I went through a phase in about 5th grade where I was obsessed with Greek mythology. I read everything I could and knew the stories by heart. My friends and I would even play games acting out favorites in the woods, especially the Persephone and Hades myth. Yeah…I think being a 5th grade girl may have changed a bit since I was that age.
We had 2 days left in Greece (and after a fun open air theater showing of The Amazing Spiderman at the largest park in Athens surrounded by stray cats), decided there was no way we were going to leave without a trip out to the mountains to see the Oracle at Delphi.
Delphi is a sacred site in the mountains of Greece with an amazing history. Zeus was said to have originally discovered it, and it has been in use since 1400 BC. Considered the most important shrine in the Greek world, it was believed to be literally the center of the universe. The Pythia, a priestess or oracle, resided there and would provide cryptic prophesies for pilgrims who ventured through the mountains asking for advice. The Pythia and the priests of Apollo were showered with art and gold and gifts, and even kings came to her for prophesies as they made plans for war.
Never a fan of being stuck in large crowds of people while sightseeing, we opted to rent a car for the day and drive out extra early, timing our arrival for about an hour before any tour groups were to show up. The drive out was beautiful and rural, lots of lush mountains and fields of wildflowers.
When we arrived there were only a handful of people there and we had little time before all the tour buses showed up. The site was breathtaking. It sits right on a mountainside and the drop and sense of openness as you look out combined with the quiet of the place is very special. I can see why this area was chosen by the ancients as a sacred place.
We walked through the crumbling ruins and saw many appeals to the Oracle written in Greek, along with helpful signs with English translations marking some of the most important structures. One of the most interesting was the Navel, an egg shaped stone considered in ancient times to be the center of the universe.
After we finished walking through the main site, we stopped at the museum, which contains an assortment of statues and artifacts recovered from Delphi.
Just as the tour buses began rounding the corner into the lot, we escaped and walked the narrow path down to the Temple of Athena. This temple is actually the image I always carried in my head as the Oracle at Delphi, but it is in fact a separate temple about a quarter mile away. It’s another spot with an amazing view and walking among the stones and contemplating the centuries of history was very meditative.
As the summer heat really geared up and the people poured in, we hopped in our little rental car and enjoyed the scenic drive back to Athens, admiring the picturesque mountain towns, and stopping at one to have the best lunch of our whole trip to Greece!