Dave the motorhome’s relieved that his wheels have done spinning for the day, parked up alongside a beach rapidly emptying of Greek sun seekers at Porto Yermeno (N38.14645 E23.22391). This is the last clean beach before Athens, according to the Rough Guide. A nice French couple are parked up in front of us; they’ve scouted out the other parking places and think this is the best spot, so we’ve some company for the night.
Ju was up and at ’em early this morning, cracking open Dave’s door to capture this image of the sunrise over the three yachts which had moored up in the natural harbour overnight. I wonder about the yacht goer’s lifestyle, not so different from our own, but perhaps a little more isolated since you can’t just walk over to your neighbour’s floating home for a chat? It does look idyllic though, sailing around Greece must be one helluva great way to spend your time.
By the time I’d dragged myself into yet another Saturday (it’s Sunday, but we’re now calling every day a Saturday, as that’s how our life feels), the last of the yachts was under motor and making a wake as it headed for the open Gulf of Corinth. Delphi called, we knew the site closed at 3pm and we didn’t fancy roaming the open ground during the 1 to 2pm slow-roasting hour, so we got a move on, waving goodbye to a new set of German neighbours and taking to the hills.
Our much-abased and seam-splitting map showed a short run up to the ancient site, but of course maps can be a wee bit deceptive. A crow flying above would feel rather smug at our miniature matchbox van as we tacked into the wind, denied the direct route by the bulk of a mountain. Europe, if you fancy a trip around it by road, is half mountain it seems, they’re everywhere! Dave toughed it out, his non-turbo engine thumping his loved-like-a-child brick-shaped face relentlessly upwards.
At this point I could dip into the Rough Guide or Wikipedia and tell you all about how the Greeks saw Delphi as the centre of the world. Or how the Oracle there (a succession of young ladies, as none managed to live the entire 1000 year span the sanctuary lasted for) would breathe in some noxious fumes from a fissure in the ground, utter jibberish in a trance which would be translated into some vague prediction of the future by priests. Or how it was once massively rich, fought over, hammered by earthquakes and barbarians and finally abandoned. Or how a French School of Archaeology was allowed to excavate it back in 1892 in exchange for them buying the Greek currant crop! The story of the place is fascinating, but, cutting to the chase, reading it’s pretty dull. Being stood among it, now that’s a different story.
Like all Greek and Roman sites across Europe and North Africa, all that remains is stone. Marble and rock. Almost always tumbled from grace by earthquakes, invaders or folks looking for a nice pre-shaped bit of masonry or two. Delphi’s no different. All the good stuff has gone, leaving behind a collection of low-level ruins, some re-elevated columns and a small stone building re-constructed from old and new, patched together thanks to the fact its entire surface was etched with text. Walking the site in the morning sunshine was just wonderful, the place brought alive a little by the other tourists with us. Up at the top of the hill the stadium disappointed, roped off with a vague threat of falling stones, our suspicion being they just couldn’t afford to man that area of the site with ‘fun police’, the whistle-bearing folks who’ve the unenviable job of keeping 3 million tourists from crumbling the ruins into dust. We sat and listened to a group of young folks from the US, lecturing each other on Stalin and Churchill.
Fortunately for us, all the good stuff hasn’t gone far. Within the site, for an extra few €s you get to see it in air-conditioned comfort. We used to wonder why these sites are disjointed like this, nothing but the huge blocks left in place while the statues are all moved into a building. Money is the answer: there isn’t enough of it to enable the place to be left as it was while also ensuring the weather, tourists, thieves, and vandals don’t destroy it. The museum at Delphi is a wonder.
It was almost overwhelming to be up close to some of these pieces, I’m turning into a culture vulture maybe, or perhaps the sense of proximity to the original icons of democracy and philosophy affects everyone? An American professor certainly was getting the vibes for the place as he rushed through, followed by a few dazed students, proclaiming a particular room to be ‘cool’, ‘we’ll come back here’ and speeding off. A white-vested American chap proclaimed the museum to be ‘sick’ to his mate, a phrase which I know means ‘cool’, but can’t quite accept as being anything other than the exact opposite. For those of you who recall Pythagoras, the triangle man, a2 + b2 = c2 and all that, the green charioteer above is thought to have been made by him, which I find utterly entrancing.
I don’t know if I got this across, today has been sick. I welled up a couple of times in that museum. This is our Grand Tour, and days like today will stick with me forever. Athens next. Bring it on!
P.S. Ju got told off by the fun police today! Huzzah! If you don’t get told off then you’re playing it too safe. It was for the photo above where I’m stood next to the two super-human stone chaps. You’re not allowed to pose you see. She has an almost identical photo of another chap looking at it, but because I posed, the lady pounced (smiling she was, I’d not want her job)! Go Ju go.
P.P.S A few photos from today for the motorbikers among us: