi) but spectacular canal linking the Aegean and Ionian seas through the Isthmus of Corinth, was built by cutting 86 m (282 ft) through solid rock to sea level.
Our guide was Greek, and she said much. Not only did she tell us about the sites, but told us much about the Greek way of life, Greek politics and economy.
Next, we drove on to Epidaurus. This is a fantastic theatre. We missed the guide here for a while. We had a while to look around the theatre and the museum. If we came here again we would spend more time and look at the other archaeological sites. This is a wonderful Greek theatre constructed in the 3rd century BC. The top rows were added on by the Romans. The theatre is built onto the hillside. The acoustics are fantastic. The theatre is still used in the summer for plays and concerts.
After this, we drove on to Mycenae. Before we arrived we stopped for lunch. This was in one of those large tourist Taberna’s specialising in providing lots of meals fast. We had a large lunch of Moussaka, Greek Salad, Lamb, Chips and peaches. An American student sat with us. She was to become a bit of a bore. I think the feeling was mutual, she ignored us from then on
At Mycenae it was hot. Selina was feeling a bit sun stroked I think. Had a look around the main site, then to the Treasury of Atreus or Tomb of Agamemnon.
The palace of Mycenae was built On a relatively low hill, 278 m. above sea-level and 40-50 m. above the surrounding plain. The houses and tombs were situated all around the palace. There are two other higher, abrupt hills on either side, Prophet Elias the north (805 rn.) and Zara (660 m.) to the south. Two deep and precipitous ravines, the Kokoretsa on the Prophet Elias side, and the Havos on the Zara site isolate the hill of Mycenae, allowing access only from the western slope.
Tradition has it that the founder of Mycenae was Perseus, son of Zeus and Danae; it was he who had the mythical Cyclopes – the builders of Tiryns erect the walls of the citadel for him, which for that reason became known as Cyclopean walls. Perseus grandson, and the last king of this line, was Eurystheus, who set Heracles the task of performing his famous twelve labours, and who was killed in Attica without leaving any descendants. The Mycenaeans chose as his successor his brother-in-law, Atreus, son of Pelops, who proved a good ruler and did much to strengthen Mycenae. However, his enmity towards his brother Thyestes led him to give the unfortunate man the flesh of his own children to eat (the so-called Thyestean feast). This deed brought upon Atreus and all his descendants the wrath of the gods and Thyestes’ curse: his son and heir Agamemnon, who assumed the leadership of the Greeks on the expedition to Troy, was slaughtered on his return from the war by his own wife, assisted by her lover, Aegisthus; Orestes, the son of Agamemnon, and his sister Electra killed both their mother and Aegisthus, after which Orestes was forced to flee, pursued by Erinnyes, until he finally was acquitted by the Areopagus. The last king of Mycenae according to tradition, was Tisamenos, Orestes’ son; he was killed while defending his country from an incursion by the Heraclids.
The Lion Gate. One of the most imposing structures of all times was the main entrance to the citadel. The approach followed a natural uphill path, leading to a narrow space between the smooth, steep rock on the left and a long, narrow bastion (14.8Cm. x 7.23 m.) on the right.. At the end of this narrow space, in which the. aggressors were forced to huddle together, exposed on all sides to the volleys of the guard, there is the gate, which consists of four single conglomerate blocks. These enormous blocks, like the stones that were used in the construction of the wall, were rolled to the site on-ramps, and the finishing was done on the spot.
In order to relieve the lintel of some oft he weight of the superstructure, the ashlar course sat both its ends which are supported by the door jambs, corbel out progressively leaving a triangular empty space – the so-called relieving triangle – which is a kind of simple arch characteristic of Mycenaean architecture. For practical as well as aesthetic reasons, this empty triangle was filled in with a slab of hard limestone bearing in relief two lions after which the gate was named.
Grave Circle. Originally -i.e. in the 16th century B.C. this consisted of a group of large shaft graves, unquestionably used for royal burials. They were dug on the slope of the eastern end of the Middle Helladic cemetery of Mycenae and were enclosed by a low circular rubble wall of which only a very small section has remained. The building of the Lion Gate and the west fortification wall, at a much higher level, relegated the tombs to the bottom of a large, artificial hollow, practically inaccessible, and possibly dangerous, owing to the waters that gathered there. In order to bring the burial ground to the level of the acropolis entrance, a stout, battered wall was built on the slope over the old enclosure, to retain the fill which covered the graves.
