During my four week trip through Greece, the last island we hopped was Paros. I think the little island in the Cyclades is underrated as a spot to travel. The island, located nearby to popular Naxos, was my favourite island hands down. It has a laid-back lifestyle vibe on the island; it’s not a crazy tourist spot and its beautiful beaches make Paros the winner.
Day 3, our last day was enjoyable but sad. Elizabeth and I would be getting off the bus after lunch time to head back to Athens (I), while the rest of the tour was to keep going to Meteroa. Why we didn’t do the fourth day escapes me, and I really regret not going. We had to say goodbye to some really great friends.
In the morning we went five minutes outside of Delphi to the archeological site of Delphi (H). There are actually three parts to this site: The Sanctuary of Apollo, the Gymnasium, and Temenos of Athena. The Gymnasium site was closed because of damage caused by an earthquake last year. Our first stop was to the Temenos of Athena. This is where the iconic symbol of Delphi is.
The second stop was to the Sanctuary of Apollo. This is a cool site with an interesting history. According to tradition, Delphi was the geographical centre of the world, The Navel of the Earth. The story goes that Zeus wanted to know where the centre was, so he dispatched two eagles in opposite directions, and where they met was the centre. Here he laid a stone. The Stone was in the shape of an egg, and the top half actually still exists. (see picture below)
There are several building within the sanctuary, a temple, a couple of treasuries, a theatre and everything is uphill. It was definitely a sight to see. Lizzie was being smart and singing Hercules as she walked up the theatre part of the sanctuary, and she was whistled at. (BE QUIET!!!) What a goof!
This sight was a major point in Greek history. People would travel here from all over to talk to the priestess, who voiced for the God, Apollo. The findings from this site were amazing. People would bring gifts and gold. They would ask a simple question, and they would not get a simple answer in return. An example our tour guide told us (Sorry I am butchering it) is when a King of some nation wanted to cross the river to invade another, he came to Delphi to ask Apollo whether he should do it or not. The answer given to him was this: If you cross the river, a nation will be destroyed. It turns out it was his nation that was destroyed.
After lunch, Elizabeth and I had to leave our group, which was really sad. The tour was a great experience and we met some really amazing people.
I think if I were to come back to Greece, or if I was coming here without any knowledge, I would take tours. A day tour of Athens, a four day tour of classical Greece, and a 10 day tour of the islands. You meet great friends, learn some really cool things, and see a lot more than if you are by yourself.
Anyway, that’s it from our Classical tour. Bridget comes soon and then we are off to the islands!
On day two of our tour through Classical Greece, we drove through the country side straight through to the site of Olympia. On our way there, we learned of the great fire in Greece in 2007 and how it devastated this area. It consumed the Peloponnese, burning from June to September.
George, our tour guide, also told us the story of the oldest olive tree in Greece. The Tree was located in Athens, near the Acropolis, and dated back to 600 BC. THAT IS AN OLD TREE. Now, it wasn’t bearing fruit, but it was still a monument of the strength of an olive tree. This is how it died: last year, a man crashed his car into the tree, and it finally died. What a sad ending.
Speaking of olive trees, they are very versatile. They can grow anywhere, it needs little to no water, and can last for years. It is tradition to plant an olive tree on the day of a baby’s birth, then 5 or 6 years later, when the child starts school, the tree starts to bear fruit. When the child turns 18, the tree is ready to harvest. Olive trees stand for peace prosperity and glory. Its significance in Greece dates back 60,000 years. Amazing, I am proud to be named after an Olive tree.
Another thing we noticed, were hundreds – no, probably thousands – of shrines to the saints scattered through Greece. They are all along the sides of the roads. Some are built beautifully, others are plainer but they each are filled with offerings and prayers.
Greek tea, or mountain tea, thyme and oregano all grow in the mountains of Greece. And where there is Thyme, there are bees. Honey is a huge deal in Greece. It is used for sweetener because they don’t have sugar cane.
We finally arrived in Olympia (F), the place I have been itching to go to since we got here. It was more than I expected. It was big, and magical. I could picture what it was like a couple of millennia ago.
