Thursday, January 7, 2016

Stories and Delphi

After the church bells woke us up yesterday, we went to Delphi. It's another short day trip from our house, about a 2 hour drive. I took a bunch of pictures for you, but before you see them, you have to sit through three of my stories.

The Story of Epiphany:
Epiphany is a Christian celebration that is sort of a bridge between Christmas and Easter. It's celebrated differently by different religious sects. Greek Orthodox celebrates the holiday, called Theophany, as a recognition of Christ's humanity through his baptism. It's the third biggest church day, after Easter and Pentecost. 

Aside from church, fasting, and feasting, one of the most significant traditions is the blessing of the waters. Priests travel to various bodies of water and pronounce a blessing. Worshipers are supposed to take some of the blessed water home with them, and bless their houses. They're also supposed to drink it. As part of the blessing of the waters, a priest throws a wooden cross into a lake, or harbor, and a bunch of young guys swim and fight their way to it. Whoever retrieves the cross is extra-blessed. All of this information is stuff I remember reading on Wikipedia yesterday, so it may not be completely accurate. It's probably close enough.

The Story of My Worst Nightmare:
I had a bad dream last night. In my dream, I invited a few friends over to hang out in my parents' backyard. More and more people started showing up. All of the guests were people I knew and liked, but I hadn't explicitly invited them. These people were extremely respectful. They brought their own food, tables, and dinnerware. They were washing dishes and cleaning up trash. They thanked me for hosting the event, and were all-around pleasant party guests. I was livid. I couldn't believe the nerve of all these people enjoying my party. I was so furious, I spent the entire dream trying to break it up forcefully.

When I woke up, I realized that my worst nightmare is having to socialize with more than 5 people at once. 

The Story of Bella at the Laiki
As you know, Thursdays are market days in our neighborhood. I've been sleeping away my mornings lately. I'm not exaggerating, I have, very literally, been sleeping through the entire morning. Laiki days are a particular challenge, though I've found there is no better way to wake up than to roll out of bed, throw on some stretchy pants, and buy a bunch of fruit from a crowded market where too many people are yelling loudly at you in a foreign language. That's not the point of my story, but I really thought you should know.  

I took Bella with me to the market today, and she was a huge hit. But, as some of you know, she's a nasty, pocket-sized dog, so she's petrified of most strangers. People reach down to pet her, and she tries to kill them. She's never bitten anyone, but she is exceptionally good at feinting. It's scary to be on the other end of her hysterics. Today, we were walking past an old Greek woman who took an interest in Bella and bent down to pet her. Bella lunged, and this sweet, kindly lady let out a hair-raising scream. I thought she was going to fall over. The old woman started laughing, along with the people around us. I chuckled, bought some carrots, and got the **** out of there.

Delphi: considered the center of the world in Greek Mythology.
Delphi was home to an oracle, a really rad woman who got high and gave advice.

Delphi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old stuff here dates from about 1400 B.C.
Check out the ancient carvings on the blocks behind my face.

This is the navel of the Earth. It has something to do with Zeus. Google it, I guess. 

When the oracle gave advice that turned out well, grateful people built big temples and treasuries around her hillside.
The buildings were packed full of statues, gold, and other expensive, nice things.
This is the Athenian Temple.

This is the rock where the first oracle gave her advice.
In mythology, Delphi is where Apollo slayed a dragon. He buried the carcass in a ravine.
The oracle would smoke or ingest something near the ravine, and make her pronouncements.
I think the dead dragon fumes had something to do with the prophecies.
Phil read about all of this beforehand. He should be the one writing the captions, darn it.

This is the Temple of Apollo, where the oracle prophesied later.

Delphi also has a really well preserved theatre.

Delphi was the site of the Pythian Games. These games were one of the four Panhellenic Games.
This photo is looking toward the entrance of the stadium. About halfway across is the judge's bench.

This is the finish line.
The winners in Delphi received laurel leaf wreaths. Hooray?

This is a spring below the main site.
People had to clean themselves before going to see the oracle.
I might be making all of this up. Phil? Help?

For 9 euros you can walk along the archeological site, and go inside the museum.
It's a great museum because, in Phil's words, "They have a lot of stuff, and it's short."
They don't let you pose with the statues, though. I'm still not sure why.
The very nice docent who told us not to do it explained that it's to show respect.
That doesn't make sense to me. It's been thousands of years since anyone felt a religious connection to these things.
I could understand if they were icons, but...I don't know. Is that a really American perspective? 

I mean, imagine the immature poses you could make with these.
I thought about doing it anyway, but then I thought,
"What would Rick Steves do?"

This is the sleeping baby Eros (a.k.a. Cupid). Now you know why your love life's been suffering.

This is The Charioteer. It's a famous bronze statue, according to Phil and the museum sign.
Look at its eyes, though.  

Another famous Delphi thing. By this point, my legs were seizing.
It's not a difficult hike around Delphi, I'm just unable to exert at my regular ability. 

We drove up to the ski resort on our way back to Athens. Look at all the snow!
We think there was probably snow up higher. You'd have to hop the lift to get to it.
There were people up there in ski clothes. Unclear whether they were skiing or not.
A lot of them looked like they came to see snow...

...and build little snowmen for their car. I wonder who started this trend? I wonder if we could monetize it?

This is a view of the ski town at the base of Mount Parnassus. It was like every other ski town in the world.
The buildings were in the style of Medieval castle/villa/chalets, and there were multiple fur and wood furniture stores.
Seriously, what is it about skiing and wanted to buy dead animals and trees?
The streets were narrow, and stupid, stupid tourists were standing in the middle of the road.
We almost ran over a group of them because they refused to move.
 Honest-to-goodness, we actually brushed a guy's coat sleeve with our side mirror because he refused to move.
I was still angry ten minutes later when we pulled off at an overlook to take this picture. 

Delphi: Worth it. Yes. Go. Fair warning, it's probably insanely crowded during the summer, along with the neighboring towns. What I'm saying is, you might be using other tourists as speed bumps.

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