Sunday, August 31

Paula: A trip to the ancient ruins in Delphi was the agenda for today. We decided to join a group tour since the site is about 3 hours from Athens and high in the mountains. Before our bus left, we walked to the Greek Parliament building which was right across the street. We had read that the guards wear very unique uniforms, and that the changing of the guard is fun to watch. We only had about 10 minutes, but lucked into seeing the guard change - it was quite a show! It's hard not to snicker (quietly, of course - those guys carry big guns…) about their uniforms, especially the pom-poms on their shoes. The changing of the guard included a whole set of marches and maneuvers, including some where their legs were raised high, almost like dancers. We stayed a little too long (Steve took several movies), and had to run back to make sure our bus didn't leave without us…

The drive to Delphi was beautiful. We drove through the plains northwest of Athens where the principal crop was cotton, and then into the mountains. The mountains appeared rocky, dry and sparsely covered with scrubby bushes. There were only a few small towns visible from the highway. We stopped after about two hours at a small café for drinks and quickly adopted the local cat. We have seen many street cats here in Greece, some cared for, but many not. To our delight, this café had a small blue-eyed Siamese kitten that was eager to play. The 20 minutes we spent in the café were fun as this little kitten romped and played with anything we offered. The kids named him Apollo, the rascal-appropriate as we were headed toward the oracle established by the Greek God Apollo

We arrived at the site at noon and the temperature was as hot as any of us has ever experienced. We heard that it was 42 degrees Celsius (which is almost 110 degrees Fahrenheit). Despite the heat, the site was absolutely fascinating. We had been told that the ruins in Delphi are in the most spectacular setting in Greece, and we were not disappointed. The ruins from the oracle are set in the side of Mt. Parnassses. The ruins are on a steep slope surrounded by mountains, with a huge gorge below. This setting made the experience quite different from the Acropolis, which sits in the heart of modern Athens. The ruins of Delphi consist of an ancient agora (marketplace), a sacred road leading to the temple, a treasury, a theater and a stadium. The Temple of Apollo is very impressive, particularly with its view out to the surrounding mountains.

People from all over the ancient world made pilgrimages to this oracle to seek advice from the priests and priestess who were supposedly spokesmen for the God Apollo. The oracle was especially popular during the 5th century B.C. It was very interesting to learn about the oracle's practices, and it was used by leaders from the ancient world as well as by citizens. The nswers that people received from the oracle were always ambiguous - it was up to the person asking the question to interpret what was meant by the answer that they received. No one knows exactly how the oracle functioned, because not much was written - there are many ideas about what really occurred within the Temple of Apollo where the oracle operated, but it's mostly conjecture. It is interesting to think about how the individual priests and prophetesses had political influence over Greek society - they were clearly able to influence major decisions of the time. For example, the oracle at Delphi was consulted regarding the strategy for fighting the great Persian invasion led by Xerxes. The strategy that was chosen led to the evacuation of Athens and the eventual victory at the Battle of Salamis, both major events in Greek history.

We were one of the only people from our group who climbed to the top of the site to see the ancient stadium. This is where various sporting events were held, and is one of the best preserved stadiums in all of Greece. The rows of seats on one side of the stadium are all still in great shape, and it was fun to imagine what it was like when events were held here. The views are great!

After we returned from our pilgrimage to Delphi, we completed the day by calling our nephew (and cousin), Andrew, to wish him a happy 7th birthday. Andrew was celebrating his birthday on Cape Cod, and ours was the only call he received from Greece!

Tomorrow we plan to spend more time in Athens, seeing some of the ancient ruins and visiting museums. Unfortunately, the National Archaeological Museum is totally closed for renovations in preparation for next year's Olympics. However, there are several other museums that house Greek treasures from various periods, and another that displays over 400,000 coins. We're disappointed that the main museum is closed, but hope to enjoy these smaller collections instead.

