After spending many wonderful days in Athens we figured we should see what else we could learn about Grecian history while still staying on the peninsula (the islands would come later!) Our first day trip was to Delphi, another ‘acropolis’ dedicated to honor Apollo, the god of music, civilization, and light. This was a very interesting archeological site about two and a half hours outside of Athens and luckily our tour guide was super informative and was giving us tidbits of knowledge all along the ride. When we arrived in Delphi we were surrounded by such a beautiful setting: green trees, high mountains, and to top it off, more Greek ruins! We were ready to learn all about it!
Our guide discussed a couple of different reasons that made this site very popular. First was the Delphic oracle, the most important prophet in the classical Greek world. People would come from near and far, nobility and townsfolk alike, to hear the prophecies of the Delphic oracle and what she would tell them about their future. As the story goes, the Delphic oracle known as Pythia, was usually quite ‘high’ on vapors rising up from a break in the rocks and this is how she ‘connected with the divine’. Luckily, or not so luckily, the priests claimed that they could interpret her babbling and shared their own ideas with the people. Our guide told us that they were very well known for giving responses or prophecies that ‘didn’t really tell the people anything’, inconclusive answers that would always seem to ‘come true’ in the end…hmmm.
Second, Delphi was also the site of the Pythian Games, starting in 586BC, which were a kind of precursor to the later modern Olympics. As it was quite a warm day, our guide gave us the choice if we wanted to climb up to the top to see the stadium where the games were performed. Of course we trekked up to the top, ‘shade hopping’ from under one tree to another. We walked up past the remains of the Temple of Apollo, past the theatre, and up to the ‘mountain-top stadium’. From there we had great views of all of Delphi and we could see all that it once was in its ‘glory days’.
Later, the group met at the bottom of the site where we all entered the museum together. Nicely enough, the museum is right on the same site so we could just walk right in and see all of the artifacts we had just learned so much about! Inside there were some very interesting Sphinx statues as well as some more of those Caryatids statues that we liked so much. Although these were not in quite as good of shape and some were displayed in pieces.
The most famous thing that was found at this site was a life-size, bronze statue called ‘The Charioteer of Delphi’. (Whole bronze statues are hard to find because of the value of bronze, many scavengers went into the ruins sites and melted down the bronze to sell or to make other things like armor.) Luckily this statue had been buried underneath a rock-fall and was found in its entirety in the year 1896, yet the cast of the sculpture was made in the year 478BC. So it was found more than 2,300 years later in this good of condition!
After the museum we had a nice lunch with the group. More Greek salads with feta, chicken souvlaki, pita bread, and tzatziki sauce, yes please!! ¡Ne parakalo! Delicious!! To finish off our trip, we had a nice siesta as we headed back into Athens on the bus! Once again, another great day filled with so much history!
Cape Sounion – Temple of Poseidon
The following afternoon we were off again on another trip, not quite so far this time, to Cape Sounion, about 80km south of Athens. This time, during the entire trip we traveled along the Aegean Sea, which made it a beautiful drive out to see the Temple of Poseidon. Poseidon, the god of the sea, is usually portrayed with holding his trident and this temple is so uniquely placed to honor him. Perfectly enough, the temple is surrounded on three side by the Aegean sea, which makes for wonderful views as you look onto the majestic columns still boldly standing on the top of the cape.
During this trip our guide shared a very interesting fact with us. She said that the three temples, that of Athena (on the Acropolis), Poseidon (on Cape Sounion), and Aphaia (on the island of Aegina) are perfectly distanced to make a perfect equilateral triangle. Ok, how did they know how to do that?! I’m not sure we could even figure that out today…Wow! And Jorge, already having been to the Temple of Aphaia on another trip to Greece, found out at that moment, that he had just completed the triangle!! So fascinating to find out when you’re standing out looking over the majestic temple with the beautiful sea in the background as the sun begins to set. A perfect way to end our time in Athens! Now…to the islands!! :)