Categories
Greece (Athens, Delphi) Greece (Peloponnese)

How to get from Delphi to Olympia by bus

See this restaurant? It doubles as the Delphi bus station. Really. 

COVID-19 Preface: Greece officially reopens to travelers on Monday, June 15. According to this Associated Press story published today, “Timely and strictly enforced lockdown measures have so far kept the infection rate in Greece low and the death toll below 200.”)

It was a little confusing. The Delphi bus station appeared closed.

An arrow painted on the building facade, however, pointed to a restaurant called “In Delphi Cafe” next door. Nearby, a man wearing a crisp white shirt and black trousers, waved us down from his curious position in the middle of the street. (It’s a slightly confrontational technique to entice wandering tourists to stop for a bite.)

“Dinner menu?” he asked. 

A bus schedule would be more like it, I thought, since my husband and I still needed to plan the next leg of our trip from Delphi to Olympia. We smiled, and asked, “Bus tickets?”

“Go inside the restaurant, please. Someone will help you there,”  he answered.

We ventured inside. The restaurant immediately reminded me of the beautiful double-story trattoria from Love Actually where Jamie proposes to Aurelia. A balcony. Warm gold-colored walls. Heavy timbers. Sparkling glassware.

A woman behind the counter asked us if we needed bus tickets in plain-as-day English. 

“Yes, we are going to Olympia in two days and we need bus tickets,” my husband explained. 

She called to another waiter, who dried his hands and stepped to a computer at the bar. 

So this is the bus station, I thought to myself. Hmmm. Interesting.

An employee wearing jeans, t-shirt, and a white apron wrapped around his hips walked in carrying a stainless steel container covered with plastic wrap. He had come from the direction of the “bus station” next door. They must use the “bus station” for storage, I thought.

This photo was taken from the balcony of our hotel the night we arrived. We spent two nights in Delphi, a quaint and quiet mountain town known for its famous archaeological site. Towns around Delphi, such as Arachova, are winter skiing destinations.

Our waiter/ticket clerk stared at the computer screen, squinting, and asked us when we wanted to arrive in Olympia.

It would take all day, he said. Of course, that was fine.

It was what we expected. For although it only appears to be a jog to the southwest on a map, the bus route would take us to Itea, a small town on the shores of the Gulf of Corinth just a few miles south of Delphi.

Then the route would trace the edge of the gulf for nearly three hours before crossing south into Patras. From Patras, we would take a bus to Pyrgos (NOT the Pyrgos on Santorini, by the way).

From there, a final bus would drive us the remaining thirty kilometers to Olympia, where we would meet our AirBnB host, the fifty-seventh (okay, not really, but it seemed like it) man named Kostas who we met on our trip.

Here’s the route our waiter/ticket clerk gave to us, written on the back of a receipt:

We purchased and received our tickets, thanked the young man, and told him we would be back for dinner.

THREE HOURS LATER…

Roast lamb, moussaka, wine, potatoes, salads… all served on a candle-lit table under the leafy branches of a tree so large it sheltered like an umbrella not only the peninsula that served as the outdoor seating area for the restaurant, but also the two streets that ran on either side.

Delphi’s In Delphi Cafe is charming. We chose to sit under the large oak tree outside on a peninsula bordered on either side by highway 48, which here is actually a street..

Below is a photo of our hotel, Art Hotel Pythia, in Delphi…it was manned by one employee. In the mornings, he had to cover BOTH the front desk and the upstairs dining room simultaneously. Speaking of the upstairs dining room, it offered a very generous and complete complimentary breakfast selection of eggs, meats, fruits, cereals, coffee, pastries.

It was fabulous breakfast, even though it had been overrun by a large traveling group of students who had already dined and left. Tables were littered with used china and glasses, since the one staff employee hadn’t been able to leave the front desk to clean. Still, there were pastries and eggs to be had, and it was nice to see actual dishes being used instead of paper and plastic.

We sympathized with the employee and knew he was doing the work of three to four people.

