31 PICTURE ALBUM
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
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
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
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
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.