Although the temples are almost completely destroyed both by human intervention and natural, you can still see how grand it used to be. The temple or Zeus was massive, and so intricate. It is really unfortunate that it no longer exists. Instead, I pictured Zeus from the Disney movie Hercules. Elizabeth and I started singing Where I Belong. (I will find my way/ I can go the distance/ I’ll be there someday/ If I can be strong/ I know ev’ry mile/ Will be worth my while/ I would go most anywhere/ to feel like I belong). That was the best thing ever.
So Olympia, the source of the Olympic games both ancient and modern, was a major religious, cultural, and sporting centre. Men from all over Greece would come to the games. It was a men only affair, although they had the women’s games afterward. Hera’s alter is now where they light the Olympic flame. On the way to the Stadium, there is the Bases of Zanes. It is basically Cheater’s Row. There were 14 cheaters, each having to pay the fine to build it, and have to watch as they write their names and how they cheated.
There is also a giant stadium that could seat 45,000 men. Again, no women allowed. However, there is one pedestal for the goddess Demeter. Here, a priestess, the only woman allowed, would stand to watch over the games.
We left Olympia and headed north along the coast to the Rio–Antirrio bridge (G), the world’s longest multi-span cable-stayed bridge. It gets pretty windy here, and it is prone to Earthquakes, but the bridge should be able to withstand it.
Then we headed to Delphi (H), a beautiful town in the mountains. This leg of the journey gave me a headache. The roads twisted and turned, went up and up and up, with a mountain to your left and a sheer drop to your right. I thought we would never make it. on our way there we passed the largest Olive Grove in Greece consisting of 4 million olive trees. It took 15 minutes to drive from one end to the other.
We finally reached Delphi and went for a walk with our new friends in the small town. This was Elizabeth’s favourite part.
Part III coming soon.
Well, it has been a while, and here’s why: Elizabeth and I took a last minute bus tour to Olympia and the sites in between. So instead of one long post, I’m going to break it up by the day.
We signed up through CHAT tours, which we didn’t expect a lot, but I was IMPRESSED. The bus was great, the tour was amazing, and the hotels were fantastic. Our tour guide, George, was a sweet man and we made many friends on the trip. The tour included everything from meals (save lunch), entrance fees, and hotel costs.
We set out from Hotel Amalia in Athens (A/I on the map attached) right near the National Gardens, from there we headed west to stop by the Corinth Canal (B). It is an amazing feat of construction. What is so genius about it is that the man-made canal connects two gulfs saving hours of travelling time. We stopped at a small cafe and made some jokes out of the souvenirs.
Next we headed to Mycenae (C), a UNESCO site. It was one of the most important strongholds in Greece during its time. I didn’t climb to the top of this site because I forgot to put on sunscreen, and I didn’t want to ruin the trip by getting burnt. Instead I headed into the museum, and I read all the legends of the place, including how the walls were built by the Cyclops. Honestly, just standing there on the mountain, looking out to the olive trees was breathtaking. I never thought Greece was this mountainous, I thought there would be hills but I never expected the view. This site also included the beehive Tomb of Agamemnon.
Next stop was a detour to Epidavros (D), another UNESCO site. Epidavros is in a place believed to have healing springs, so the Epidavrians built the Sanctuary of Asklepios. It is the most brilliant centre of healing in the ancient world. Basically, it was built as a hospital and a place to worship the Gods. There was even a hostel and school. The ruins were fantastic but the jewel of the site was the Theatre. This Theatre is the most well preserved ancient theatre in all of Greece. Another tourist got up on the “stage” and sang a Greek lullaby. It was the most soothing thing I have ever heard.
We stayed the night just outside of Nauplia (E), but first we stopped there to stroll in the town. Cutest town ever. It is right by the sea, and it seems so quiet and lovely. All the flats had balconies and beautiful flowers growing and the sea was a bright blue. It was my favourite town on the trip, I would love to go back.
It was a great first day, and other than the fact that both Elizabeth and I slept through the drive to these places, the tour was very enjoyable.
Part II and III coming soon!