Day 7 (Sun, Sep 21): Olympia / Delphi

We awoke to the sound of roosters crowing. Wonderful! As yesterday, I spent the 5 o'clock hour on the balcony, just listening and watching and breathing in the fresh air laced with rural scents. Nice way to wake up. The country setting of the Amalia Hotel was very pleasing.

We left Olympia at 8:30 and rode to Patras where we had a rest stop. This was interesting because it was our first experience with a hanging-rope, hole-in-the-floor toilet (well, except for hand-dug latrines in scouting and camping in the Sierras). Of course, "number 1" was easier for guys, and for gals who wore skirts (i.e., us); it was a real chore for gals in pants suits (most of our group). We all regained our composure with some very good doughnuts.

to Delphi

Clovino Beach

and Restaurant
We crossed the Corinthian Gulf at Rion (Rio) on a car ferry. It took about 15 minutes. That ride has since been replaced by the beautiful Trikoupis Bridge, linking Rion to Antirion (Rio-Antirio). We all sat on the top deck and enjoyed the view. Drove along the coast of the mainland until we stopped at Clovino Beach for lunch. It was a very pretty place with a beach for swimming. We ate with the Reeves -- had Greek salad with tons of feta cheese. The waiter asked where Karen and I were from. We said "Washington State" to which he responded with a polite, glassy stare. "You know, Mt. St. Helens [May 18]?" and his face lit up with recognition. Oh, and the toilet there was very pleasant and conventional.

At the top of the map shown to the left, cross just above Patra to highway E65, then follow that eastward to Kolpos Iteas (Gulf of Itea), then at Galixidi turn north through Itea to Delphi (Delfi), population 2,373, in the prefecture of Phocis (Fokida). Delphi is 2,000 feet above sea level, set in a spur of Mount Parnassus which rises to 8,069 feet. Aesop is supposed to have been thrown to his death from up there as punishment for his [having been unjustly accused of] stealing a gold or silver cup. It would have been a very long fall. The road up there reveals beautiful countryide on the valley floor filled with olive groves, but the ride itself can be scary. Our tour bus had a short wheel base and it had to negotiate an extremely sharp turn to get into the town of Delphi. This required the driver to go forward, then backward several times to make the angle. Each backward motion took the whole rear end of our bus out over a very long drop, and the volume of "oohs" and "eeks" rose with each inch the rear tires came nearer to the precipice. The driver didn't seem to mind, but then his window was liberally ringed with dozens of Greek Orthodox religious items.

largest olive grove in Greece

road to Delphi

Mt. Parnassus, (shot from Delphi)

Amalia Hotel, Delphi (marked "2")

Delphi museum

Sphinx of Naxos

Kleobis and Biton




Castalian Spring
We checked into the hotel, another Amalia (#2 on the map; you can see the sharp turn it took to get there, though the steep drop off before that isn't cearly portrayed). We then took a rather hurried trip through the museum. Another annoyance, aside from the rush: standing much too close to me at one point was an old, very fat German wearing nothing but losse-fiting see-through boxer shorts ... yuck! Kind of sucked the magic out of the place.

We did manage hurried viewings of the Sphinx donated by the people of Naxos (570 BC), the twins Kleobis and Biton (580 BC), the famous Charioteer (474 BC), Lysippos' Agias (344 BC), and a nice Antinous (130 BC).

Then it was on to the Castalian Spring. This spring predates all of classical Delphi; the archaic guardian of the spring was the serpent or dragon Python, killed by Apollo in its lair beside the spring. In the ancient world, no one could visit the "sacred precinct" without first bathing in the pool fed by this spring. There was a mob of people there. Whatever they were doing with the water (drinking it? washing their hands? making a wish?) there were too many people to bother with.

We shopped for a little while in town, then walked back to the hotel, spent some time writing postcards and took and all-too-brief nap. Went down to the bar and had a drink with Verlie Kimber and Marge Chapman and were later joined by Lucille and Harry Ferdinand from Murray Hills NJ. Went to dinner with the same group. Decided to have a night cap -- talked to Helen Martin (Mobile AL) and Rachel Abernathy (Cleveland OH) and then later with Regis Stevenson from Buffalo.

Randon observations --

On our bus ride north May Oberle (Peoria, IL) read in the International Herald Tribune that Washington's incumbent Democratic governor Dixy Lee Ray was defeated in the primary. Karen and I, though lifelong Democrats, both shouted "Hooray!"

  • Regis Stevenson commented at breakfast that it was remarkable how they could treat raw sewage to make it potable and still maintain the original flavor (the local water has a sulpher smell).
  • When we got on the bus Kay Scheider (Vancouver BC) commented that it nice to sit in the back of the bus "because it is easy to spread your legs." Oops.
  • After our rest stop in Patras, Christina asked me to tell the bus about the women's Olympics (Heraea Games) which began as early as the 6th century BC (the Romans discontinued them).
  • Dottie is doing a needlepoint US flag for Spence. She has been "knitting" that flag for him since the bicentennial (four years ago). Somehow, some feta cheese got squished into the needlepoint after lunch. And she only has 19 stars to go.
  • There was a man in the square at Patras carrying a big wad of wire-rimmed sunglasses which he was peddling.
  • The reason for the whirlwind tour of the museum was that the guards closed the site of the ruins too early.
  • At the place where we had lunch there was a piano. Concepción, who is from Mexico, played the piano -- very well. She and Lucy, from Colombia, sang together -- Spanish songs.
  • Part of the story I told the bus was that the young girls who participated in the races had their breasts exposed. When we were on the ferry, Ginny's (Virginia Figueras from Puerto Rico) blouse came accidentally unfastened and everyone accused her of wanting to the participate in the games.
  • We had a very good bartender tonight. He made fine martinis. At one point he disrupted the ambience of the bar by screaming in English that his stunned customers (four Germans) could order in any language except German. That area had a very bad experience in WWII ... the people had all disappeared into the caves in the mountains, but the Germans brought them all back and shot every last male. Temporary downer, but you had to admire the guy.
  • When we had a drink with Rachel and Helen tonight, I described in some detail what my book will be about. Why they put up with that I don't know.