If you didn’t start reading on Day 1, you might want to start from the beginning …
We loaded up the car (which was squeezed against the side of the building, half on the sidewalk and half on the street) and then walked to the archeological site. I had heard there were lots of cats in this area but I didn’t remember until I saw cats…everywhere. As we walked up to the gate several kittens ran up to Mikayla and, of course, she couldn’t not spend a few minutes playing with them.
The ancient site (from about 2,500 years ago) honored the God Apollo, son of Zeus. Apollo had the job of carrying the sun in his chariot across the sky each day. He was the god of prophecy, truth, healing, and the arts. In the picture is the theater and, below it, the remains of the Temple of Apollo where ancient pilgrims conferred with the Oracle. The other ruins are what is left of the Forum (where you might have found a trouble maker by the name of Socrates) and several monuments.
Here Mikayla is preparing at the entrance to the Temple for her chance at enlightenment. Inside, the Oracle was a prophetess who was sought by many leaders of the ancient world for direction and insight. Those seeking answers would bring an offering and tell the priests their question. The priests would then relay the message to the Oracle who would mumble incoherently (or sometimes scream and even foam at the mouth) and the Priests would then interpret her words for the knowledge seeker.
Socrates was inspired by the words “Know Thyself” (which became his motto) that were carved on the walls of the temple. Mikayla and I had talked in preparing for our trip and made this our theme. We each took a question to the Oracle and spent time in the morning pondering and thinking about our questions and our search to know ourselves.
It was humbling to walk through this ancient sacred site. High in the mountains, the serenity and amazing view made it easy for me to feel quite moved by the importance of this area to the ancient world and its impact on who we are today. To think that I walked on the same ground as Socrates as he asked himself questions that gave birth to Greek Philosophy was just plain awesome. Mikayla sang a song in the theater (which I’m sure made Apollo smile). We stood at the ancient center of the universe (the dome in the picture) where the two eagles met that Zeus released from each side of the universe. And we offered a flower to the Oracle in hopes of having each of our questions answered.
In addition to the ruins, there is a museum that holds some of the items that adorned the site. But 2,000 years has taken its toll. Between thieves and natural disasters, there isn’t a lot left. Only a few pieces remain of the life sized brass chariot but it is more than we have of the legendary massive golden statue of Apollo. Most of the adventure comes from just imagining what it must have been like when this area was at its prime 2500 years ago.
Our drive from Delphi to Meteora took several hours. The roads twisted and curved…and traffic moved fast. My tires didn’t squeal too often, but hard shifting and stomping the accelerator did cause a few sounds that I recognized from the Xbox. I found myself using my GPS more as a Co-Driver than a navigator. It was like playing Rally Racer. The GPS would show me the upcoming turns and gave me an idea of how fast I could hit them. I could almost hear the computer voice in the back ground (hard right, then easy left…) Mikayla tried to sleep in the back once but got tired of being thrown from side to side and front to back so she gave up.
We were both disappointed with our Hotel, it was nice but not quite what Expedia had led us to expect (although the view off our balcony was excellent). We got there early enough (thanks to my driving) to explore the monasteries a day early (which was good because it would let us leave early in the morning for the Island of Corfu). The little town of Kastraki is located in the shadow of the mountains and within easy reach of the monasteries. The cliffs are quite unique, almost like smooth giant rocks that were purposely placed by a giant making a little village. They seem so out of place, so unusual in their appearance. As we approached from twenty miles away I kept saying, where are the mountains? Then, suddenly, there they were. I had to sit and just looking at them for a bit, these strange peaks poking out of the ground. But most people come here for what has been built into the tops of the cliffs.
Originally there were 20 monasteries (built around 1400 AD) but now only six remain. It is quite breathtaking to see these buildings hugging the tips of the mountains with winding stairways carved into the mountainside. Originally there were no stairways (for protection against the Turkish invaders). They were very difficult to visit and supplies were lifted by cables. We visited several of them. For 2 Euros you can take a quick tour, see the chapels and gardens and walk up the stone stairways. They have varying hours and most were closed, but after seeing a couple of them we both felt like we’d seen enough and didn’t need to return for more the next day.
It was interesting and visually stunning but didn’t have the same spiritual draw that Delphi had for me (which is ironic since they are religious sanctuaries). Perhaps part of the reason was that the nuns and monks there seemed to be quite a grumpy lot whereas the other Greek people were super friendly and helpful. Maybe they just despise all the tourists coming through but at the same time, can’t say no to the inflow of Euros. Perhaps too it is because my primary fascination is not in the Greek Orthodox church but in the ancient mythology and history.
We did a fair amount of hiking, aweing, and exploring before heading back to town to find some dinner. We took a nice walk through the quiet little village and then Mikayla enjoyed the first of many authentic Greek salads (her new favorite meal). It is interesting, they come with a large square piece of feta rather than crumbled like we have had back in the US.
Continue to Day 3…