Aegean Adventure in Greece, Part 3

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The following travel post(s) this week are written by Dawn Stuart Weinraub, an avid traveler and wonderful storyteller. This past October she took a trip to Greece to enjoy their food, dance, art and history of ancient civilizations amidst stern austerity measures. Her travelogue provides a mix of observation, opinion and historical perspective.

Dawn's Greece Adventure

Thursday, October 11, 2012
Delphi continued…

6:30 wake up call (Lois’ alarm) in dark, maybe a little early for our needs. Breakfast at 7:30, bus at 9:00 for short ride to the historic site of Delphi, Maria had each of us wired to a battery powered “Whisperer” so she could speak softly and be heard as we made our way up to the Sacred Way, stopping to rest on ancient, ancient rocks for her to give us background information. At each higher level the view became more spectacular. It was not a stretch to feel this as a sacred spot.

Delphi temple of Apollo 1

Long years ago it was sacred to Gaia, until Apollo prevailed over the python, or dragon, ending the matriarchal cult and beginning his own, which lasted over a thousand years. While some of the group ended the tour just below the ruins of the temple, a few of us continued on, and a still smaller handful went all the way up, past the lovely theater for music and theatrical competitions to the stadium constructed by the Romans for sports competitions. It wasn’t really too difficult a climb because of steps and switchbacks, but I was grateful for Shep’s walking stick on the downhill because the steps are uneven and the stick bore some of the weight, giving the knees some relief.

We made it to the museum just in time to go in with the others, who had enjoyed a coffee break, and we went through the fabulous collection of objects taken from the site to be preserved. One section of stones from the temple has turned out to be the words of a hymn to Helios, the sun, with musical notation between the lines, such that scholars have been able to reproduce the music. (The “Rosetta Stone of Music,” as someone observed.)

Interesting to see progression of statues from Archaic (etmi = “beginning”) to “Severe” (a period of 20 years when the fixed Egyptian style smile goes to severely serious) to Classical. In archaic statues, like Egyptian, the left leg is slightly in front, the arms are close to the body. Then progressively they become more natural and anatomically correct. The marvelous bronze charioteer was dressed in a tunic, but it was clear that the sculptor knew his body structure that was under it. Larger than bronze charioteer (470 BC) wall drawing reconstructs the chariot and horses incorporating fragments they discovered. Very moving to see the statue of the “beautiful boy,” Antinous, beloved of the Emperor Hadrian, discovered in its entirety by an astonished digger. What a moment that must have been.

Delphi pre-Diana

The bus took us back to the main street (lowest) of the “new” village of Delphi. Lois and I immediately headed for a set of tables under a tree on a little square at the place where the switchback street rounds the bend, right in the middle of things: one of Delphi’s renowned tavernas. A nice lunch of gyos (minus the pita), tzatziki, tomatoes, French fries, wine and water. Then back to the hotel. Time for a short nap and a read by the glass doors at the balcony with the amazing view of the Gulf of Corinth down below. At 4:45 we met Maria Daphne, first to let her know if we needed Turkish passports and to pay the $20 charge, and then to ask her questions and hear her views on the Greek financial crisis.

At 6:30 the bus took us to a larger village, Arakova, on the slope of Mt. Parnassus. En route we stopped at the ruins of a temple to Diana “who came before” [before Apollo]. A lovely spot. Arakova, 400-500 years. Sheep, sheep products, especially cheese, pasta. Beautiful sunset. As a surprise, in Arakova Maria took us to a coffee shop where men usually gather, and treated us to a typical “mese” of their sheep cheese with herbs on top and sprinkled with lemon, bread, tomatoes, tapanade, feta and wine. She introduced us to the table of “senior citizen” men who were treated to retsina or raki, then we had some music and even dancing. It was very pleasant and festive. That sufficed for dinner.

Part 4 to be continued…