This hotel with its impossibly small staff caused us to wonder about Delphi’s economic outlook. The town appears to be a sleepy village holding on for dear life during Greece’s financial crisis. Across the street from Art Hotel Pythia was an abandoned multi-story hotel that was probably packed during the Olympic Games in 2004.

Thank goodness for the amazing archaeological site just down the road! Read my post about the site here.

Art Hotel Pythia, our hotel in Greece.

The day we departed Delphi, we left our hotel around 11 a.m. and waited outside the restaurant/bus station for the large, air-conditioned bus that arrived about fifteen minutes late. We loaded our luggage into the lower bins of the bus and boarded.

It was a packed bus. There was a group of about ten kids travelling to the beach at Itea. Like kids everywhere, they were talking and joking, laughing over shared phone screens.

This map shows the route our bus took from Delphi in the upper right corner down to Olympia in the lower left corner. The small white dot in the blue road above the word “Archaeological” is in about the same spot as Pyrgos, our final stop before reaching Olympia.

Our bus made its way down to Itea on the shores of the Gulf of Corinth, which you can see in the distance in the photo below. This was a beautiful drive with two or three tight hairpin curves.

The weather was warm and sunny when we left; as we drove, the temperature rose. Thankfully, our bus was comfortable and air-conditioned.

After passing more and more olive groves on the way, we eventually stopped at the bus station in Itea on a road that fronted the shore of the Gulf of Corinth.

Itea was a quiet little town that, based on the many outdoor cafes and shops, we could tell would be busy with tourists in July and August.

I took this photo of my husband Mitch standing across the street from the bus station at this small dockside park.

We were nervous about missing our bus to further points south, so we crossed back over to the bus station and waited. The bus station was little more than a hallway with a counter at the back, so we couldn’t wait inside where it was warm. Instead, we bought spinach pies at the small restaurant next door and ate them sitting outside on the sidewalk next to our four pieces of luggage.

And then we waited. It was fun.

Our bus finally arrived and we boarded, knowing this would be a much longer leg of the trip than the short jaunt down the hill to Itea from Delphi.

Our bus ride meandered part of the way through the lowland hills along the coast of the Gulf of Corinth.

We stopped here and there at several towns to drop people off and allow others to load. In the photo above: a market along the way.

Of course, olive trees were everywhere, tucked into any field available. Note the Greek Orthodox church on the horizon.

We stopped several times to board more passengers.

Driving along the coast often meant driving about twenty feet from the water. Waves splashed onto the road in several places.

We passed through several nondescript towns. Many have boarded up or shuttered stores and offices. Greece’s financial state is quite obvious, especially in the more remote and smaller towns. Last summer, some blamed the Olympic Games for at least part of the economic crisis.

Along the road, we would often see Olympic statues such as this one that traces the route the torch bearers took as they carried the flame toward the games in Athens in 2004.

I took this shot of a sidewalk in Nafpaktos, one of a dozen or more towns we traveled through on our way to Olympia. It’s north of the Gulf as we made our way west to cross over to Patras.

We were nearing Patras, Greece’s third largest city (after Athens and Thessaloniki).

This majestic bridge can be seen from a distance. It’s the doorway into Patras and points south on the Peloponnese peninsula

This photo shows another point on the Olympic torch trail.

We were dropped off in Patras as this bus station. After going inside and inquiring about our next leg of the trip, we discovered we needed to be three blocks away at a different station to meet our bus, which was scheduled to leave in about fifteen minutes.

The only solution to get there quickly was to walk.

We each grabbed our carry-on and pulled our jumbo suitcases and took off for the right train station. We charged through empty sidewalk cafes, deserted in the mid-afternoon. At one, an employee was hosing down the seating area. The coolness from the water kept us moving on.

We finally made it to the Patras train station. As Mitch took care of buying our tickets inside, I waited outside to make sure we got on that bus.

Which we did.

Safe and secure in another air-conditioned motorcoach, we settled in for our next-to-last leg of the trip to Pyrgos.

This leg of the trip held its own frustrations for us.

We’re not absolutely sure, but we think we booked a local bus that stopped numerous times. One city we spent an especially long amount of town in was Amaliada. Either our bus driver was lost or he was just playing a trick on us because we spent about an hour piddling our way back and forth in this town.

