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It was a bright sunny day when we woke up in Delphi this morning. After breakfast in our hotel, we enjoyed a final look at the view from our balcony, and then it was time to set off on our journey back to Athens. We knew we had about 3 hours of driving ahead of us, but as our flight back to London wasn't until 20.00 this evening, we wanted to try to do something more interesting with the day than drive straight down the motorway back to Athens. From doing some research online last night, we found that there is an "old" route between Delphi and Athens which doesn't involve going on the toll road. That sounded like it might be a lot more scenic! Our journey started by leaving Delphi behind and driving towards the small village of Itea. Itea is situated on the coast and we thought it was the seaside town that we had been able to see in the distance from our balcony. We found a place to park and admired the impressive Greek Orthodox church. It was really beautiful. We walked down from the church to the seafront. The views here were really beautiful too. We watched a fishing boat coming into the harbour, completely surrounded by seagulls! And when we turned our backs on the sea, we could see up to Delphi on the slopes above. We left Itea and began to drive through the mountains, in the direction of a town called Distomo. The road here was really spectacular... ...and we had some more incredible views out to sea. It's hard to make out in the photo, but there was a beautiful little Orthodox church with a blue roof on the top of the hill in front of us at this viewpoint. We continued around the coast for a while... ...before stopping by the sea in Distomo. There were some great views here too, and a little lighthouse. From here our route took us inland. We drove through the nearby town of Livadia, but didn't stop because it all looked rather industrial. We continued on via minor roads to the village of Chaeronea, where we had read online that there was an ancient theatre. There was indeed, and it was quite an unusual one, carved into the side of the mountain. We drove on more tiny roads, past interesting churches, towards the village of Orchomenus. There was a pretty monastery here.... ...as well as another ancient theatre. It was mid-afternoon by this point, so we needed to make progress back towards Athens. Tim successfully navigated the route back in and we handed back the hire car without any problems. Phew. We had just enough time to head back to one of the restaurants we'd enjoyed during the week for a late lunch. Tim went for a dish of beef and onions, in a tomato sauce... ...while I decided to try a Greek dish called pastitsio, which was basically like a Greek lasagne It was a lovely meal, and a fun end to what has been a really great holiday. Greece has definitely surpassed my expectations, and I'm not sure anywhere will ever surpass the view from our Delphi hotel
The weather looked a bit sunnier this morning when we woke up in Delphi and went to check the view from our balcony. It still hasn't come out terribly well in the photo, but we could see the blue sea in the distance a lot more clearly We had breakfast in the hotel and then began walking towards the archaeological site, which is a few hundred metres up the road from where we are staying. As we walked along the road, we began to get wonderful views along the valley in the opposite direction as well. The ancient Greeks believed that Delphi was a mystical place and the centre of the universe; looking at these views, it's not hard to understand why they were so impressed by it. It costs €12 for a ticket to get into the ruins. Luckily there was no strike today The site at Delphi is quite large - and built up the hillside - so there was plenty of walking to do. We easily got our 10,000 steps in as we explored! This was good though, because it meant that even though there were quite a lot of tour groups, the location somehow managed to absorb them and it never felt too busy. And the higher we climbed, the more we were able to enjoy the beautiful views The most impressive building at Delphi is the Athenian Treasury. This was built by the city to commemorate their victory against the Persians in the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. The most impressive building in ancient times would have been the Temple of Apollo. A temple was first built here in the 7th century BC, although the ruins visible today date back to the 4th century BC. The Greeks believed that the god Apollo spoke through the high priestess at the temple, giving advice and prophecies about the future. The Oracle of Delphi was known throughout the ancient world and was consulted by famous leaders including Alexander the Great and the Roman emperors Nero and Hadrian. After the temple, the path took us quite steeply uphill towards Delphi's theatre. This was built in the 4th century BC and could accommodate up to 4,500 spectators. The path continued even higher than the theatre, leading towards the stadium. We had some amazing views as we climbed... ...and soon we were looking down on the theatre from above. Eventually we arrived at the stadium, which was built in the 5th century BC and is the best-preserved ancient stadium in Greece. Unlike at Olympia, we could see the stone seating alongside the track here. The stadium is the