Grave Circle A. Located inside the citadel of Mycenae, enclosing an area of 27.5 m. in diameter. The circle wall consists mainly of sandstone and breccia plaque, placed in such a way as to form an apparently solid wall 1.35 m. thick and between 0.92m and 1.52 m high. The circle includes 6 royal tombs which were dug in the bedrock. The contained skeletons and wealthy grave goods, now exhibited in the National Archaeological Museum.
Tomb of Agamemnon
This is the most splendid monumental structure of Mycenaean architecture. Like the Lion Gate, it was built 1250 B.C. and was in use over a long period of time.
The tomb was spoiled in antiquity, and none of its contents survive
Evening in Nafplion
We stopped at Nafplion for the night. Luckily there were others in tourist class with us. The American student, an English family and the Danish. So was not too embarrassing as we left the coach. Had a quick shower, and then a few beers in the town. Passed an Internet cafe, but did not succumb.
Saw our first Greek kittens. The first lot were black and white. The next lot we saw was a ginger group. They were living in a ruined building.
Supper was at 8.00. fairly basic. Selina had a spinach and Feta pie. A quick ouzo and then too bed.
Sunday – Arcadia and Olympia
Woken up by lots of bells. Sunday. Down to breakfast of Yoghurt and honey and eggs. Left hotel at 8.45. Took the coast road around the bay, then started up a mountain road. We drove on through Arcadia. After passing through Megalopis, we travelled along the Ionian sea, driving North. We passed many olive trees and glasshouses. On the right Cyravous, a hot lake with medicinal properties. Lunch was taken at 12.45 just outside of Olympia. I had sheep stew and potatoes, Selina and Rosemary had stuffed tomatoes. We then went onto Olympia. We left Olympia at 4.45 and drove to the hotel Iles.
These people here speak a Doric dialect. they are very cut off from the rest of Greece by high mountains. They grow cherry, apples, pears, vegetables and garlic. There used to be 120,000 people in the region at the beginning of the 20th C, but now only 45,000. Many people left because of the German bombing of the towns.
On this journey, the shrines at the side of the road were mentioned. They are placed there because of road accidents. In them are placed photos of the person killed, along with some of their belongings and often a bottle of water. Mourning in Greece is for three years. The women wear black when mourning. Back in the 1940’s many women vowed always to wear black. This must explain why there are so many old women dressed in black.
The capital is Tripoli. This was founded in the 13C. The name means three towns. Earlier three towns had been destroyed. The residents came to the area and founded the new town. Very few buildings survive from the middle ages. The Turks, and then the WW II destroyed them all.
Down on to Megalopoli. Five thousand people live here. The plain is not cultivated because of the pollution from the lignite-fired power stations. This plain looked very science fiction with the tall stacks from the power stations and the haze. At 10.20 we stopped at a roadside cafe and had a cup of coffee, Lipton Ice Tea and a Balaclava. After the stop, we continued on. We were told more about the area.
There are two types of olives grown in Greece. The Kalamata olive, and the ordinary olive. The Kalamata olive is a big brown olive. The ordinary olive is green when picked unripe, and black when picked ripe. The Kalamata grove has 700,000 trees and is the second-largest olive grove in Greece. The largest grove is near Delphi.
Harvest starts in November-December and goes on for 3 months. There are 110 Kilos per tree, and 4 kilo goes to make a litre of oil. The harvest has not changed in thousands of years. The trees are beaten to dislodge the olives and then caught in nets. Gipsies and foreign workers do most of the work. The refineries and canneries work three months a year. The Gypsies live in large camps throughout Greece. At this time of the year, the camps were empty because the harvest was in progress.
We visited the site of Olympia. The green landscape of Olympia is between the two rivers of Alpheios and Kladeos (In mid-summer is looked pretty brown to me). In ancient times, it was full of plane trees and wild olives. It was only natural that man should decide to build houses there at the beginning of the 2nd millennium B.C. The first settlers knew nothing of Zeus. Tradition has it that the earliest cult was that of Kronos. This god, the father of Zeus, was worshipped on the imposing hill that dominates the northern side of the sanctuary. It appears that the cult of Zeus dates from the decent of the western Greek tribes into the Peloponnes.
First, we took a visit around the museum and took a look at the pediments of the temple of Zeus. Reconstruction of the west side of the temple of Zeus.
We can fully appreciate the sculpture of the severe style (480-450 B.C.), when contemplating the Poseidon of Artemision, at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, or the Charioteer at the Museum of Delphi. Works of this class are landmarks of the age in which they were produced, and they enable us to comprehend certain aspects of the severe style, but they do not provide an overall picture of the spiritual foundations and artistic conquests of this style. Fortune, however, has saved, for our delight, the most impressive group of sculptures embodying the claims and achievements of the severe style in a supreme and unparalleled creation: the pediments and metopes of the temple of Zeus at Olympia.
