Sunday, 29 November 2015

Delphi - what we saw of it

There is nothing like coming back from a special trip to a landmark destination and found that you had missed half of what's there!  That happened with us at Delphi.  It took us two hours to get to Delphi from Athens because of traffic in the city and by the time we got there, it was late morning. We had booked a guide, even one with an archaeology degree.  She was very good guiding us through the museum first so that we would have a better context for our visit to the archaeological site but it was past noon by the time we got out to the site and it was a scorchingly hot day.  She then walked us through most of the Sanctuary of Apollo, all the way up to the amphitheatre, mentioning as she said goodbye that IF we go to the lower half of the site later, we would see more of the ruins.

When we finished that part of the site, it was mid-afternoon and we were tired and hungry. Our driver took us into the town for a leisurely lunch in a local restaurant serving "homecooking".  It was four o'clock by the time we finished.  We drove by the top part of the site but could not see much - as we were all tired we voted to pass on the site and headed back to Athens, hoping to avert another traffic jam.

When I started reading the book on Delphi I bought at the museum, I realized that we had only visited the part of the site west of the famous Spring of Kastalia, where "priests and votaries washed themselves before entering the temple".  That was the bigger part of the site but we had missed the entire Sanctuary of Athena and the very beautiful Tholos, the Gymnasium, and not to mention the famous Spring.  This is a good lesson learned - do the reading before the trip instead of after!

Still it was an exciting visit to Delphi, the part that we saw.  The museum was chock full of original marvels from the site and the climb up the Sacred Way all the way up to the well-preserved amphitheatre was as exhilarating as the climb up to the Stadium was exhausting. We didn't think we could do another hike down to "more ruins" - not knowing what we're missing.

Delphi was a site rich with votive offerings because of its powerful oracle, renowned through the then known world.  Suppliants came from all over with their offerings, often in gold and silver, making Delphi extremely wealthy.  Some of these offerings are found in the museum.

The entrance path to the museum seemed to echo the Sacred Way within the archaeological site

The Delphi Archaeological Museum

The famous Sphinx of the Naxians - head of a woman, wings of a bird and body of a lion - an offering from the citizens of Naxos meant to guard the Sacred place

Metopes from the site - the one below of Ares, Aphrodite and Artemis

The famous Charioteer, considered one of the masterpieces of ancient Greek art

Gold found at the site

Block from the outer wall of the Athenian treasury, incised with musical inscriptions, hymns to Apollo.  "These are the oldest written notation of a melody.  Between the verses, written in the Ionic alphabet, notes have been inscribed for both the choral and instrumental scores.  The music for the instruments (cithara, lyre, flute) was written in combinations of characters and punctuation." 
The reconstructed Athenian treasury

The beginning of the Sacred Way 

The Roman agora (marketplace)

Stoia of the Athenians

This retaining wall reminded me of the Inca stone walls in Peru
Inscriptions on the stone walls

Temple of Apollo


The Stadium at the top of the site 

The amphitheatre with the Temple of Apollo in front

Beautiful Delphi...until the next time!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Island in white - Mykonos

Mykonos was our last stop before Athens.  We took it easy, spending a few hours wandering the quaint streets, enjoying the relative quiet on a Sunday morning, and luxuriating in the whiteness of it all.   According to our guide on Santorini, people on Mykonos are not allowed to paint their houses any colour other than white - although we noticed many white houses with colourful trims.  It was a photographic feast.

Gorgeous bourgainvilla in a front yard

One of the main streets

One of many narrow alleyways

Wandering the side streets meant we see more locals like these...
Reading the Sunday paper?

Or this one...

And treated ourselves to picturesque front yards like this one...

Coming across couples doing wedding selfies in the narrow alleys...

A Mykonos cat - in his colour-coordinated kingdom
Overwhelmingly blue...
But churches are red

Except for this one - dazzlingly white!

The Folk Art Museum (closed on Sundays) with a porch of stone mosaic

Windmills by the waterfront
"Little Venice"

A bagpiper - he'll only play if paid

The Greek flag - in penurious splendour braving the winds
I love the islands!

Still to come:  Delphi and Athens

Sunday, 8 November 2015


This is the island that everyone was raving about!  I couldn't wait to visit - but was a tat disappointed when we got off the cable car and hit the main street in Fira.  The narrow cobbled street was packed with traffic, there was barely space for us as we walked along the miniscule pavement, all the while watching out for big buses making turns, possibly on us!

It was with relief that we found the Museum of Prehistoric Thera which was the meeting place with our driver guide.  We paid the museum a quick visit so as to be prepared for the visit to Akrotiri, the Minoan Bronze Age settlement on Santorini.  It was an interesting museum with many of the original frescoes and artifacts from the excavation.

We were thankful that our driver Simon quickly whisked us out of the traffic and showed us the more attractive side of Santorini, in particular an old village called Megalochiri, which amazingly, had empty streets!  One big reason is of course the streets are so narrow, his compact Saab could just squeeze through - no big buses, no tourists!  This was the village of his grandfather so he knew his way around.  Check out the photos below.

The pier was at the base of a cliff.  The only ways up to Fira were via cable car, or a hike up a steep trail together with donkeys or a bus that would take you the long way along a coastal road to Oia and from there along the top of the cliff to Fira.  We chose the most direct way up - the cable car.

Fira spread out along the top of the ridge

Santorini is actually on part of the caldera of an extinct volcano

Original fresco from Akrotiri in the Museum of Prehistoric Thera    

The streets of Megalochir are very narrow - barely the width of a car

Charming centre of Megalochiri

Streets of Megalochiri

The red cliffs and the red beach below it

The Akrotiri Minoan site.  We were thankful that it was fully covered as the sun was very hot that day.

The unusual black sand at Perivolos beach

The monastery near Pirgos at the top of the hill - spectacular views and a glimpse of the chapel and the monastic garden 

We finally made it to Oia - our mission - hunting down the location of that iconic shot of the double blue domes!  It was the highlight of our trip in the sense that we achieved what we set out to accomplish but really, it was not the most enjoyable part of our day.  Oia was crowded, in fact, swarmed with both tourists and locals as it was the weekend and there was a "roof jumping" contest going on.  The only reason you don't see people in these photos was because of how Oia was built - on a slope and so if we shoot down, we could only see buildings.  

An unusual moment on Oia- an empty street!    

Many couples were doing their wedding/engagement photo shoots here!    

Can't resist this Santorini cat...

Sign on restaurant

The donkey driver calling it a day

Sunset over the caldera - end of an amazing day on Santorini!