33 Comments40th Anniversary Trip, Greek Odyssey, History, Memoir, Photography, Travel

greek odyssey

All my life I’ve wanted to visit Greece and indulge my passion for ancient history, archaeology and mythology. When my husband first broached the subject of marking our 40th anniversary (in 2013) with a vacation, it came to mind immediately. Thus, we embarked on the trip of a lifetime! Come along for the ride.

This is a continuing series. See other chapters HERE.

Part V: Delphi, Thermopylae and Kalambaka
Sept. 12, 2013

[Day Three of Four, Classical Greece Bus Tour]

Delphi, Thermopylae and Kalambaka
Map data ©2015 Basarsoft, Google

Day Three Itinerary:

In the morning, visit the archaeological site and museum at Delphi. Break for lunch. Depart for Kalambaka, stopping at Thermopylae along the way. (This was cancelled and added to the next day’s excursion.) Dinner and overnight stay.

The first two days of this excursion, touring Mycenae and Ancient Olympia had been absolutely mind-blowing! Day 3 promised to be equally fascinating.

Of all the archaeological sites we visited, Delphi was the most rugged. This was the one place we didn’t make it all the way to the top, as I wasn’t feeling well that day. Greece is a tough tour in general (everything is situated on mountains!), especially for those of us with arthritis and over 50, but absolutely worth it! Nonetheless, we did get most of the way up, only missing the theatre at the very top. The tour guide assured us it was similar to Epidaurus, which we had explored the day before.

Delphi is another on the list of World Heritage Sites. Located on Mt. Parnassus near the Gulf of Corinth, the sanctuary was home to the famous Oracle of Apollo which gave cryptic predictions and guidance to both city-states and individuals. Although it dates back to 1500 BC, it’s pinnacle as the centre of the ancient world was in the 6th to 4th century BC.

First glimpse of Delphi.
Athena Pronaia Sanctuary
about 800m from the main site, at the foot of Mt. Parnassus:

Overview of Delphi, The Doglady's Den

Multi-level ruins.
Look up; look waaay up!:

delphi ruins

The Treasury Building.
One of the most well-preserved edifices, about halfway up:

treasury building

The Temple of Apollo,
home of the famous Oracle:

Temple of Apollo

The famous Oracle Stone, aka Stone of Pythia (Priestess).

oracle stone

Originally, it lay flat on the ground. According to legend, she sat on a tripod, inhaled mysterious vapours and went into a trance, whereupon she made her predictions. Speculation is, the tripod fit into the three holes on the left and the vapours came up through the hole on the right.

Artist’s depiction

Artist depiction, oracle of Delphi


The Delphi Museum holds many interesting artifacts:

Gold was used profusely in Ancient Greek culture,
as evidenced by this collection, excavated at Delphi:

ancient Greek Gold

The Sphinx of Naxos
is a colossal statue, sent around 560 BC as an offering to the
Temple of Apollo by Naxos, one of the richest Cycladic islands at the time:

Sphinx of Naxos

Statue of Antinous,
young lover and travel companion of the Emperor Hadrian.

Antinous had been part of the entourage since the age of 12 and died mysteriously, during a trip to Egypt, when he was only 21. There are three scenarios about Antinous’ death; some believe he accidentally fell into the Nile and drowned. Others claim he was murdered by opponents of Hadrian. It is also said that he committed suicide to save Hadrian from death. According to an oracle, Hadrian would die, unless another man sacrificed himself, instead. After Antinous’ death, Hadrian founded the town of Antinopolis on the spot the dead body was found. He also declared Antinous a god and commanded the creation of statues all over the empire. This one was excavated at Delphi in 1893, found standing up.

Statue of Antinous, Delphi

Statue of Twins Kleobis and Biton

In Greek mythology, the twins were from Argos, the sons of Cydippe, a priestess of Hera. Cydippe was travelling to a festival in Hera’s honour, but the oxen which were to pull her cart were overdue. Her sons, Kleobis and Biton, pulled the cart the entire way (45 stadia, or 8.3 km/5.1 miles). Cydippe, impressed with their devotion to her and her goddess, prayed to Hera, asking her to give her children the best gift a god could to a mortal. Hera ordained that the brothers would die in their sleep, and after the feast the youths lay down in the temple, slept and never woke. So, with divine assistance, the brothers, through their death, gained immortality and eternal recognition for the respect and love they had shown their mother. To honor the two men, their fellow citizens sent these two dedicated statues to Delphi. Inscriptions on the base of the statues identify them, and also identify Polymedes of Argos as the sculptor: something which was very unusual at such an early date.