On the east pediment, the composition draws its inspiration from the myth of the chariot race between Pelops and Oinomaos. We see all the characters of the drama just before the beginning of the race; the two teams, Oinomaos and Sterope on the one side, Pelops and Hippodameia on the other, and next to them, the chariots and charioteers. Between the two teams, the imposing figure of Zeus forms the axis of the pediment. The “severe harmony has never found a more appropriate aesthetic form: the vertical lines of the characters and the spears create a ponderous, hieratic atmosphere of tragedy in the centre of the composition, while on either side the chariots and the kneeling or reclining figures act as a frame, thus strikingly combining two elements that not only function differently, but antithetically; there is the same antithesis between the broad, clear surfaces of the central figures, which are conceived idealistically, as superhuman beings, and the realistic gestures and postures of the secondary figures.
The east pediment illustrates the myth of the chariot race between Oimomaos and Pelops. The artist has depicted the heroes a few moments before the start of the race. In the centre stood the majestic figure of Zeus; to his left and right were the two opposed couples: Oinomaos with his wife Sterope, and Pelops with Oinomaos daughter, Hippodameia. (Archaeologists disagree as to which couple is which). Next to these central figures are depicted the chariots and several auxiliary figures; at the two corners of the pediment, we see the personifications of the two rivers of Olympia, the Alpheios and the Kladeos.
The west pediment depicts a Centauromachy during which the Centaurs, invited to the wedding of Peirithoos, a Lapith hero, get drunk and try to abduct the bride, Deidameia, and the other women present. This composition differs totally from the one on the east pediment. The incomparable figure of Apollo in the centre is the only one to maintain the vertical majesty of divine quietude; on his left and right, we see Theseus and Peirithoos, and then groups of Lapith men and women grappling with Centaurs, in a rhythmical and impetuous alternating movement, literally caused by opposite tensions, as it fluctuates incessantly from the centre to the two ends and back again, like the ebb and flow of the sea. The scenes depicted here are unequivocally violent, and the antithesis between the smooth virginal beauty of the girls and the bestial deformity of the Centaurs remains unbridgeable.
The west pediment represents a Centauromachy. Apollo stands in the centre; to his left and right there are groups of Centaurs and Lapiths, engaged in a fierce fight over abducted women. The heroes, Theseus and Peirithoos, stand next to the god. The figures at the two ends of the pediment, of a later date, replaced the original ones, which had been destroyed by some unknown cause. C.460 B.C
The contrast between the pediments is quite obvious to the spectator. On the east pediment, everything has come to a standstill, as if with suspended breath; forces are poised in expectation of the tragic conflict. On the west pediment, the conflicting forces have come to grips and are now locked in deadly combat. And yet both pediments are but a supreme expression, in plastic terms, of the tragic element. The power of tragedy is equally perturbing in both; it is only the expression that differs, in its selection of a different phase in the drama.
Evening at hotel Iles
The hotel Iles was in the town. Arrived at 5.00 pm. Showered, then did some shopping. Rosemary bought a white dress. She was told to buy the blue dress as well but felt mean. In the morning, before the bus left, she rushed to the shop to buy the blue dress, but of course, the shop was closed.
Lots of gold and silver shops. Had to be careful passing these because you were in danger of being dragged inside.
Supper was spaghetti. The main course of lamb and salad, followed by ice cream. During the meal, Rosemary jumped to her feet and shouted at the waiter. The waiter had been flapping a serviette at a bat which was trying to escape. We were booked in for some dancing but somehow missed the bus. Instead, we drank a few ouzos.
Monday – Patras, the Gulf of Corinth and Delphi
On Monday we left at 9.00 am after breakfast of egg, cheese and meats. As usual, the superior class travellers were already on the bus.
We travelled along the coastal plain. It seemed very fertile with much corn and melons. We arrived at Patras, the fourth largest town in Greece. It has low unemployment of four per cent. This was because of the busy port with ferry sailings to Italy, and the Balkan wars.
Cathedral of St Andrew
We visited the cathedral of St Andrew. This cathedral had the relics of Saint Andrew (bits of his crucifixion cross) were on display. His cross was diagonal because he did not want to be crucified in the same way as his master. The relics had been in Rome for many years but were given to the Greeks after the two Roman and the Orthodox religions became more agreeable with each other.
