Delphi & Osiou Louka 1/03

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Site of the Oracle & center of the ancient world...

In front of the Tholos at the Sanctuary of Athena

The round trip from Athens to Delphi in Central Greece takes a full day, but it never lacks for scenery. The small towns and mountain roads give the impression of a more relaxed Greek life than in Athens. Delphi is a mystical place, made more so for me by the nearly deserted sites - almost eerie. According to mythology, Delphi was the spot where heaven and earth were closest - the meeting place of two eagles released by Zeus and sent in opposite directions around the world. The Oracle, Pythia, had a spiritual connection to Apollo, son of Zeus, who would give advice on critical matters.

Temple of Apollo, Theatre and Stadium

The fourth century BC Sanctuary of Apollo is split between a large area carved into the side of a Parnassus mountain slope and the separate Sanctuary of Athena 10 minutes down the road. Between them is the Castilian Spring, its waters famous for inspiring poets and statesmen. On the slope, the steep marble Sacred Way leads up the mountain past some Greek treasuries (first picture below) to the Temple of Apollo (large picture at right and second picture below), a theatre (third picture below) and a stadium (fourth picture below). The theatre and stadium are still used for the yearly Festival of Delphi.

 

Temple of Apollo - Seat of the Oracle

The Delphi Museum and the Sanctuary of Athena

The Delphi Museum is located adjacent to the site. Much of the collection was closed while they finish a new wing, but there was still a good sample on display of some of the artifacts excavated at the site. The star of the collection is the fifth century BC Charioteer of Delphi (first picture below), a seven foot tall bronze statue that originally also included a four horse chariot. The figure has a mesmerizing face and incredible detail. Ten minutes down the road is the Sanctuary of Athena, goddess of wisdom, which includes a long thin expanse with a gymnasium (second picture below) and the beautiful 4th century Doric tholos (third and fourth pictures below). No one knows what this building was for, but its unique design has captured interest throughout the centuries.

The Monastery of Osiou Louka

About 60 miles back toward Athens is the eleventh century Monastery of Osiou Louka (Saint Luke). It is perched on the side of Mount Hellicon (first picture below) and decorated with lavish mosaics and artwork throughout (second and third pictures below). Made up of two connected churches, it is still in use today and considered a holy spot for the Greek Orthodox. The outside is built from brick and various small pieces of marble which you can see from the inside of the attached museum (fourth picture below).

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