Monday, May 26, 2008

Day 101 – The Oracle of Delphi

Early next morning I went to look for a cup of coffee, which I found in a tiny restaurant managed by a pleasant older man. With signs I managed to order my coffee, and was quietly sipping it when the old man started making conversation. We went through the routine of trying to find a common language, and with great happiness found out that we had French in common! He had studied it as a young man in the school, and still had enough recollection for us to hold a conversation. I learned that he was 65 years old, had two daughters and a son, and four grandchildren. I also learned that last summer there had been an big fire throughout the Peleponese (I had already seen signs), that many olive groves had been destroyed, and that the production of olive oil was only a small portion of normal. This has caused tremendous argument, because the producers are exporting all their production (Greek oil is famous and commands high prices in the international market), so to meet domestic needs Greece is now importing cooking oil from Ukraine! People are incensed!

More slow driving through fabulous mountains, but I finally made it to the Oracle of Delphi around 2 pm. Unfortunately for me, archaeologic sites in Greece have the annoying practice of opening only from 8 am to 3 pm, so I had to rush my visit through this amazing site, and didn’t have a chance of visiting the museum. Still, I was able to feel the magic of the place, which like so many later monasteries drapes the southwestern slopes of Mount Parnassus. The temple of Apollo was considered by the Greeks to be the center of the world, and hence the source of the wisdom of the gods (though from what I overheard from a tour guide the oracle was susceptible to follow the political wishes of generous patrons). It is also famous because every four years athletes from all Greece would gather to participate in the Pythian Games. Delphi was founded (presumably by Apollo himself in the 8th century BC, was sacked by Nero in 66 AD, was reconstructed by the Romans, and was finally “closed” by Theodosius in 395 AD.

I spent the rest of the day getting back to Luká, where I made it in good time for dinner. While I was gone Mikki, the niece of Giorgo, had arrived and was in train of preparing a delicious Greek salad (with vegetables bought from the store of cousin Nikki). Giorgo, however, had further plans for dinner, and after a short while he told me that we were going to eat some lamb and watch the match between Manchester and Chelsea. So we trudged up the street to a taberna, where we had some more Greek salad, a yummy dish of lamb lungs and liver, a kilogram of roasted lamb (yes, it is sold by weight, and came as a mountain of steaming ribs and chops), and one carafe after the other of the wine of the house. We were the only “costumers”, so after bringing in the dishes the patron pulled in a chair, poured himself a glass of wine, and sat to watch the game with us. His dad arrived five minutes later, sat at the table, and we joined the brotherhood of soccer fans the world over to discuss every move of what turned out to be a very good game.

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