The church was built in the 1960s. It was still being decorated on the inside. A big shame was the water damage that was already occurring to some of the decorations. Water was causing concrete cancer and damage to the paintings on the roof and walls.
There was much significance to the paintings and where they were located. This was so complicated that much of the detail has gone out of my head.
Patras Ferry Crossing
After the cathedral visit, we had a glass of very expensive peach juice (1000 Drax) and then went on through the town centre to the ferry port. Traffic was very slow through the town. At the port, we took a ferry across the Gulf of Corinth.
We crossed the Gulf of Corinth at Little Dardanellus from Rio to Antrio.
There were many ferries running this crossing. Several were embarking and disembarking at the same time. It was chaos. The ferries were not Roll On Roll Off, ferries. You had to leave the same way as you got on. Most cars and coaches reversed onto the ferry. Articulated lorries drove on and reversed off. This resulted in chaos on land as cars were swinging around in all directions. All the passengers in the car had to leave the car before it was loaded. They were loaded so tight together that it was impossible to leave the car once it was parked.
People were getting on at the same time as the cars were reversing on. I just wondered what the fatality rate was.
The journey just took 20 minutes to complete. This last picture shows us about to land. On the right and left are two other ferries loading.
After the ferry trip, we were back on the bus at 12.55 towards Nafpaktos. We stopped for lunch by the sea. Selina had meatballs and rice, Rosemary had Vine Leaves and a Greek Salad, while Steve had Fried Fish, Prawns, Kalamari and a Greek Salad. We had a gentle walk. Rosemary and Selina paddled in the sea. Then we travelled on to Delphi, through the largest olive grove in the world.
Delphi for the Night
At Delphi, we arrived at 4.15 after dropping off the superior travellers. Our hotel was again in town. First, we found a cash machine to get some money, then had some beers by the bus station. Good just watching all the students etc waiting for the bus. Dinner was in the hotel next door, where we ate on the terrace. Piano player adding some ambience, although Rosemary did not think he was very good.
The view from the hotel room was wonderful. You can see the olive grove below. The Gulf of Corinth. At night the view was very clear. You could watch the boats on the sea. Watch the cars climbing to remote villages on the other side of the valley.
The ships we could see moored in the sea were loading with bauxite. There was much bauxite mining in the area.
Delphi and onto Meteora
Up and out at 9.00 am to visit the Sanctuary of Apollo. Three hours viewing the temple and museum.
Sanctuary of Apollo
According to ancient tradition, Parnassos, the eponymous hero of Mount Pamassos, discovered the art of reading auguries in the flight of birds: Delphos, the hero of the city Delphi, was the first to teach entrail-reading. and Amphiktyon, the hero of the Amphiktyony introduced oneiromancy (dream-interpretation). We also know that there existed in the Delphic sanctuary a body priests named Pyrkooi, who could read auguries in the flames of sacrificial pyres. The Delphic myths mention the existence of nymphs known as Thriai – in ancient Greek this word denotes the pebbles used in divination: one can therefore assume that these nymphs were simply the personification of divination by lot. The Delphic myths provide clear enough evidence that every known method of divination was practised at Delphi. But Delphi owed its fame to the oracles delivered by the Pythia, who received direct inspiration from Apollo and spoke in his name; in other words, the god of divination himself delivered the oracle, using the Pythia as a medium.
The Pythia was a woman over 50 years old. She was not necessarily a virgin, but from the moment she undertook this highest of duties – serving the god – she was under the obligation to abandon her husband and children, to move into a house destined for her alone, within the sacred precinct, to be chaste and irreproachable, and to observe certain religious rules. In spite of her age, she wore the garments of a young girl, as a mark of the virginal purity of her life. We do not know how the Pythia was selected; but it is quite certain that she did not have to belong to a noble family, like the priests and priestesses who served at other Greek sanctuaries; nor did she have to go through special training or education. She was a simple, ordinary peasant-woman, without any distinguishing mark until the moment Apollo allowed his inspiration to descend upon her. In the beginning, there was only one Pythia; but when the requirements of the oracle grew more numerous, two more Pythias were added.