More dawdling in Alamiada…. but we did spy another church and some non-touristy scenes of typical Greek living: old men sitting at card tables outside of cafes or clubs, kids playing in playgrounds, young men drinking beer in the brittle, dusty grass of an abandoned city park. (I rarely saw women out visiting and socializing, by the way.)

True, Amaliada wasn’t Skopelos, but part of the reason we took bus transit was to see an unfiltered version of Greece. In fact, check out our neighborhood where we stayed in Heraklion.

Finally on our way out of town to Pyrgos, we spotted these hothouses of strawberries and watermelons.
The bus station in Pyrgos was a bright, airy place.

Victory! We finally made it to Pyrgos… ten minutes late.

Our bus to Olympia had departed ten minutes before we arrived. Instead of trying to book another bus for the remaining thirty-mile ride, we opted to take a taxi instead.

It had been a long day, but the end was in sight. And what a different world it was from mountainous Delphi!

Welcome to Olympia! Yesssss.

We met our AirBnB host, the sixtieth man named Kostas, for some friendly introductions. He met us in the middle of the street of our AirBnb, waving his arms to catch our taxi driver’s attention.

Kostas gave us a short tour to the entrance of the Olympia archaeological site so we could find it easily the next morning.

It’s quite a haul to get from Delphi to Olympia in one day, but it’s…

  • quite possible,
  • inexpensive,
  • and full of scenery that runs the gamut from the beautiful to the mundane.

While we plan to rent a car the next time we’re in the Greek countryside, we are definitely glad we took the public transit options that were available on our first trip.

Even though taking the bus requires you to engage in some risk-taking, confusion, second-guessing, and moments that will test your patience, we would recommend it if you want to experience authentic Greece.


Thanks for reading! I’m amazed that story ideas are still surfacing from our travels last summer. Leave a like, make a comment and become a follower for more travel posts. While travel stories aren’t my only genre on this blog, they do seem to dominate my posts lately. That will be changing soon.

For my totally separate English teaching blog, click here.

Categories
Art Greece (Athens, Delphi)

The Zeus of Greek museums: Our visit to The National Archaeological Museum of Athens

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Bronze sculpture of Zeus (or Poseidon) in the Severe style, 460 BC.

From golden goblets to frying pans to perfume

On our next to last day in Greece last summer, we capped off our Greek museum tour with a visit to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. It was the last museum we would see, having already visited other museums in Athens (The Acropolis Museum), Mycenae, Delphi, Olympia, and Heraklion. You would think that we would have been “museumed out,” but actually each museum is so unique to its location that each one feels quite different from the others.

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So what sets the National Archaeological Museum in Athens apart from the others? In a word, I would say “breadth.” In fact, you will find the widest gamut of Greek artifacts and art. This museum has pieces from all those other areas we had visited across the country, in addition to hundreds (possibly thousands) more.

By the way, here’s a list with links to posts I’ve written about the other museums we visited in Greece:

For example, when we visited the Museum of Mycenae, the golden Mask of Agamemnon that was discovered in a grave circle there, was not held in that museum.

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The original Mask of Agamemnon is in Athens; a replica is in Mycenae. Photo: Wikipedia

The mask on exhibit in Mycenae is a replica,  a guard told me. The original could be found in the National Museum in Athens, he added. Upon hearing this, we made a mental note to seek out the mask when we would eventually tour the National.

Watch this video from Khan Academy for more about this mask.

When one visits a museum in Greece, you truly feel that you are in the hub of antiquity. Each museum is an art historian’s dream;  art history students will also be amazed at seeing in person so many famous works commonly found in textbooks.

This description of the National Museum can be found on the museum’s website:

“The National Archaeological Museum is the largest museum in Greece and one of the most important in the world. Originally destined to receive all the 19th century excavations, mainly from Attica and other parts of the country, it gradually took the form of a central National Archaeological Museum and was enriched with finds from all parts of the Greek world. The rich collections, enumerating more than 11,000 exhibits, offer the visitor a panorama of ancient Greek culture from the prehistory to the late antiquity.”