Distance Walked: 2.49 miles











Katie's Komments The topic for today is…Impressions of the Acropolis

The air was heavy and thick as we walked down the narrow streets. I struggled through the heat like I had just ran the marathon and I coughed in the mess of hot air and polluted haze. The morning journey seemed endless as we made our way to the famous city on a hill. This ancient city is known as the Acropolis. I had known very little about this city except that it had some ancient Greek ruins-the most famous ones in the entire western hemisphere. I didn't want to know any more-it would spoil the surprise. We finally made our way out of the crammed buildings and into an opening. The Acropolis was right in front of us. I gazed up at it in wonder. I felt as if I were looking through a passage back into time. We were going to a city-a 2,400 year old city.

We walked over to the hill and made our way up the rocky path. I felt like I was an ancient Athenian making my way up to my empire's well defended city. When we got to the top we immediately understood why this was a very important landmark for the Athenians. It towered over the entire city clearly representing the Athenian empire's power and strength. We knew this without even taking a glance at the temples and other monuments on the hill. After gazing out at the city I finally moved my glance over to the entrance of the Acropolis. The marble steps guided my eyes to the passageway. On either side of the stairs were magnificent marble columns. They were a remarkable white color and decorated on the top and bottom by crown like structures. The crowns were designed artistically with various curved shapes. When we entered the sunlit courtyard of temples I felt overwhelmed with activity. Around me were ancient Greek temples with mysterious features we still cannot achieve in architecture today. Each one of these monuments held secrets that archaeologists are still trying to reveal. The entire area felt very mysterious and in a way magical. It was a cloudless day and not a single gust of wind was there to cause movement in the hazy air.

We then walked over to the right side where the mighty Parthenon stood. The columns completely took my breath away. They were exactly how I imagined Greek ruins but ten times bigger. As I gazed up at the enormous temple I could almost picture the Greek Aristocrats making there way to the beautiful statue of Athena. I imagined the enormous doors opening and shedding light onto the floor. This light formed a pathway to the enormous golden statue of Athena. For the Athenians this light was leading them in a way to love and wisdom. I was disappointed that we would not get to experience this effect, but accepted it in return for the overall beauty and magnificence of the structure. I stared upward at the triangular surface above the columns and made out some vague carvings engraved in the stone. All of this beauty stuck straight out at me and I barely noticed the reconstruction that was taking place behind the columns. We overheard one of the tour guides talking about the ingenious illusions that the Greek architects created to trick the eye when looking at the Parthenon. Archaeologists believe that the Greeks constructed the foundation so that it was slightly concave and the columns slightly convex to make them both look straight even from a distance; amazing!

After exploring all sides of the Parthenon we visited the Acropolis Museum to take a break from the heat. I found it very interesting to see all of the ancient statues they found from excavations in the Acropolis. We took our last breath of the air conditioning and returned to the heat. As we walked over to another temple I realized why this seemed so different to me. This place did not have lots of built in paths and information signs for tourist purposes…it was very similar to how it used to be in ancient times. All around me were random marble ruins; some were pieces of columns, some were ancient carvings and writings. They were all unlabeled making me feel like an archaeologist. All of the stone ruins surrounding us were puzzle pieces that archaeologists are still trying to put together into a better understanding of the architecture during this period of time. I felt like I was in the middle of the desert looking for ancient Greek artifacts.

We continued to look at the temples that comprised in the Acropolis discovering new facts and understandings of their history from each one we saw. They were all amazing but the one that stuck out the most for me was the Erechtheion temple. The small well preserved temple was supported by six women statues taking the place of columns. I was amazed with how well preserved they were, still showing great beauty and complexity. I looked around me and tried to permanently store in my memory the feeling of looking around and seeing all of these ancient temples holding secrets of the past. I pictured in my mind looking over the edge of the rocky hill and seeing all of Athens and its surrounding mountains. I felt adventurous. I was looking at ancient Greek ruins at the Acropolis in Athens. It was hot and I was surrounded by mystery, magic and rich history. We finally walked out of the Acropolis where we had started, and onto the rocky path. We walked out of the doorway with a greater understanding of history than we had walking into the doorway. It was a great feeling.

When we reached the bottom we drank a well deserved lemon slush and then made a quick visit to the theater of Dionysos. Here many drama performances for the Athenians took place. It was interesting to see some of the seats that important governmental people sat in to watch the productions. After this we took our last look at the Acropolis and returned to our air conditioned hotel. I looked out our window and saw the Acropolis with a greater appreciation for the ancient Athenians and their influences on our world today.












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