Until the Classical period, nobody had ever thought of questioning the Pythia’s sudden transformation and the fact that Phoibos spoke through her. All that has been written about the natural vapours emanating from the chasm in the sanctuary, or about the laurel leaves the Pythia munched and the water she drank is but an attempt to find answers to the mystery, at a time when the faithful began to lose their faith, thinking they could explain the divine miracle with the cold instrument of reason and encompass the supernatural within a recognizable human, measure. However, the ancient Greeks were certain of one thing alone: the importance of Apollo’s sacred tripod, in other words, his throne, which had once been equipped with wings and carried him across land and sea. Why had Apollo chosen such an unusual throne, nobody knew and nobody dared ask; nor have any modern scholars provided a certain answer to that question. It was upon this throne that the Pythia sat in order to become the god’s instrument. It was enough for her to take Apollo’s place, to shed her ordinary identity, fall into a trance and deliver the divine messages in a series of mysterious, inarticulate cries. But before the Pythia took her seat upon the tripod, it was necessary to find out whether the god consented to her practising divination. A goat was therefore brought to sacrifice; but before sacrificing it, the animal was sprinkled with cold water: if it shivered from head to foot, it meant the god consented; if it did not, then the Pythia could not sit on the oracular tripod.
In early antiquity, before the 6th century B.C., divination took place only once a year, on the seventh day of the month Bysios (February-March), on Apollo’s birthday. Later on, it took place every month, again on the seventh day of the month, except for the three winter months, because during that time the god left the Delphic sanctuary in order to travel far away to the land of the Ityperboreans, conceding his place to Dionysos, who was worshipped next to Apollo in his own temple. On the sacred day appointed for divination, the Pythia was the first to visit at dawn the Kastalian Spring to cleanse herself. Then she burnt laurel leaves on the sacred hearth and immersed herself in smoke. Meanwhile, the priests prepared the sacrificial goat; if the god gave his consent, the animal was sacrificed on the great altar, a dedication of the Chians in front of the temple, and thus all the pilgrims knew an oracle would be delivered that day at Delphi. In the meantime, the Prophetai and the Hosioi (priests of both Apollo and Dionysos) and certain delegates from the township of Delphi also cleansed themselves in the sacred waters of Kastalia. Finally, all the pilgrims who wished to consult the oracle similarly purified themselves at the spring.
When everyone was ready, they advanced in a festive procession towards the temple, filled with awe and anticipation. Delegates from the cities (theopropoi) and private individuals stood outside the temple and offered the pelanos at the altar a kind of consecrated bread sold on the spot at a high price, the pilgrims’ first contribution to the sanctuary. Then they each advanced in turn towards the temple and placed a slaughtered animal as an offering upon the inner altar, where the undying flame burned. It was considered a great privilege to be the first to receive an oracle; this was known as ‘promanteia’. The priority was always retained by the people of Delphi for their own city, but second place was offered as the highest sign of honour to cities and individuals who had proved worthy of it.
The Pythia was already seated on the tripod in the adyton or inner shrine. The Prophetoi stood nearby, and the pilgrim (it could only be a man) sat in a corner at some distance from her, having already posed his question to one of the Prophetai, either in writing or orally. The Pythia, hidden by some kind of partition, was not visible to anyone. The Prophetes put the question to her and she would give the god’s response, deep in her trance. This was apparently unintelligible to others, but the Prophetes was able to comprehend it and write it down in hexameter verse: it was this written reply that was handed over to the pilgrim. The equivocal replies of the Delphic oracle have become famous in history; they were so obscure, so incomprehensible that additional divinatory gifts were required to interpret them correctly and avoid unfortunate mistakes. The case of Croesus is a good example: in answer to his question, the god said that if he waged war on the Persians, he would destroy a great power; he never suspected that Loxias (a surname of Apollo, meaning the Oblique One, because of the ambiguous replies he was giving;) meant to convey that he would destroy his own kingdom if he fought the Persians.
Those nine days of the year when the Pythia spoke with the voice of the god must have had a tremendous impact on the pilgrims fortunate enough to be present in the Delphic sanctuary. Only a very small percentage of those who wished to consult the divine oracle had the privilege of receiving an answer within those nine days in the year when divination was performed. For this reason, since the Archaic age, most of the pilgrims’ questions were answered in a different manner: by drawing lots. This kind of divination took place every day of the year, not in the adyton, but in public view; it was the most common method of divination as regards simple and concrete questions, that is to say, questions that could be answered by a simple affirmative or negative. But when we refer to the Pythia and the celebrated oracles delivered at Delphi, we have in mind those great days, when the god himself let his voice be heard through the mouth of the entranced prophetess.
This is the Sacred Way, leading to the sanctuary. All around the way, to the left and right were elegant edifices, porticoes, official buildings. Scattered in a disorderly pattern over the uneven mountain slope, huddling as best they could. Some of them in a privileged position right by the road side, others crowding behind, half hidden, but all of them without exception fashioned with absolute faith in the master of the sanctuary.