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We saw Cycladic non-stick frying pans that date from 2800-2300 BC.

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These Cycladic frying pans really captured my interest since they resemble modern day frying pans.

Here’s a listing of the various collections within the museum:

  • prehistoric antiquities
  • sculpture
  • metalwork
  • vases and minor arts
  • Egyptian antiquities
  • Cypriot antiquities (those from the island of Cyprus).

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Ancient Greek Cauldrons

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Fragments of a fresco from Knossos Palace in Heraklion on the island of Crete. This is an image of a “figure 8 shield” covered in animal hide.

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Part of the museum’s collection of gold artifacts. These are from Mycenae’s Grave Circle A, where many tombs of the wealthy were found. The pieces are found in the shapes of cocoons (a symbol of rebirth), pomegranates (a symbol bounty), and butterflies.

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These golden goblets, known as the Vaphio Cups, are finely detailed and depict bulls.

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Egyptian artifacts proves trade between the early Greeks and Egyptians. The Greeks learn some of their quarrying techniques from the Egyptians. In addition, archaic kouros poses were borrowed from the ancient Egyptians.

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Part of a temporary exhibit, “The Countless Aspects of Beauty.”

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Vials of perfumes to sniff in the “Countless Aspects of Beauty” exhibit.

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These amphoras (pedestal vases) were awarded at Panathenaia, an important festival held in honor of Athena in Athens.

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Close-up of an amphora.

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Members of the Roman Julio Claudian Dynasty (31 BC-68AD). During this period, Greece was a Roman province.

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Renowned bronze of Zeus or Poseidon found on the Cape of Artemision, in northern Euboea near Athens.

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This Zeus, in the Severe style, also known as the Early Classical style, “marks the breakdown of the canonical forms of archaic art and the transition to the greatly expanded vocabulary and expression of the classical moment of the late 5th century,” according to this Wikipedia article. Works in the Severe style show a change in drapery of clothing.

 

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The Severe Style more accurately represents the human body. Also, Severe style works have an “interest in emotion and motion.” As for emotion, figures reveal a more serious character and expression.  As for motion, figures are under strain or in action, but always in motion.

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Here’s an example from the museum of an early Cycladic figure that shows the contrast of earlier artwork to later pieces of the Severe style.

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Close-up of the youth Perseus or Paris. Also of the Severe style, this is a good example of how artists commonly used bronze to produce their sculptures.

Visiting the National Museum in Athens was our final stop of our five-week Greek odyssey. We left Athens at 6 a.m. the next morning, for a short layover in Amsterdam, and then Atlanta, and then finally to our home airport in Springfield, Mo.


Thanks for reading again about our travels in Greece this past summer! Now that we’ve both started new jobs and are in the full swing of new school years, this trip seems like a lifetime ago. However, there are still posts to be written, and I’ll get to those eventually. My next one will likely be about the Jewish Ghetto in Venice, which I was able to see briefly during my week-long stay there in June. 

Now that the year is beginning to wind down, I also hope to write soon about “2019… My Year of Living Changerously” and how I managed to stay buckled up and on the tracks.

Categories
Greece (Athens, Delphi)

Just Takin’ A “Delfie” Selfie

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A selfie in front of the Tholos at Delphi (say it Delfie)

“Delphi” rhymes with selfie

I didn’t know until yesterday that to pronounce Delphi like the Greeks, one pronounces it with the stress on the first syllable and with a long “e” sound on the second. Whoops. Silly me. If you pronounce it to rhyme with selfie, you’ve got it right.

So… I think it made perfect sense to attempt a Delfie selfie today when we visited the archaeological wonder. I don’t take many selfies (and by that I mean as few as possible), but this post includes two or three to take care of the issue for awhile.

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Another selfie in front of the Treasury of the Athenians

When we added Delphi to our list of must-see attractions, I had no idea we would be scouring over a steep mountainside full of pine and cypress trees. In fact, this is snow skiing country. The next town over, Arachova, offers skiing during the winter months. I guess I just didn’t realize how “Alpine” the Delphi would feel.

