Friday, November 16, 2007

14th October, 2007

I awoke a birthday boy. Kate the Great had acquired a musical birthday card on her trek to and from her meeting. It featured on the front a sunflower worthy of Van Gogh. The rest, as Shakespeare said, was all Greek to me. When I opened the card the music started. And we have Athena and her owl tucked away. A very nice birthday, and today is Sunday. At 8 am (now 6.45) it is off to Delphi and along the way, Chaironea with Taxi Tony. Before that we have to 1) cash up from an ATM, 2) check out and leave two bags at the Adrian, 3) get the Jason Prime telephone number so we can call and confirm and give an ETA, 4) tell the Adrian desk we will be back on 18th about 10 pm, and 5) get going.

I agree with Katester's comments on the Central Market. The fish and meat were certainly sizeable and the fish glistened only when it wasn't wriggling. But the vegetables, apart from the very red tomatoes, were neither bountiful nor eye-catching quality. When I remember the equivalent markets in Florence this market pales. There was one olive purveyor and he had 20+ varieties, but in Florence there were many olive purveyors, etc. The other feature of the Central Market were the destitute Albanians (a general term to include legal and illegal Balkan-Soviet emigres) selling the clothes off the backs of their children. So for us it is a site to be sighted, but I prefer Coles, Harris Farms, de Costi etc.

We see a lot of beggars, and often deformities. I've seen one lad a few times and his feet are turned in badly with talipes. Julie had a mild case of that when she was born. It took plaster casts for a few months, and special shoes until she was about five, and now you would never know. That this lad was in a wheelchair begging on the street for his living shows a terrible lack of medical care for those early years. There are old women begging, limbless people, and more.

The herb and aromatic shops are unlike anything we have (bar Herbie's in Rozelle) and they are redolent with all the different kinds of dried herbs. We see such bags of dried herbs at George's, our local deli, but nothing like the scale of these shops. We saw a couple of fresh cheese shops too, but didn't investigate very closely.

12,477 steps later, many of them vertical, and many kilometres on the clock, we are tucked up at the Jason Prime, ready for floppo and a 5.30 am wakeup call. It was such an interesting day. After breakfast at the Hotel ADrian we checked out and Tony collected us for our day trip to Delphi. First stop, the monumental stone lion at Chaironea (Kai-RON-ea). Sure enough, after about two hours of driving, there he was sitting by the side of the road. Michael had seen a picture of this lion years ago, but had no idea of the scale. The picture below shows that he is HUGE.

Pictures were taken, then off again. A rest stop a bit later narrowly avoided the tour bus throng, then on our way again. Tony suggested a detour to a Byzantine monastery where there was a crypt of St. Barbara. Must look her up. The monastery was lovely and the church and crypt beautifully adorned. It was cold with a strong powerful wind. Glad that I wasn't an 11th century monk! There was a church event, it being Sunday, and there were lots of people about. The shop was well stocked with religious trinkets and was quite crowded with buyers. Back up the steps (oh yes, this monastery was perched on a hillside high on a mountain) to our yellow taxi. Then down the mountain roads and up again towards Delphi. First stop, the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia. A perfect spot, a lovely temple (roons, of course), quiet, the sound of goat bells.

Then the Gymnasium - more rock clambering. We made our way up the steps to the road, coming out just opposite the fabled water spring. Down the road to meet Tony. He drove us up to the next site - the very grand Temple of Apollo. More clambering. Lots of tourists, quite crowded.

A lot of climbing and clambering through the roons up to the theatre. Many vistas, and many vista snaps. The Delian League started at Delphi. The treasure was amassed in this remote, neutral spot sacred to all Greeks, until Pericles took it to Athens for safe-keeping.... to spend it on beautifying Athens.

The museum at Delphi is light and airy, as ethereal as the gods themselves. Including the rarest-of-the-rare - ivory carvings of Apollo and Artemis. There is also a round building at Delphi - another Greek rarity.

We finished all the clambering and gawking, and then got in the car and went to Delphi. It is a few streets cut into the hillside. Souvenir shop, hotel, taverna, one ofter another. Tony took us to a taverna and we filled up with a 2.30 lunch. Then back in the car, first to Arahova, an up-market area for the skiing set and general touristville.

Finally to the Jason Prime Hotel off Omonia Square. A dirty noisy area, but a large clean room with a full size bathtub. A big comfy lie-down in the with-bubbles bathtub, which is whence I have just emerged.

We looked at the tourist shops briefly at Arahova (the Athens side of Delphi) but didn't buy a fur hat with a fat fur tail, nor any embroidered cushion covers (thinking of Majic having his wicked way with all cushions and pillows..) nor any table linen to live in the linen cupboard or be ironed. Nothing, in fact.

The countryside was mountainous and very rugged and rocky. On the flat plans grew olives, some vineyards, and fields and fields of cotton. The sides of the road for miles were lined with fluffballs, looking a little like it had snowed cotton wool. Surprising in one way - cotton needs a lot of water and this is a dry country. But I knew there was cotton here, after all, I bought some. The taxi idea works really well in terms of getting sights seen with a minimum of angst. Tony knew where to stop for loo breaks, where to eat, where the sights are. We didn't need to navigate or drive, didn't miss anything. And we could have a mini-snooze on the way back. It was a grey and cold day, I was glad of my blue cashmere cardie and my windcheater.

Lunch was good - yellow eggy bread, cabbage rolls in egg and lemon sauce for me, moussaka for Michael and Greek coffee and baklava for afters.

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