I am finished with this trip’s archeological jaunts.
I arrived in the central Greece mountain resort town of Delphi yesterday. My bus from Athens took about 3 1/2 hours and as the terrain changed, so did the people. Greece is the Queen of the Balkan peninsula, but the islands, Crete, and the south belong to another, easier world. Here in the mountains the air is cooler and there is more of an ‘old world’ feel to much of the real surroundings. I say ‘real’ to differentiate between that and the tourist culture that thrives throughout Greece, and indeed, any nation. Delphi is not unique in this respect.
Nearby Mt. Parnassos, with its large European styled ski resort, is the primary draw for much of the area. The other attraction is the remains of the spiritual city that was ancient Delphoi. This is where the Oracle lived, was consulted, and eventually faded out around 60 AD. Asking a question of the Oracle would lead to a deceptively ambigious answer, leaving the interpretation and result in the hands of often arrogant and powerful politicians and generals. Not much has changed in the world. The same coterie is running the show, I think.
In the late 19th century, French archeologists unearthed some remains on the current, then overgrown, site. The French government then ‘bought’ the surrounding area with a promise to the Greek government to purchase the entire Greek currant crop. They then persuaded the populace who were living there to pull up stakes and move the entire modern town about a kilometer away. They used the army to help them out in this task. Hmmm…
The result is a new Delphi, made up of inexpensive, alpine-like hotels, numerous restaurants mostly serving the same over-priced mediocre food, and a population entirely geared towards the tourist trade. It’s OK, seeing that 40% of the Greek population is involved in tourism somehow.
The site is stupendous, however, with the ruins of many temples, a stunning theater, and an equally impressive stadium. This is all nestled on the mountainside overlooking a deep, lush, valley planted with olive groves and stretching all the way down to the Bay of Corinth and the port town of Itea, visible in the distance. This and the very nice museum (minus Itea) can all be seen in a day, which is precisely what I did this morning. I was finished by 1PM and napping by 1:30.
The town, however, is crawling with tourists, mostly Americans, who refuse to learn any Greek. Instead the speak loudly and with sharp tones, thinking that this will improve the service. They ask for food without cheese, low-fat things, and all the strange customs we have in the US. Perhaps they would have been happier staying at home and watching a movie of the place. I certainly keep my distance from them.
So, tomorrow I head back to Athens, looking forward to some meetings, fellowship, and souvlaki that actually constitutes a meal. I’ll be staying at the home of a friend in the program until I leave Tuesday morning, flying back to America. I expect to have all kinds of trouble coming back into the US since I chose the extremely legal option of traveling on my EU passport while abroad. It’s an electronic passport, so it doesn’t have any stamps, only the e-signature from customs in Italy and Greece. Whatever. The TSA is not a very bright group of pencil pushers anyway, so why should I expect anything less?
Next stop, Athens, and perhaps another entry before I land on American soil…