Delphi and Meteora

As soon as we decided to come to Greece, Steve started to talk about “the Oracle.” Admittedly I didn’t really know what he was talking about, but after today’s incredible visit to Delphi, I get it.

Delphi is the ancient religious site which honors Apollo, the god of music, art, and light. Originally settled high in the mountains during the Greek Dark Ages (1100-800 BC) to honor Gaia (Mother Nature), the oracle offered prophesies to people who came from across the world seeking answers.

Temple of Apollo

Fueled by fumes emanating from the rocks (later found to be on a fault line), a priestess would sink into a trance and offer strange, garbled answers which were interpreted by priests. Of course the answers never really provided answers, but the rituals continued in one form or another until 385 AD when the Christians abolished the oracle as pagan worship.

It wasn’t until the late 1800s that excavators began uncovering the site, only to find the enormous temple of Apollo and many “treasuries” which were elaborate buildings used to store the “gifts” offered to the god.

Treasury of The Athenians

Such offerings included bronze sculptures and gold adornments.

After touring the site we visited the on site museum which includes many of the treasures found during excavation, as well as beautiful, large sculptures that were found throughout the area.

Sphinx found at Delphi

It’s hard to describe how awe-inspiring Delphi is. We hope the photos will give you an idea.

Solid bronze charioteer, 470 BC

Sanctuary of Athena

Making friends at the local fish market

Fresh from the Ionian Sea

Delphi is the village high on the hill

The next day, after a four hour drive north, we hit Meteora. This mystical corner of Greece is home to towering rock formations that rise nearly 1000 feet into the sky and support six 14th to 17th century Byzantine monasteries. Back in the 1300s, hermits took refuge in the caves within these rocks. Over time monks sought refuge on these rock pillars to escape war and to be closer to the heavens.

Monastery in Meteora

Once home to 13 monasteries, six remain and are open to tourists. Besides the incredible frescos in each church (no photos were allowed inside), the views are spectacular.

Our visit to Meteora was our last stop before making the long trip home. What a trip it’s been!

High above Meteora

We got in a little hike too!

Today’s cat picture

The Peloponnese

We are taking part in the four-day extension tour offered by Marathon Tours, which will introduce us to the highlights of mainland Greece.

Which way do we go?

While we’d love to spend time in the islands, we’re going to save that for a trip when we can visit in summer.

After leaving Athens with our bus filled with marathoners, we travelled west over the Corinth Canal and into the Peloponnese.

Corinth Canal

The Corinth Canal is a four mile long, approximately 75 foot cut in the earth which allows ships to move from the Aegean Sea to the Ionian Sea more quickly than sailing around the peninsula.

Above the Corinth Canal

It was originally conceived by Nero in AD 67 but not completed until 1893. It’s a quick photo stop on the way to other more fascinating places.

Next we stopped at the incredible Theater of Epidaurus. Built in the 4th century BC as a healing center, the theater is one of the best preserved sites in Greece.

Theater of Epidaurus

It was completely buried until rediscovered in the 19th century. The acoustics in the 14,000 seat theater are so good that you can hear every word from the last row. We tested it.

Did we say there are a lot of cats in Greece? They seem to be everywhere and the ones in Epidaurus were particularly photogenic.

From Epidaurus we drove a short distance to the ancient city of Mycenae.

Mycenae

The kingdom of Mycenae ruled a large part of the Mediterranean world from 1500 BC to 1100 BC. That’s 3000 years ago! And the remnants of the civilization still stand. Most famously, the Lions Gate welcomes you to the city high on the hill and riches of gold and bronze we’re found in the tombs on the site.

Lion’s Gate at Mycenae

We found it mind boggling to imagine what life must have been like when Mycenae was “alive.”

We overnighted in Olympia and started day two with a visit to Ancient Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games in the 8th century BC. The modern Olympics, which began in 1896, were never held here. Instead, this is where the Olympics were conceived and developed in ancient times. Originally started as a religious site to honor Zeus, over time Olympia developed into a training site and then competition venue for the days best athletes.

At Ancient Olympia

Running, wrestling, boxing, and various track and field events were held every four years (an Olympiad) to determine the strongest and fittest across the region.

The site is enormous and contained a gymnasium, hotel, various temples, and of course the stadium. We had an opportunity to compete in a sprint the length of “one stadium,” with the prize being the laurel wreath.

Winners!

We didn’t really win the race, but we didn’t pass up the photo op with the wreath.

In addition to the archeological site, we visited the adjacent museum which contained spectacular sculptures and artifacts that were found on the site.

Hermes holding Dionysos, 330-340 BC

A few things we’ve learned:

-The original Olympic athletes were only men.

-Women were not allowed to even watch the competitions.

-The athletes competed in the nude, in order to show off their bodies.

-Nike shoes did not exist at the time (the athletes were barefoot), but Nike, the goddess of victory played a role in Olympia.

-Cheaters were put on display at the entry to the stadium. Yes, there were cheaters even in ancient times.

We’re now headed to Delphi and Meteora, so we’ll have another update in a few days!

Good morning from Olympia

Olympic water fountain

Ancient Olympia

Temple of Zeus

Entry to the Olympic stadium

Steve, the Olympian

Judges box at the Olympic stadium
Zeus fighting a bull
Solid bronze, 5th Century BC

Authentic Athens Marathon

Today was the big day! The Authentic Athens Marathon, 26.2 miles from Marathon to the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens began at 9am this morning and Steve was at the start line.

Marathon Start Line

See Steve’s race report, in his own words, below.

Along with the marathon, I joined over 18,000 runners from across the world for the 10K (6.2 mile) race.

10K Start Line

Both of us completed our respective races, each course being hillier than expected.

Runners approaching the Finish Line

The highlight in both cases was to finish the run in the marble stadium to fanfare suitable for the gods. We both took photos, so enjoy!

Steve’s Race Report

Start area in Marathon

Marathon, GREECE

Art at the Start in Marathon

Waiting to Start

Cool Art Along the Route

Entering the Stadium in 10K

Done!

Party along the route

Marathon finish

Steve’s medal