Kleobis and Biton, Delphi

Acanthus Column, aka Dancers of Delphi,
depicting three women. it has been suggested that the dancers are the three daughters
of Cecrops I (the first king of Attica, an autochthonous half-serpent) and of Aglauros.

Acanthus Column, Delphi

Scale model of Ancient Delphi, housed in the museum:

model of delphi

By this time, we are were all ready for lunch. Our tour operator took great care to find excellent restaurants.
Hospitality and food are intrinsic to Greek culture.

About 80 km (50 miles) northeast, lay the area of Thermopylae, which is primarily known for the battle that took place there between the Greeks (including the Spartans) and the Persians. Here is located the memorial to Leonidis, King of Sparta who led the attack and perished there. Erected in 1955, the monument features a bronze statue of Leonidas, with a sign underneath, which reads ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ
(“Come and take”). This is what the Spartans said when the Persians asked them to put down their weapons, before the battle began. On the right and left, there are marble figures of the personified Taygetos, which is the highest mountain in the Peloponnese and the personified Evrotas which is a river flowing through the whole district of Laconia.

Statue of Leonidis, Thermypolae

After that brief photo op, we climbed back on the bus for the long drive to Kalambaka.
Most of us took a much-needed nap!

Approaching Kalambaka

Approaching Kalambaka and Meteora

Coming next: Kalambaka and The Hanging Monasteries of Meteora


What’s the most incredible place you have been?

Looking forward to your comments!

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Debbie D.
Canine Innkeeper in suburban Toronto, Canada, known as "The Doglady". Writer/website owner, photographer, animal lover, music fanatic, inveterate traveller. History, literature and cinema buff. Eternal "hippie/rockchick". Binational, German/Canadian and multilingual. Looking for the next adventure!
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    1. Greece is FULL of bling, everywhere! 😀 I think there were something like 40 jewellery stores on one small island. Sadly, the oracles were all sleeping. No sage advice for us. Thanks for checking out my Greece travelogue!

  1. that would be an amazing trip. Hope you make it. It’s one that I can dream about but it’s unlikely that I’ll ever manage it. I’ll be happy to keep making my trips back east each year to see my kids and grandkids. Someday we all have to move closer to make it all easier.

    Nice to make my blog journey to Greece through your dreams.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host

    1. We did make it, Lee, in Sept, 2013. These are my travel photos and part 5 of the continuing series. 🙂 My lifetime dream come true and I’ll never forget it! ♥ Glad you enjoyed the post. (Sorry for the confusion – I’ve added dates for clarity.) Stay tuned for more. You can see the previous entries as well, by clicking on the link in the intro, or “Travelogue” at the top pf the page. It’s always nice to visit family, as well. I’m so glad my husband’s relatives live in Italy. Thanks for dropping in and have a good weekend.

  2. Love the pictures Debbie. I really appreciate you sharing your trip with us. Greece is on my list of places to see. For now, I’ll enjoy your pics :).

    Hope you’re having a great day!

    1. Hi Cori; Glad you enjoy this travelogue. I finally decided to resume it, after a long break. The posts are so time-consuming, but I do want to document the whole journey. Plus, it’s great fun to relive it all! 😀 Thanks for dropping in and have a good weekend.

  3. This is awesome! Greece has always been very special and your pictures prove it. Even the mythology is so wonderful. India also has a lot of history but I don’t visit much historical places. I think Taj Mahal is one that I found very enchanting.

    1. Greece is incredible and I’m so thrilled to have had my lifelong dream come true! 😀 Glad you enjoyed the post. India would be fascinating to visit, but it’s just too far for us, at this stage of our lives – getting ready for retirement, etc. How great that you visited the Taj Mahal. It must have been magnificent! Thanks for dropping in.

