With time running out, I headed off to Delphi the next morning.
Thankfully, I left early for the hidden bus-station, which I walked past before realising that the overgrown pavement I was following alongside a major road suggested I was straying from the path.
Delphi, situated several hours drive away at the foot of Mount Parnassus, proved to be the best place of all. Thankfully, I elected to stay overnight as I was too late to visit the site of the oracle that afternoon and it would have been a great disappointment not to spend the night somewhere so tranquil and fitting for a consultation with the gods.
The oracle has little to say now but the excited babble of waves of international school children were more garrulous – possibly heightened by the remnants of the hallucinogenic gas that had leaked out and lent the ravings of the original priestesses their ambivalence. I wonder how many cities were won and lost in their translation.
The temples only now exist in the form of isolated clusters of columns mostly nested sleeping in the grass though the theatre and stadium are sufficiently intact to stir the imagination somewhat. The stunning view down the mountainside to the narrow ribbon of river in the valley floor many hundreds of metres below must have made it an inspiring sight for those arriving after many weeks arduous pilgrimage through the deserted and harsh landscape.
Hotel and food were faultless – the latter involved a baked feta pie with sesame seeds, marmalade and honey followed by a wild boar and shallot stew that was so much more than ‘a stew’. The owner looked like a young Tony Soprano and was friendly in rather intense way. His girlfriend had just moved to London so he figured he should visit. He had never left Delphi and gave the impression he would be much happier hunting for my wild boar.
Before I left, I bought a small Grecian urn from a lonely shopkeeper. I felt guilty as she wrapped it up slowly and carefully for my journey home. With each new layer of protection, she seemed to be rueing my decision not to buy any of the more expensive statuettes and vases that I had spent time admiring. I was possibly her only customer that day.
Aside from sporadic swarms of school children, it was a very quiet and peaceful haven of two small streets. As on the islands, it was relatively bereft of youthful inhabitants who had been presumably drawn to the bright lights of Athens.
But I was only passing through so it remains perfect in my memory.