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Treasury of the Athenians

In a sentence or two, “Delphi could be described as a religious complex centered around the Oracle of Delphi that was located in the Temple Apollo,” according to a book we bought, Delphi and Its Museum, by Panos Valavanis. Delphi flourished during the Archaic and Classical period of Ancient Greece, roughly from the 6th – 4th centuries BC.

On the UNESCO World Heritage site placard near the entrance to the grounds, it reads:

“The archaeological site of Delphi is Panhellenic sanctuary with an international fame. Its remnants represent some of the foremost events of art and architecture. The sanctuary, which combines in a unique manner the natural and historical environment, is related to numerous, key events of Greek history that have an impact on the progress of civilization.”

It continues: “Inscription on this List confirms the outstanding universal value of a cultural or natural property which deserves protection for the benefit of all humanity.”

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Okay, not exactly a selfie, but a nice lady from Australia took this for us. We’re standing in front of the Temple to Apollo and the Serpentine Column.

Here are some major sites within the Delphi archaeological site:

  • The Treasury of the Athenians
  • Temple to Apollo
  • Theater
  • Stadium
  • Tholos at Delphi
  • The Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia

However, besides all these major sites, there are numerous other objects, foundations, walls, and monuments to distract and fascinate you. And don’t forget the magnificent natural beauty of the place.

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Theater on the left. Temple to Apollo is on the right. Clear down the hill you can see more ruins. This was taken on our way to the stadium all the way at the top of the site.

We took so many pictures at Delphi today that there’s NO WAY I could post them all. Here are a fraction of the photos we took at both the archaeological site and at the museum.

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Temple to Apollo is on the right. Other buildings (there are so many we couldn’t keep track of them all) are on the left.

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Carved inscriptions are on practically every surface.  Most of these were written by slaves who were guaranteed their freedom by Apollo, according to a book we bought in the museum.

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A closer view of the carved inscriptions.

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The long view of the wall. Most stones had inscriptions on them.

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Capitals that would have topped columns. They’re just here, there and everywhere.

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The Tholos, a round temple. This is the structure I’m standing in front of in the selfie at the top of this story.

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I took this to show the detail of the underside of the Tholos.

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The stadium clear up at the top of the site. Panhellenic Pythian Games were held here.

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We snacked on this stone bench over by the stadium. I think it could actually be a bench from the stadium itself. There are stone pieces everywhere. They had to fall there from something.

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Column drums that were stacked to form tall columns. That’s my purse next to one to show scale. In the background by the person in the pink shirt, is a base that these columns may have been stacked on.

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I thought this column was interesting because of its sharp edges. If you look closely, you’ll see carved inscriptions on the stones.

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A trough for carrying waters from the natural fountains on the mountain.

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It’s interesting. Right alongside some fire extinguishers and a storage chest, you’ll find ancient Greek columns. No big deal.

 

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And then we went to the museum.

 

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The Argos Twins, Cleobis and  Biton… Careful what you wish for. These were the boys whose mother asked the gods to bless them for carrying her to the temple of Hera. As a result, they were given the greatest gift… death at their finest moment.

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The Sphinx, a gift from the island of Naxos, given to Apollo Delphi to gain the gods’ favor.

 

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Aghias, son of Aknonis. An athlete (that’s why he’s nude) and shows how the ancient Greeks used contrapposto, which is an assymetrical arrangement of the body. Contrapposto allows a more natural stance.

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The bronze Charioteer is the grand finale of the museum.

We spent about four-plus hours total touring the archaeological sites and the museum. We started in about 9 a.m. and finished up around 1:30 p.m. The weather was very warm, but very nice in the shade.

We had about an hour before the tour buses arrived, so the sites really weren’t that crowded. And because many if not most people don’t go down to the Tholos of Delphi and the Sanctuary of Athena (which are located down the hill and separate from the main complex), we felt like we had a very thorough visit.

Tomorrow… on to Olympia!


Thanks for reading! Leave a comment if you’ve been to Delphi or if you have any selfie-taking skills to share! Follow my blog for more stories from our 2019 Greece trip.