  4. My knees ache after reading this post. I am happy you did the traveling and I can be the armchair reader, enjoying Greece from the comfort of my couch. It’s going to take some time to think of the most incredible place I have been to. I can tell you the last place that left me breathless – the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina. After a long hard winter in upstate NY where my home was still covered in snow, I stepped into a wonderland of historic buildings surrounded by green and flowers. It literally took my breath away.

    1. Hahaha! Trust me when I say, our knees were aching a lot during that trip, but it was SO worth a little pain! Good thing I remembered to pack the arthritis pills. 🙂 Greece truly is incredible and no pictures can convey its magnificence as well as seeing it in person, but it definitely was a rugged excursion, one that we’re not likely to repeat at our ages.

      Historic buildings combined with beautiful landscaping is another paradise, for sure. That must have been so lovely, after a harsh winter! I’ve heard many good things about Charleston. 🙂 Thanks for visiting and have a good weekend.

  5. I have arthritis, and I am over fifty… Still, I would find a way to make it to the top, if I found myself standing at the bottom… Fascinating pictures here… You obviously have a passion for this terrain.

    1. Hi Myke; Ordinarily, we would have too, but:
      1. We were still tired from our extensive explorations of Ancient Olympia the day before.
      2. I had some kind of gastric upset
      3. It was 100F in the blazing sun
      4. Very rocky and steep terrain with few actual steps.
      I know, I know; excuses, excuses! LOL Well, we did make it most of the way up. The next day was better and we conquered all 140 steps at Meteora. I have a passion for ancient history and the ruins thereof. Visiting Greece was my lifelong dream. 😀 Thanks for dropping in!

  6. Beautiful! One of the cradles of civilization, filled with wonder, fantasy, and the dreams of every boy if not girl in today’s world.

    What a marvelous gift to each other, but your 40th is difficult to believe. You have the vitality and soul of a much younger lass.

    This must have been a spectacular trip for both of you. I hope one day to experience some travel as I have always planned for tis time of my life. Despite the many hurdles I have not given-up.

    There are so many reasons I am fortunate to be your friend and bro not the least is your travel, tours, and musical delights! ❤

    Chi Chi

    1. Yes, I still find it hard to believe we actually pulled this off! 😀 Visiting Greece was my lifelong dream come true. We’re going on 42 years now and that too is unbelievable. Shocking to think we’re that old! LOL Thanks for the compliment – still just a hippie, at heart. 😉 I hope you do get to travel one of these days, Chi Chi. Thanks so much for your kind words and support. ((HUGS))

    1. Glad you enjoyed this, Ann. More posts to come and several were previously published. 🙂 This was the trip of a lifetime! We also went to Italy again, (my husband is from there), but only to visit his family – not much time for sightseeing. We did the “grand tour” of Italy in 1990 and I had also been to the Italian Riviera with my mother in the late 60s. You would LOVE it there! Greece is fantastic, of course, but Italy holds a special place in my heart. Thanks for visiting.

  7. Those pictures are awesome and the information you have shared is so good. The rich culture and history is evident all throughout that post..Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post, Parul. 🙂 It was an incredible trip and there are many more posts to come (plus several published previously).

    1. That whole two week tour was incredible, Clowie! I’ve resumed the Greece travelogue after a long break and it’s such fun to revisit those amazing places. The Monasteries were equally fascinating. Coming up, soon (I hope). 🙂 Thanks for visiting.

  8. Thanks for sharing your amazing trip to Greece, Debbie. I loved learning about all the stories behind the sculptures and ancient sites. Fascinating stuff!

    1. Glad you enjoyed this, Cathy. 🙂 I’m resuming the Greece travelogue after a long break. This is still the first week, so there’s so much more to come. I did showcase much of it during last year’s A to Z challenge.

    1. Yes indeed, Rachna! This was only during the first week. 🙂 There’s another week to go, still. Stay tuned! Glad you enjoyed the photos.

  9. Greece is so rich in cultural heritage. The buildings, monuments, sculptures are so magnificent and the tales you shared are so fascinating. Thanks for giving us a virtual tour of Delphi, Debbie 🙂