Delphi and Athens
It took us pretty much a whole day to get to Greece. In this case
a two hour drive to Gatwick, a three and a half hour flight to
Athens, and a two hour taxi ride to Delphi, broken up by many hours
in airports. We arrived at 11.30pm (Greek time) and took a while
to get settled and to sleep; it was 9.30am before we made it down
It was hot but not too unpleasant, with some cloud cover and an occasional breeze.
a view towards the gulf of Corinth
the site sprawls up the hill
the Sanctuary of Apollo
a splendid view from the theatre
there were beetles, crickets + lizards
We walked to the Sanctuary of Apollo, the main archaeological site
(1.3km from our hotel) and spent over three hours there, taking
our time walking up to the stadium (another km or so) and back,
looking at plants and insects as well as the ruins. The theatre
and stadium are in fine condition — the theatre was used for
a performance in 1930, and one could still imagine running a race or
being a spectator in the stadium — but even the much flimsier remnants
had a mystery to them.
Greek history was a real fascination
of mine as a child, and seeing the foundations of the building
dedicated by Lysander to commemorate the battle of Aegospotamai
— where Sparta destroyed the Athenian fleet and broke Athenian naval
dominance of the Aegean — was exciting, though I'm not sure Helen or
Camilla understood my explanation of this (Helen hadn't got
past Peisistratus). And the taxi ride to Delphi had been in
the dark, but I had followed on Google Maps as we went past Theva,
now barely more than a village but once the city state that had
rivalled Athens, and Chaeronea, where Philip II defeated an
Athenian-Theban army to seal his hegemony over Greece.
After looking around the site we had some bread rolls, all that was
available, and then looked around the museum, which was recently
built and showcases the friezes and statuary recovered from the
site and elsewhere around Delphi.
After walking back to our hotel and recovering there, we had the
idea of going to visit the Temple of Athena Pronaia. Failing to get
hold of a taxi, we started walking there and got half-way before
realising Helen wasn't going to cope with the 4km there and back
without having dinner. So Camilla went on to look at the temple
while I took Helen to dinner.
playing Rat-a-Tat-Cat on our balcony
(we also took Sleeping Queens)
waiting for dinner
On our last morning in Delphi, I got in a brisk early morning walk
to the Temple of Athena Pronaia, which I had all to myself apart
from the caretaker, the first coachload of tourists arriving just
as I was leaving, and got back to our hotel before Helen or Camilla
had woken up.
Perhaps because it was May rather than July or August, Delphi was
surprisingly quiet and uncrowded, and the archaeological site and museum
were busy but not totally packed.
the tholos at the temple of Athena Pronaia
the main street in Delphi
I walked over 10km/day in our four days in Greece, including a few
walks by myself in the early morning when it was nice and cool;
I think the exercise was one reason I felt so good during the trip.
The bus trip from Delphi to Athens took over three hours, and for a
while it looked like we weren't going to get seats, but in the end
it worked out ok, and Helen managed sitting on our laps: I read Neil
Gaiman's Odd and the Frost Giants to her; Camilla played I Spy
with her. And in Athens we got a taxi to our hotel with no problems.
After settling in we went off to explore the Agora site,
then had dinner in one of the nearby restaurants, wandered through
the Monastiraki market, and ate gelato in the little square outside
the metro station.
the ancient agora beneath the acropolis
in the stoa of Attalos
Helen went to sleep late and woke up early, getting less than nine
hours sleep, so a long day on the Acropolis was looking fraught. And
indeed we had a mini-tantrum a hundred metres after we set off,
but after that she was fine, walking up to the Acropolis, around it,
back down to a restaurant, to and around the Acropolis Museum, and
back to our hotel. Highlights included finding space under a little
tree in the middle of the Acropolis, so we could sit in the shade and look around,
and eating lunch (our most expensive meal so far, but worth it)
in a restaurant with a view of the Acropolis and Parthenon, which
Helen and Camilla sketched.
the top of the Acropolis (our tree is middle right)
the Parthenon from lunch
drawn from life
the Acropolis Museum
After I explained the problem, Helen suggested there be a combined
UK-Greece referendum on where the Parthenon Friezes (Elgin Marbles)
We had a rest back in our hotel then, getting into the local way of
life, we went out for dinner around 8pm and after that ate icecream
outside watching the floodlight Acropolis.
The food was all excellent, and mostly reasonably cheap. (In
contrast, I remember Corfu and Santorini being more expensive than I
expected.) It was striking that almost all the restaurants are Greek,
without the sprinkling of Thai restaurants and Italian pizza places I
expect in tourist areas.
from Filopapou Hill
path marking on Filopapou Hill
I started the next day with a walk up
Filopapou Hill, which has paths laid out as a kind of "landscape
and was quite pleasant in the morning cool. There
were dog-walkers, runners, and what looked like a Tai Chi group.
And views in all directions!
It was right next to our hotel, so we visited the Herakleidon Museum,
which had a nice little exhibition on ancient Chinese technology.
After a morning tea snack, we caught the metro to the National
Archaeological Museum. This has some lovely stuff, and we managed
to see most of the highlights. (These include the remains of the
Antikythera mechanism, and one of the displays referenced an Allan
Bromley paper.) We had a late lunch in a nice little cafe in a
slightly dingy area south of the Museum.
walking to the museum
After that the plan was to go to Plaka and have a look around
there, but it was hot and Helen was tired. So Camilla took her
back to the hotel in a taxi, while I walked to Syntagma Square --
a giant roundabout with expensive clothing stores and McDonalds
and suchlike -- visited the Cathedral, wandered through Plaka,
came back past the library of Hadrian and the Roman Agora (didn't
have time to go in), and through Monastiraki to our hotel.
Our hotel was on the quieter western side of the central
acropolis-agora area, just 800m from the acropolis and 500m from
the ancient agora. The street in front of the hotel (Apostolou
Pavlou) had been recently pedestrianised, and the little streets
behind one-wayed to restrict and slow traffic, leaving the area
(about half a kilometre across) accessible only from the south-west.
This seemed like an excellent use of modal filtering to make an
area more pleasant.
We took a taxi to have dinner with an friend of Camilla's who lives
We had an earlyish but not too early start — our flights had been
chosen to avoid that — and, apart from our taxi needing to stop
for a minute so we could all get out and the driver could "reboot"
the car, we had an uneventful flight home.
On the way home Helen drew an "Easyjet Fish".
back in Oxford