|cone marking the centre of Delphi|
We are following in the steps of St Paul on his second missionary journey through Greece. As we drive towards
Athens from Thessaloniki we have some diversions from Paul's route along the way, one of which is Delphi.
|The reconstructed Athenian Treasury|
Leaving the amazing Meteora Monasteries behind us we now have two mountains and many smaller roads to traverse before we reach Delphi so we settle for the long drive. There are really fabulous views now. The scenery is simply stunning up here. There are green meadow clearings far below us in the valley but not the lush rain drenched vegetation of say
or Georgia. These are of a more sombre hue.There is also plenty of mining activity, huge machines extracting the red sandstone for the road
building going on around us. A small vineyard clings precariously to the side
of the upper slopes on the other side of the valley. A small waterfall gushes out of the rocks by the side of the road. We see wind
farms marching across the mountain peaks.
Delphi, we are told, unlike
Olympia which was just for the Greeks, was
there for everyone to get answers from their gods. Dating back into prehistory, and featuring prominently in the ancient Greek myths, here was for many centuries the cultural and religious centre of the Hellenic world. It is here that two eagles sent out in opposite directions by Zeus on a mission to find the centre of the world finally met. The site was sacred to Gaia or Mother Earth and guarded by Python, the terrible serpent. Apollo later killed Python and the Cretans, arriving at Kirrha, the port of Delphi, with Apollo disguised as a dolphin, built Apollo's Sanctuary.
With 25 km to go to
according to the signpost, we come down the last slopes of the Parnassos
mountain range with small family Bed and Breakfasts all around us, catering for the skiing
tourists who visit in winter - there are some very charming ski resorts here. We descend into the massive olive groves now
stretching into the distance on either side of the road, tall cypress trees
standing out above the olive trees like dark sentinels. The olives are Amfisa -
having a particular colour from the way they are cured. The
can be glimpsed down to our right. Corinthian Sea
So we arrive at Delphi - seemingly clinging to the edge of the cliff on the lower slopes of
. Mount Parnassos
Delphi is a totally enchanting site and I am captivated.
|The fourth century theatre|
No wonder it is one of the most popular places on the tourist trail in
Greece and sometimes described as
the most attractive Greek classical site. Delphi
was regarded as the centre of the world by the ancient Greeks and is deeply
engraved on the record of Greek history, being a place of incalculable
religious and political importance, attracting pilgrims from all over the
Hellenic world. Here the Oracle was consulted by both states and individuals.
This was the religious background against which Paul was preaching the Christian gospel.
After lunch in a local restaurant we head for the excellent museum where priceless artefacts from the site are preserved with excellent detailed explanations including English and French translations as well. We see the world famous bronze Charioteer, the wonderful frieze from the Siphnian Treasury, the larger than life-size statues of the Twins of Argos, beautiful gold and ivory jewellery and statuettes, and much, much more. The museum shop is sadly closed so those of us who still like to buy souvenirs and glossy booklets.
|Looking down onto the Apollo Temple and scenery beyond|
There is so much to see here and we couldn't possibly see everything. There is an excellent write-up on Delphi here. I would love to come again on my own and take it all in at my own pace. Climbing down the path back to the coach I see a small group of visitors cross legged in the shade meditating - what a place for this - I would have loved to join them but our time table does not allow for any more time here and we are soon back in the coach settling down for the two and a half to three hours drive ahead to Athens. The coach is very quiet - we are all very weary and perhaps also in different ways touched by the atmosphere and the spirit of Delphi!
|Doric columns of the Temple|
We see glimpses of God everywhere - I certainly find God in all this great beauty - in the sunsets, the churches and their beautiful frescoes etc - but we have to surrender ourselves to feel in touch with the transcendent - Socrates was in touch with this all the time and Jesus himself was a mystic.
Now driving Eastwards towards Athens, the Bay of Corinth far to our right, Mara tells us there are 9 million olive trees here in the vastest of olive groves imaginable, while Mark reminds us that Athens is of course the spiritual home of ancient philosophy - still so important in guiding the way we live and flourish, through rational argument and debate. We are reminded that Paul was born into this background and both he and Jesus were Hellenic Jews, influenced as much by that as by being Jewish.
|panoramic view of theatre|