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On the Road in Greece!

Athens to Delphi, Arachova and Olympia!

sunny 83 °F

It looks like today was a good day to get out of Athens. My guidebook said that most shops are closed on Sundays, but I didn't realize just how dead the streets would be. At least 90% of businesses are closed from what I can tell. One thing I did want to check out before leaving was the Athens Flea Market, which may well have been the only place that was bustling on a Sunday. A light drizzle kept most people away, but we enjoyed wandering the streets before wandering down a path in search of breakfast and finding ourselves at Adrianou street, where we had ended the previous night. We actually ended up finding the piano bar to have the best breakfast options, so we stopped there again. Kristine had been feeling sick to her stomach all morning and couldn't muster much of an appetite.
Finally some real food!

After breakfast, we hauled all of our things (luckily it's just our backpacks this time, I'm not sure how we survived carrying duffels on top of that the last time around) to Avis to pick up our car. He's a bright red Citroen C1 that we have since named Scrappy. His engine isn't much (it might as well be electric), but It'll be nice to have somewhere to keep all of our stuff as we travel around the next few days. The drive to Delphi was a little over 2 hours and took us through some cool countryside and along some windy mountain roads. Scrappy has a manual transmission, so I'm the only one that can drive. This afforded Kristine a great opportunity to sleep for a couple hours, and she took full advantage. Here's Kristine and Scrappy after we made it to Delphi.

When we parked in Delphi, I was a bit apprehensive because it didn't seem like there was much there. Along a country road halfway up a mountain, there was simply a half-dozen cars parked along the side of the road and a few poorly marked signs. I was a bit nervous as to what I had dragged Kristine here for. It didn't help that the first two things we went to see were closed. We walked a bit further down the road following the signs for the temple of Athena, not feeling too confident that it would be open either. It ended up being open and was pretty neat to look at, but it didn't exactly make our trip worthwhile...

After spending a few minutes looking at the temple and fearing that our trip to Delphi wouldn't last more than an hour, we headed to the final attraction, the Delphi Archeological Museum and Site. Luckily, we went to the museum first because by the time we got there, it was closing in just under an hour. This time, I got in trouble again not for posing like a statue, but this time for simply smiling while Kristine took a picture of me in front of some random art. Apparently there are no people allowed in museum photos. Now I totally understand when museums want camera flashes turned off to protect the art. I even sort of understand that posing like a statue as I had in Athens could be seen as disrespectful but why people can't be in pictures with the art at the museum makes absolutely no sense to me. Kristine and I made light of the situation by trying to get the other person to casually turn around while we took a picture. After the museum, we headed to the archeological site itself which definitely made the trip worthwhile. Not only were the ruins interesting, but as we hiked higher and higher up the mountain to look at them, the views were incredible.

Part of the significance of Delphi in ancient times is that it was declared to be the earth of the universe by Zeus, who according to legend, released two eagles on either end of the earth and where they met was Delphi. The "Navel" marks the spot where this is said to have been, so when Kristine stands at the navel she finally gets to be the center of the universe!

On the way up the mountain, we made friends with fellow group of Americans from Tennesee and were able to take pictures of their group and they returned the favor...
After a long hike past the Temple of Apollo, the Athenian treasury and a theatre dating to the 4th century, B.C., we finally made it all the way up to the stadium at the highest part of the ancient city.

Once we made it back down to where our car was parked, I realized that a small mountain town we had passed through just a few miles before we arrived at Delphi was actually in the Frommer's book as a great place to stop during your visit. Coming around one of the curves in the road, I had been awestruck by the sight of Arachova, but had not taken the time to stop to gawk at the way it was built into the mountain. Before we stopped for dinner, I convinced Kristine to drive past the town back to that spot before it got dark.
Not only was the town beautiful from afar, but the streets and buildings themselves looked to be straight out of a movie.

We walked down main street (probably no more than a quarter mile) looking at the menus of all of the amazing-looking restaurants and finally settled on a nice little place with an incredible view from the balcony.
The highlight of dinner was the grilled feta, which was cooked with peppers and onions and was absolutely incredible. We put it on top of everything else that we ordered! Our only complaint was that we were charged for bread even though we didn't order it, but I seem to remember this being the case during our last trip to Europe as well. Also, we have (obviously) had olives at just about every meal and ALL of the olives here have pits. You would think with all the olives that they eat that somebody would decide to go with pitted olives. Also, they serve french fries with EVERYTHING! I'm not sure if they see us American's coming from a mile away or if they just love serving french fries, but no matter what we order or how fancy the restaurant, one of us (usually me) always ends up with french fries.

After dinner, we settled in for the long drive ahead. I had read in Frommers that it was about 3 and a half hours from Delphi to Olympia, so I headed east towards the Isthmus of Corinth to get to the Peloponnese peninsula where Olympia is located. Not until Kristine fired up the GPS an hour later did we realize that while the land does not connect, there is a bridge connecting the peninsula to the mainland at Patras. Having already traveled an hour in the wrong direction, there was not much difference between continuing on our current route or doubling back to take the route we should have taken in the first place, so we continued on our way. Thankfully, Kristine stayed up with me to keep me entertained with 20-questions and a variety of other made up games to help the time pass. Nevertheless, our 3 and a half hour trip became closer to 5. When we were within two hours of Olympia, we went onto the steepest, most windy mountain road, through various tiny mountain towns and didn't see a single car or person for over an hour and a half. At one point, there was a fog so thick that I couldn't see five feet in front of the car, which also slowed us down considerably. While the GPS was a great investment at only $12/day, it has very few streets in its memory. So when we plugged in Delphi to the GPS, it simply took us to the "city center." Delphi was small enough that this wasn't a problem. Our original ETA for Olympia should have been around 10pm, but when we instead pulled in closer to 12:30am and found Olympia to be quite a bit larger, so "city center" wasn't going to cut it. Kristine had written down the address of our hotel, but the GPS didn't recognize the street name. We drove down the main strip and saw signs pointing to probably two dozen hotels, none of which were ours. When we got to the end of the strip, I asked Kristine whether we should turn right or left. She guessed right, and a few blocks later we happend upon Hotel Hercules. We easily could have spent an hour or more driving around looking for the hotel but somehow managed to find it in just a few minutes. We weren't quite out of the woods yet, however, because the entire town was dead and our hotel was no exception. I parked outside and walked towards the dark lobby fully expecting to be sleeping in the car that night. But to my surprise, the lobby was open and there was a key on the front desk with a note that said my name and our room number. Disaster averted! In our commotion to bring our things inside, the owner (who must live on the premises) came down to show us to our room. Exhausted, we promptly dropped our things on the floor and hit the sack. They don't call it adventure for nothing!

Posted by atbrady 17:07 Archived in Greece Tagged greece ruins hotel athens ancient olympia delphi navel delfi arachova hercules

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Center of the universe ~ I LOVE that reference! I hope your travels continue to take you North and East ... one small step closer to Amster, Amster, Dam, Dam, Dam! Stay safe ~ love you! xoxoxo

by Elaine Brady

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