Treasury of Athenians
At this point, the Sacred Way describes a curve and ascends obliquely upwards. Immediately after the curve, on the left, is the Treasury of the Athenians. This is a Doric building, the material of which has largely survived so that archaeologists were able to restore it entirely supplying only very few additions. (The restoration was made on a grant from the Municipality of Athens, before the Second World War). The pediments and metopes were all decorated with reliefs preserved in sufficiently good condition to permit us to appreciate the Attic sculpture of the Late Archaic period. Its precise dating has not been established. Some archaeologists believe that the treasury was built after the battle at Marathon, while others support that it was dedicated by the new Athenian democracy (about 505 – 500 B.C.). The walls of the treasury are covered with inscriptions of later date (3rd century B.C. and later), mostly honorific decrees of Athenians. However, among these inscriptions are two of the most important texts of antiquity: two hymns to Apollo, with the musical notation accompanying the text.
The fine polygonal wall was built after the fire of 548 B.C. in order to retain the terrace on which the temple stood. The columns belong to the stoa of Athenians after 478 B.C. to shelter spoils of war dedicated to the god after victories at sea.
The wall is very strong and has withstood many earth quakes which most of the site were damaged by.
Temple of Apollo
Various views of the Temple of Apollo. The Tour guide in the foreground.
The well preserved theatre of Delphi, built of Parnassian limestone, stands at the north west corner of the sacred precinct. Its position, high up on the slope, affords a unique view of the Delphic landscape.
The Roman Stadium which is high above the temple of Apollo. This appears still to be used in the evenings for concerts.
Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia
Then a quick stop at the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia. The sanctuary of Athena Pronaia (Marmaria) includes one of the masterpieces of ancient Greek architecture; the Tholos. It is a circular building of the Doric order with well-balanced proportions and finely wrought details. The edifice was of special importance, but its function has remained unknown to this day. 380 B.C.
We had a lunch of Greek Salad and water. Selina had a lunch of rice and vegetables. It was a bit hotter today. After lunch, there was a change around on the bus. We lost the Australians and gained some new people for the trip to Meteora.
We left at 2.15, down the hill, through the olive grove towards Aphisah, the market town at the head of the olive grove. Stopped at 3.45 at a roadside cafe. I had coffee and a cake, R&S had a noughat thing, water etc. This caff was just before a town in a fertile plain, the sea was close on the East. The caff was bedlam, with lots of trays of weird food lying around, and seemingly nowhere to pay.
We then started off in the next range of hills, passed a gipsy camp. This was deserted because of the peach harvest. Then we were on the plain of Thessaly. This was surrounded by mountains all around. The plain was huge, all irrigated. The crops were mainly tobacco and cotton.
We eventually arrived under Meteora in the town of Kalambaka. Supper was at 8.00. This was two unknown, but tasty savoury cheese things, pork for the main course, then ouzo on the balcony. The hotel had a pool. We did not use it.
Wednesday – Meteora
Up we all got, found Selina in her room the other side of the hotel, and had breakfast. My notes do not tell me what this was. The town was at the base of the rocks. The town had many hotels catering for the visitors to Meteora. The rock in front of us had a Monastery and illuminated cross on the top. The cross was very bright at night. Today there were large birds circling in the thermals around the cliff face.
As we left the village, going up the road to the rocks, we could see caves in the cliff walls. These caves were used by the ancient Greeks to shelter their flocks.
The monasteries were built on the top of the cliffs in the 14C to give them protection from the marauding Slavs. Once there were twelve thousand, nuns and hermits living here. By the 17C the number of monasteries had decreased to 5 because of taxes and earthquakes. Now there are five to eighteen monks or nuns living in each monastery.
The first stop was on the road leading by the Monastery of Saint Nicolas. Here U have taken pictures of all the rocks in view.
Saint Barbara Roussanou
The Monastery of Saint Barabara Roussanou. We did not visit it, just looked at it from the road. This Monastery was run by Nuns. There was one gardening by the steps when we arrived. A rude member of the coach party went to stand by her to be photographed.
One thousand four hundred feet up from the plain, and One hundred and thirty steps to the entrance. You can visit the principal church, but no pictures are allowed. You must also be dressed in long sleeves and no shorts.
James Bond Monastery
This was the Monastery where the James Bond film was taken. Oh and there is the picture of me standing by the road.
