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A few years ago, I travelled to Greece with 3 friends. When I say Greece, I really mean Athens. By the time we arrived in Athens, we had already spent about a month in Spain, so were feeling a little travel weary (read: lazy). But we did spend a few days in beautiful Santorini, and also hired a car one day for an overnight trip to Delphi. Both were quite the experience, but for slightly different reasons!
Delphi is a town and archaeological site approximately 180km northwest of Athens. According to google maps, it should take approximately 2.5 hours to get there. I don’t remember whether we left our Athenian hotel late to pick up the rental car, whether there were problems with the rental process, whether we had trouble navigating the traffic as we left Athens, or whether we may have gotten lost once or twice…probably a combination of all those factors. But what I do remember is that it was early evening by the time we checked into our hotel. And we were tired!
So, here’s the thing you need to know about travel in Greece:
1. It’s not a super organised place and things don’t always follow timed schedules.
2. If you’re planning to drive, bear in mind that traffic is fairly congested, at least in Athens.
3. Street signs aren’t the best, and if they’re not missing or obscured, they’re in Greek!
Scoff if you will – I know that last point may seem self explanatory. When we had chosen to self drive to Delphi (we had pre-booked everything from the UK), I think we had assumed that the place names on signboards would be in the Germanic alphabet that we are all familiar with. Or perhaps we had assumed that our combined Maths geekiness would help us navigate the Greek alphabet. It didn’t. At least not quickly enough.
Along the drive, there were many shouts of excitement as we caught sight of the elusive road signs. Followed by deep concentration as we haltingly read out, “Delta… epsilon… lambda… phi… omicron… iota.” In case you didn’t work it out, that spells Delphi in Greek. Or, in case you’re planning on making the same journey: Δελφοί.
Problem: the Greek wheels in our brains could not turn as fast as the wheels of our car! Several times, we missed a turn just as we realised which turn we were supposed to take, resulting in us having to backtrack and reorientate. It’s a good thing we all got along well and were pretty seasoned travellers by then, so had learned to take things in our stride.
Despite that, we were all pretty glad when we finally pulled up at the Acropole Hotel, where we were greeted by this view.
Too many years have passed for me to give an accurate review of the hotel, but I do remember it being quiet and sufficiently comfortable for a night’s stay. Here’s another view of the hotel.
So why did we take all that trouble to drive ourselves to Delphi?
Well, I guess if you’re visiting Greece, you’d want to see some Greek ruins, and at Delphi, you’ll find one of the most important archaeological sites in Greek history. In fact, the ancient Greeks considered Delphi to be the centre of the world. It was at the Sanctuary of Apollo that Apollo was said to have killed Python, the son of Mother Earth, and also here that Apollo established an oracle in the form of an intoxicated priestess who could offer counsel to those needing and seeking wisdom.
Here, you’ll find remnants of the Temple of Apollo, dating back to the 4th century BC, as well the theatre where the Pythian Games were held, and the Delphi Archaeological Museum containing many ancient relics and works of art.
Side note: It was at the museum that I discovered the Greek work for “exit” is Έξοδος, or “Exodos”. As in “exodus”. Neat huh? Yup, not just a Maths geek.
Approximately 1.5km east of the Sanctuary of Apollo is the Sanctuary of Athena, where you’ll find the circular Tholos.
So, was the drive worth it?
Ever noticed how the little problems that crop up during the course of your travels can sometimes be the ones that that you talk about fondly years later? I guess they make the trip more exciting, interesting and memorable.
Not only that, did you notice in my pictures that Delphi is situated on a cliff face? On Mt Parnassos to be exact. This means that, as you walk through the ruins, you can also simultaneously enjoy the spectacular mountain scenery before you. The whole atmosphere is rather magical.
Have you visited Delphi? How did you get there? If you drove, did you struggle as much as we did?
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