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Day 7 - Pilgrimage to the Oracle


Location - Delphi

Sunday morning. Church bells and hypnotic chanting are all that fill the Plaka. It is referendum voting day too. Seems a good day to slip quietly out of Athens.

The roads were thankfully emptier than expected, so it wasn’t hard to find the highway. We made a stop about a half hour out of Athens in the small industrial town of Elefsina where one would never expect to find anything profound but which is the site of the Elysian Mysteries, the very ancient rituals performed in honour of Demeter. Supposedly, this was the spot from which Hades kidnapped Persephone, and Demeter sat and mourned and plagued the crops until her daughter was returned. This made all the carvings of flowers and wheat appropriate. No one really knows what used to go down at this spot, but we suspect it was a bit scandalous, a bit creepy, and likely drug induced. It was also clearly popular as there was massive stadium-style benches all around the temple’s edge. The site also includes a Plutonion, an entrance to Hell, a small shallow cave with a hole in its wall where people still put offerings of flowers and fruit and pine cones. There is also a vague, round bottomless chasm that looked like a well. I’d be upset if my kid was pulled down there too! After a small picnic under a tree there, we said thanks to Demeter and headed out.

The road to Thebes was filled with the goddess’s gifts: sweeping vistas of lush agricultural fields. Oddly, they were often punctuated by wind turbines and fields of solar panels. David suspects German money may have built this infrastructure. Hmmm …

Athena and Triumph slept through most of this part of the trip and only awoke in Thebes, now (sadly) just a typical, somewhat rundown Greek town. It is hard to imagine the Thebes of Oedipus, Heracles, Cadmus, and Tiresias being there. Kristine got out to take a picture of a statue of (we think) Oedipus at the spot that (we think) the “three roads meet.” We decided that Laius was likely the first crazy Greek driver (not that this justifies his death).

We tried to find the mouth of the river Styx in Lividia (David had a clear memory of it from 1997), but just found the sleepy town, not much different from Elphesina or Thebes.

When we arrived in Arachova (a small ski resort just before Delphi), we contacted our Airbnb host, Aliki, who lead us down a scary, precipitous mountain-cliff side road to her gorgeous stone house (see link above) and then feed us a garden dinner of spanakopita, salad, bread, cheese, and wine. The big draw for Athena were Aliki’s two wee kittens, whom she lured with feta but was still unable to actually pet. After dinner, we the went for a walk through the “neighbourhood” (farmland ) and try to figure out what fruit we were seeing and catch a glimpse of the local sheep.

Early to bed to be ready for Delphi the morning.