Back to Athens
After this we left, and stopped at an icon shop and bought some worry beads, then it was lunch where I had some Retzina. Rosemary and I had BBQ pork lumps of meat, Selina had Mousaka. Very yummy. Back on the bus at 1.05 for the long trip back to Athens. A quick stop for coffee at 3.15 and back at the hotel Palace in Glyfidia for 7.20.
Had a swim in the sea, then supper in the hotel at 8.45. Beefburger for Steve, chicken for Rosemary with liver and rice and salad. Selina just had Salad. Very slow service decided we would not eat there the next evening.
Thursday – Athens
This was the last day we were all together. We took a taxi back to Athens at 7.05. In plenty of time to see the Agora before it was hot. Arrived at 7.45. Went to a restaurant for coffee because the Agora did not open until 8.30. There was a dog, who was fed by the restaurant, that followed us around all the Agora until he was chased off by a tourist officer. We saw the Temple of Hephaestos.
We did not visit the Acropolis, it was getting to 40C. Instead, we walked through the Plaka, bought some BBQ skewers, olive oil soap, and then walked to the Museum of Archaeology. We spend two hours looking through the exhibits. They were fantastic. Saw the American in the museum. We mutually ignored each other. Walked out for lunch, had a beer and a closed Pizza in a non-English speaking bar. Bought a beer for the stranger who had helped us order the food.
Back to the museum at 4.00 to catch a taxi back to Glyfyda. Had a drink and a swim, then to the Taverna with no customers.
Friday – Off Paragliding
It was the end of the first part of the holiday. Rosemary and Selina flew back to England; I stayed on and went paragliding. I left the Hotel Palace at Glyfyda at 7.10 by taxi for the railway station. There was a big queue for the tickets. Bought a return ticket, and caught the train at 8.24 and arrived in Platamonas at 14.10. Almost six hours on the train. The first part of the trip I did not have a seat; there was some double booking of the seats. No one spoke any English on the train, but they let me know when we arrived at Platamonas. Olympic Wings were waiting for me at the station. I appear to be the only one staying, although there are some Germans arriving on Wednesday.
The three I met were Stelios, Claudio and Nicos. I had a talk with them, and they were going to start me gently at 9.00 on Saturday with some non-Thermal flights.
The school has its own accommodation, which was basic and clean. The balcony I had overlooks the castle and sea. We could land down on the beach, (if we were good flyers). I was shown the local square and the way down to the sea. The Sea was about 20 minutes walk, through some campsites. At around 18.00 I went for a swim. To get to the sea means crossing a rather busy main road. Just before I reached the road, there was a tremendous crashing and scraping noise. A lorry had not made the corner and had toppled over losing its load. It took the whole of the next day to clear up.
Back at 7.30 from the swim, had Lamb and Greek Salad for supper. Spoke to Rosemary who had just got back from Greece. Held up on the M25!
Saturday – Flying at Old Panteleimonas
No clouds. Hazy sky and not much wind down at the chalet.
Down for breakfast at 8.00, and off to fly at 8.45. We went to fly at Old Pantelemonas.
Here you can fly down over a deserted village, (Old Panteleimonas) and land down on a bottom landing field, or you can go on and fly down to the beach. Flying down to the beach, you have to be careful of the main road and the high power wires. Soon it will also be the new railway line that is being constructed.
I had three flights down to the bottom landing field. These were alpine takeoffs because of the low wind speed. The air was smooth to for the first flight, but getting a little bumpier by the third flight. The vertical drop was 1,627 feet. Each flight lasted around 6 minutes. I did several 360s and used the speed bar.
No more flights for the day, as it was considered too thermic.
For supper I had roasted Feta cheese, and souvlaki, couple of beers and ouzo.
Sunday – No Flying, the Beach
Today the wind seemed to blowing a bit stronger, and from the North. We got to the launch site (Old Panteleimonus) at about 10ish. It was a bit to windy. (I thought it was launchable, but not sure if the bottom landing field was reachable). Spent the rest of the day down at the beach, until 5. Had one flight. Flew through a thermal, missed turning in it. Claudia kept telling me to turn, and I kept not hearing her. The lift was over the old village. The rest of the flight was in sinking air. A few 360 turns over the landing field to lose height. Good landing, but a little further up the field.
Supper at 9.00, Greek salad with stuffed green peppers.
Monday – No Flying, excavations
Today started cloudy and windy. The sea was covered with white horses. I will have to hope the wind dies down for an afternoon or evening flight.
