Balkans Day 14: Delphi to Athens

Another early start saw us having a breakfast at our hotel before setting off through the village and down the hill towards the world-famous UNESCO World Heritage Site of Delphi, our second in two days after Meteora, and soon to be followed by a third the next day.

Delphi is most famous of course as being the site of the Delphic Oracle, where the god Apollo would speak through the Pythia, or priestess, chosen from among the people of the area: his oracle.  The site of the first oracle is marked to this day by a large stone and the site of Delphi itself was most closely associated with Apollo and the Pythian Games held every four years at the large stadium overlooking the whole site.

Most of the ruins still visible today date from the 6th century BCE including the Temple of Apollo although this was rebuilt in the 4th century BCE.  Among the more intact buildings are the Treasury of the Athenians and the stadium although remains of most of the historically significant buildings are everywhere.

Apollo
The remaining columns of the Temple of Apollo.
Apollo
Another view of Apollo’s temple.
Foundations
The foundations of the main body of the Temple of Apollo showing its true size.
Treasury
The treasury of the Athenians.
Frieze
The frieze around the top of the Athenian treasury.
Treasury
The Treasury of the Athenians.
The theatre
The theatre of Delphi.
Stadium
One end of the stadium, site of the four-yearly Pythian Games
Posh
Part of the grandstands at the stadium including the posh seats for the ancient bigwigs.
Masonry
Some of the more intact ruins.

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Various shots of the stunning ruins of ancient Delphi.

After this we went down to another site slightly further down the hill from the main site dedicated to Athena Pronoia which travellers approaching Delphi would have encountered first on their way to Delphi.  This site also contains some remains of the gymnasium, used by the young people of Delphi and from which the Temple of Apollo can be seen standing out on the hillside above.

Athena
The Temple of Athena Pronoia.
Restored
Three of the restored columns of the Temple of Athena
Athena
Athena’s temple with Apollo’s shrine behind on the slopes of Mount Parnassus.

Having visited both sites it was time to return to the village.  We spotted a small restaurant seemingly frequented by locals and stashing this in the memory banks went for a wander around some of the back streets of the village coming across a lovely Orthodox church before returning to the restaurant for some late lunch.

Street
One of the streets in modern Delphi.
Church
The Orthodox church in Delphi.
Restaurant
The small restaurant where we had lunch.
Table
The view from our table under the vine-covered canopy.

Having had the best food of our entire holiday – a local chicken and bean speciality for me and a lamb dish for Mrs M – it was, sadly, time to leave Delphi and head to the Greek capital, Athens. Our bus arrived on time and we were soon winding through the mountains again, through the next village before descending into some gentler, hilly country before hitting the main motorway into the city.

Mountains
Leaving the high mountains behind on the way to Athens.

Coming into the city through a mixture of affluent suburbs, industrial areas and nondescript apartment blocks we arrived at a bus station seemingly randomly located nowhere special at all.  Taxi time again.  A fairly short journey of around two kilometres brought us to our hotel which turned out to be the worst of the entire trip.  Dingy and dirty it wasn’t exactly what we were looking for but it was fairly central even though it was located in a run-down, graffiti-strewn district which didn’t give us a good impression of Athens.

Getting out again as quickly as possible we walked through some dingy, grafittied streets before finding a bank and hitting a bar located in a square around a kilometre from the hotel.  Although quite expensive the place itself was lovely and we enjoyed a couple of drinks there before deciding to go back to the hotel for an early night which turned into a late night for me as I purchased several bottles of Mythos and found an English language movie on the hotel TV.  Tomorrow we would be exploring Athens and heading for the Acropolis and our third World Heritage Site in as many days.

Bar
The lovely bar ‘Floral’ where we had a couple of drinks on our first night in Athens.
Stunning
The stunning view from our Athens hotel.
Grafitti
The graffiti laden streets around the hotel.

17 thoughts on “Balkans Day 14: Delphi to Athens

  1. I love your shots of Delphi, it has a real atmosphere which I’m sure you felt. We used to live in Athens and I was back a couple of years ago and the city looked so sad. Try not to judge it too harshly, times have been hard.

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  2. Thanks for your photos of Delphi! Delphi is my first major sacrifice, as I simply couldn’t afford the time. I am heading straight to Athens tomorrow from Trikala, and then will do some island hopping in the Cyclades!

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  3. I hadn’t realized when you said you were taking a vacation that you were going to be covering so much ground!

    I’ve been enjoying all the wonderful photos … they make me feel like I’ve been somewhere interesting this summer. 🙂

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    1. Yeah, Athens hotels are very sexy. Unfortunately that particular place wasn’t very über-groovy! The ‘proper’ parts of Athens turned out to be OK the amount of ‘history’ packed into a small area in central A was fantastic – possibly even a wee bit overwhelming – but I was ‘turned’ by the amount of things to see and do in such a small area. Athens gets the ‘thumbs up’ but its no better than Madrid or Valencia or Lisbon. May your pagan gods bless the Acropolis, Athens’ saving grace 😀

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    2. If you do nothing else in your life I would recommend Meteora but a close second, if you value history and knowing where ‘Europe’ comes from (and by extension large swathes of the rest of the planet) then you must go to Delphi and Athens. I’m generally a bit of a Phil E. Stein but I was tranfenestrated by these two sights (or as they say in Glesga, ‘pit through a windae!). Superb, lost for words or (as our mono adjectivular American cousins would say – ass’m!) really rather jolly! Thanks for your continued support Mark 😀

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    1. Most of the Delphi ruins are around 2 and a half thousand years old but of course the earliest modern humans came up through Turkey and the Black Sea area so Greece has some of the earliest human remains in Europe (50,000 years at least) so it’s quite old!

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