highest point that you can climb to, so from there it was back downhill. As we left, we could see that it was starting to get a bit busier with tour groups. It looked like some of them had come off cruise ships. We had just seen the main site, but there is also another smaller site further down the hillside. We walked along the road towards it, turning back to get views towards where we'd just been. This second site is home to a temple known as the Tholos of Delphi. It was really impressive... ...and the best thing was that none of the tour groups seemed to have bothered climbing down this far, so we were almost the only visitors. The €12 ticket also gives you entrance to the archaeological museum, but we were well overdue for lunch at this point so decided to give it a miss! We walked back into the new town of Delphi and found a nice restaurant. I played it safe with pizza, but Tim decided to try Greek food again, ordering something which was described as "beef in tomato sauce" but which turned out to be very similar to goulash. Then it was time to head back to the apartment and relax with a spot of reading on the balcony
As the strike had prevented us from seeing the ruins at Olympia yesterday, we decided to visit them this morning before setting off for Delphi. When we arrived at the site today, we were relieved to find that the ticket booth was open and we were finally able to get through the gates The ruins at Olympia are spread over quite a large site, so although there were already several coachloads of people being led around in tours, we were able to plan our route strategically to avoid them as much as possible. One of the complaints I've read from people reviewing Olympia online, is that it's just a pile of rocks and so it's difficult to know what you are looking at. The area was struck by two serious earthquakes in the sixth century, which is why everything is so badly ruined. The criticisms are a bit unfair, because there are lots of helpful info boards dotted around the site to show you what you are looking at. These are the remains of the gymnasion, described on the info board above. One of the most impressive buildings here in ancient times would have been the temple of Zeus. The one pillar which you can see standing in the photo was reconstructed by archaeologists to celebrate the 2004 Olympic games being held in Athens. The best-preserved building on the site is the Temple of Hera, originally built in 590 BC. The flame for the modern-day Olympic Games is lit in front of this temple, and then transported via torch to wherever the games are taking place. The tour groups were starting to catch up with us, so we had to move on! When we managed to get away from people, the ruins were quite peaceful Every so often we found some stones with Greek inscriptions on them. We were gradually making our way towards the archway in the left of this photo. This is the archway which leads into the Olympic stadium. It wasn't possible to avoid all the tour groups here! Once you get through the arch, you are in the stadium where the Olympic running races used to take place. The stone blocks at this end are to mark the place where all the athletes were supposed to start. The track was 200 metres long. We walked to the end and there were some nice views of the surrounding countryside. Then it was back through the archway to see some of the things which we'd missed when trying to avoid the tour groups. These were the remains of a temple called the Philippeion... ...and this was the palaestra. This is where the athletes would have practised sports such as wrestling and boxing. It's probably possible to spend a lot longer at Olympia, but I think we succeeded in getting a good flavour of it Then we had to head back to the apartment, collect our things and set off towards our final destination for this holiday: Delphi. The first part of the route wasn't terribly exciting, as we drove north on a fast road towards the town of Patras. We were getting quite hungry, so stopped off at a small village just short of Patras to try and find some lunch. The restaurant we found wasn't quite as close to the sea as yesterday... ...but there were still some beautiful views After lunch it was time to leave the Peloponnese behind and drive back to the mainland of Greece. Shortly after Patras, we crossed the Rio-Antirrio bridge, which spans the sea here. The bridge is 1.8 miles long and really impressive to drive across, although it is a toll bridge and I was slightly less impressed when I found out that it cost €13.30 for a normal car 😮 Once on the other side, the drive became more interesting as we followed a narrower road along the coast. There were some really fantastic views We could see the mountains of the Peloponnese on the other side of the water... ...and passed a picturesque little town with a huge church. Eventually we arrived in Delphi and checked into our hotel. A hotel room seems a bit small after the spacious apartments we've had, but this one is good value at around £55 per night (including breakfast). The best thing about the room is the view from the balcony! It's a bit cloudy today so the photo isn't perfect, but we can see all the way down the river gorge to the sea. It's absolutely incredible We're definitely looking forward to exploring more of Delphi tomorrow - assuming that there isn't another unexpected museum strike!!