Today I first walked to the castle. This is presently being excavated and renovated with money from the EU. The castle seemed to have many small houses inside its walls, each of which was being excavated. There were good views from the seaward wall. Then from the castle, back to the Neos Panteleimonas, where I was staying.
After walking around the castle, I walked into Platmonas, changed some money into Drax and had some sardines for lunch. Platamonas is larger that Neo Pantelemonas, but has mainly seaside type tourist shops. Harbour with some boats.Walked back to the flat, read a bit, then down to the sea for a swim.
Stelios told me about the excavations down by the railway line. He had an uncle who was working on the site. The construction pf the new railway line (funded by the EU) was stopped while they excavated an ancient cave city. Apparently many skelatons had been excavated.
I was told that this was not the first delay on the new railway line. The otherside of the tunnel, which I had walked past on the way to Platamonas, had also been excavated.
I had supper in the village at 9.30. This time I chose a different restaurant. There were several different ones in the square. At this one a had a mixed starter of Tzajiki, Aubergine, taramasalata and chickpeas. For the main course I had veal stew.
During the night there was a very large thunderstorm. It woke me with quite a start. One strike was so close, I could barely distinguish between the lightning and thunder. Interesting because a quarter of a second before the lighting strike, I could hear a tearing sound.
Tuesday – One small flight and the beach
Yet again it was a bit in the windy side. There were clouds all around Mount Olympus. I went swimming and sun bathing until 3.00. It was finally decided that I could have a flight. We went over to Old Panteleimonas. I flew out and attempted a 360 in a thermal. I think I left the turn a bit on the late side. After that, the rest of the flight was in sinking air. At one stage I reached 8 (00 ft/min) down. The air was really sinking fast.
Initially after take off, I had to use the speed bar to get away from the hill, flew through lift and tried to turn into it. As I went through the sinking air, I tried weight shift only for turning. The approach for landing this time did not require any 360 turns because I had lost so much altitude through the sinking air.
Wednesday- Another No Fly Day
Today we drove to a site higher up. The drive was fabulous through pine tree forests.
We reached an area, which was totally flat but surrounded on all side by hills. This site could be used for dynamic lift as well as a site to launch into thermals.
There were several launch sites, one of which could be used in a westerly wind. This site was the ideal site for going over the back and flying over the flat lands towards Meteora.
This area supported several different wind conditions and was a good area for X country training where you could get a 20-kilometre circuit in.
Not to be, the wind was too strong, so back to Old Panteleimonas. Asterios launched, he had lots of sink, found a thermal and made the beach. He said I must not fly because there was too much rotor. This was being caused by the sea wind going up the hill, mixing with the higher wind going down the hill.
In the evening I went swimming, saw some hang glider pilots who were badly damaged from accidents they were having in the Nationals. Got quite cold on the beach when the sun started to set, the wind was quite strong off the sea.
Today I saw my first English tourist
Finally I had supper, which was Greek Salad and Souvlaki.
Thursday – No Fly
Today we went out with the new German arrivals, but eventually, we spent all day at the. The wind was too strong, and there was too much rotor on the Old Panteleimonas site.
In the afternoon we went higher up, but the wind was too strong. (In the Welsh hills we would have flown).
Supper at 10, had roast Feta cheese again and garlic fish.
Friday – A flying Day
Today we started by going higher up the mountain. The first site we tried, the wind was blowing away from the site. We tried the second site, and again the wind was blowing a totally different direction, away from the slope.
Back to Old Panteleimonas where I had a top to bottom flight. I had lift over the village, did a couple of 360 turns trying to pick up the lift.
I then headed away from the hill, and tried a big ears exercise. This was a disaster, the glider veered right when I pulled in the right ear, this corrected a little as I pulled in the left ear, after this the glider remained very unstable. My left was a normal big ear, but the right was hardly tucked in at all. The glider also stopped (para-chutal stall?), and I was dropping at 11 down. On release the glider recovered with a dive forward. I had lost a lot of height; the rest of the flight was uneventful. On analysis I think I must have pulled in the incorrect lines on the right hand side of the glider.
The Germans flew after me. These are they as they come into land.
I had no chance for another flight because the wind was again in rotor with the air coming over from the top of the mountain again.
Tried again at 6.00 but no luck.
For supper I had stuffed tomatoes.
Saturday – Going Back Home
Today was the last day, had breakfast at 8.30. Then over to the station at 9.00 to book a seat on the train which left at 9.30. Arrived in Athens after 6 hours, taxi to the airport, then flight back to England.
It was a great holiday, I just wish I got in a little more flying. Oh well I must go there next year