As much as I love big cities, I also like to take a break and see the countryside surrounding them to get a better sense of the culture and the people. So on my second day in Athens I took a tour out to the ancient city of Delphi, home to the legendary oracle at the base of Mount Parnassus with ruins dating back to the 8th century B.C. According to the legend, Zeus was determined to find the exact center of the earth so he set two eagles free, one heading east and the other heading west, and wherever they met would be considered the “naval of the world”. You guessed it. They met here at Mt. Parnassus and as is their way, they built a stone sculpture to remind everyone they were at the center of the world.
Of course, they also built a temple and a theater to honor the gods. With majestic views both from the actors’ point of view and the audience, it must have been spectacular to see performances and rituals here.
Now the other feature here is the Olympic stadium that sits at the very top of this mountain. It’s a long climb and the day was extremely hot. Many of the folks on our tour opted to stay at the bottom and wander through the temple ruins. But I had water in hand and a curiosity to see the top, so off I went. Now considering the fact that Greek olympians would run up these hills, usually naked and then start the competition, I will admit my imagination (if not my body) was running a bit wild as well. What kind of shape were these folks in? Did they have sunscreen? Especially for those sensitive parts? Okay, you get the idea…but as I continued the climb, a bit of the competitive spirit must have rubbed off on me. Here I was surrounded by young college kids who were struggling a bit too. I was determined to keep up with them and when I reached the top, I will admit I gave myself a mental “medal” for having the grit to make it to the top. And boy was I grateful I did, because the views were stunning!
As I made my way down, I could understand why the ancient Greeks thought this to be the home of gods, muses and oracles. I don’t know whether it was the lack of oxygen at this altitude, the sense of truly ancient history, the lore and mythology or just potential heat stroke, but I felt something magical here. So as I passed the altar of Apollo, I did a gentle genuflect, thankful that I was physically able, mentally willing and emotional adventurous enough to make the climb and have yet another wonderful travel experience.